Physicists may prove we exist in a computer simulation

By on October 12, 2012, 7:30 AM

Have you ever considered the possibility that we may all live in a holographic universe constructed by vastly superior beings? I know -- it sounds like the basis for good science fiction (The Matrix, anyone?), but Nick Bostrom famously hypothesized (pdf) that our very existence may be nothing more than the algorithmic results of a computer simulation. This may sound totally absurd to most, but that modern existential notion is really no less credible than the equally mind-bending (and sometimes physics-bending) theories proposed by both science and religion.

The news here though, is that researchers now believe they have a way to test this thought experiment. A team of scientists from Germany -- University of Bonn, to be exact -- suggest that even the most powerful Universe simulation would be subject to certain limitations of its host Universe. The team believes those limitations would be observable by its inhabitants too, appearing in the form of physical constraints which may not jibe with otherwise universal laws.

What makes their discovery particularly exciting is scientists believe we actually have sufficient technology to test whether or not we are all just electric sheep. How, you ask? Simple -- by creating our own simulation of the Universe, of course.

The problem with all simulations is that the laws of physics, which appear continuous, have to be superimposed onto a discrete three dimensional lattice which advances in steps of time.

The question that Beane and co ask is whether the lattice spacing [example: our three dimensions + time] imposes any kind of limitation on the physical processes we see in the Universe. They examine, in particular, high energy processes, which probe smaller regions of space as they get more energetic. 

What they find is interesting. They say that the lattice spacing imposes a fundamental limit on the energy that particles can have. That's because nothing can exist that is smaller than the lattice itself.

So if our cosmos is merely a simulation, there ought to be a cut off in the spectrum of high energy particles.

Source: technologyreview.com

Bonn scientists believe limits inherited by a simulation would affect high-energy particles like cosmic rays. Most interestingly, one such example could be the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin limit, a phenomenon produced by the interaction of cosmic rays and cosmic microwave background radiation, creating an unexpected limit on their energy -- a fact which doesn't fit neatly into physics. 

In a totally meta way, this may essentially be us observing the orientation of the dimensional lattice from the reality in which our creators exist. Whoa...

This may be surprising, but we've gotten quite good at representing the tiniest nooks of the quantum universe digitally. Granted, we're only recreating areas spanning femtometers -- that's far less than a nanometer -- but hey, that's a start. Simulations of these incomprehensibly miniscule portions of our reality yield particles, energies and interactions which are indistinguishable from the real thing. Well, except for having the results displayed on a computer screen, anyway.




User Comments: 122

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Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Mind = Blown

It's just too crazy to even think about...

1 person liked this | p51d007 said:

What a bunch of BS...just to obtain more federal funding.

2 people like this | Guest said:

Yeah, but what happens when 'THEY' find out we're sentient and on to them. Will they terminate the simulation? Maybe replaced with a new version of Angry Bards: flinging Mariah Careys and Nicki Minajs at each other.

Guest said:

The truth is that we are souls having a human experience. That the universe, the earth, people are created by us so that we can learn, grow, create, experience, heal and love. That time and space are illusions to help us with this process. That this earth school is based on 3 dimensions and is a school of contrast (up/down, left/right, good/evil, etc) where we create our own lessons so we can learn. There are other dimensions and schools to learn different lessons. One day science, religion and spiritualy will all merge to show this. Now it doesn't matter if you believe this or not, because in all of this you get free will or choice to decide what direction you wish to move in.

Guest said:

If you have read Robert Rankin's Website Story you know the truth about the millenium bug and life on earth...

2 people like this | andrewdoyle88 andrewdoyle88 said:

Sounds like people will be reading about this is a textbook 200 years from now laughing, just like when we laughed at people for thinking the earth was flat or was the center of the universe

Guest said:

I dont fully understand everything writen in the artical, but could it be, not the limitation of the universe/simulation but of our knowledge.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

So when using VMWare one should feel a God - that naive OS thinks it runs on the hardware directly

P.S. A crystal ball has no outs

jacques said:

And also in/out

Tygerstrike said:

OK, the only problem with this theroum is that even if the high energy particles are limited by output to size ratio, the interferon effect kinda negates the theroum in general. Meaning until we can hit well below the nano scale in DIRECT observations, this is all just blue skying. I applaude the gentlemen for thier creative way of viewing the universe. However given the sheer size and scale as we know it, then toss in quantum mechanics, we are atleast two hundred years away from any relevant discovery.

Dorian Grey Dorian Grey said:

Computer, end program. Arch . . . tech support, tech support!

MilwaukeeMike said:

I saw this hypothosis on Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. Basically, since a computer is a system that runs on rules and the universe is a system that runs on rules, you could call our universe a computer system. I think it's a stretch of a semantic argument, but there is some creepy evidence for it.

For example, the constants of forces in our universe. If gravity were just the smallest fraction stronger or weaker, our universe wouldn't exist. Same for the strong nuclear force. Intelligent Design advocates love this, and I'm not one of them, but these strange facts are still true.

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

What OS are we in? xD

1 person liked this | Guest said:

42

Guest said:

"In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth." - Genesis 1:1

This isn't news to me. You'd be surprised how much good Science supports the notion of a created universe by a Creator. The DNA code, cell splitting, astronomy, geology -- all fields provide a plethora of evidence in their fields.

Littleczr Littleczr said:

It's gods world made with his map editor. When we die and to go heaven we will see it and be like wtf! crazy.

pieceofSchmitt pieceofSchmitt said:

So now the universe seems to simple to be real?

3 people like this | Guest said:

And based on the nightly news, it appears we're stuck in a beta.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

I fish, therefore I am.

Guest said:

The movies "The 13th Floor" has this exact same premise. Exactly the same. This article's spirit was addressed in the movie, which was released almost 10 years ago.

Nice to see the question of whether we're the top-most host universe of a simulation within it finally being addressed by Physicists.

treetops treetops said:

Lol I thought about this after watching a interesting episode of Nova years ago, very stoned, they leaned me to it.

@guest this ideas been around since computers

p.s. Maybe it was into the worm hole, anyways what got me is that sub atomic particles make a place for you in the Universe before you begin to move to that place. If that's not a giant math equation what is. Where for out though free will?

Or of course god.

Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

This idea has been around for hundreds of year at least.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_demon

Although thanks to the Matrix's take on it, it now revolves around a computer simulation instead of an evil demon but the basics are the same.

For example, the constants of forces in our universe. If gravity were just the smallest fraction stronger or weaker, our universe wouldn't exist. Same for the strong nuclear force. Intelligent Design advocates love this, and I'm not one of them, but these strange facts are still true.

Stephen Hawking says nearly the exact same thing in his book, "A Brief History of Time". There are certain constants in the universe which seem to point to a designer. I prefer to keep an open mind to the idea of a creator as their is evidence for it. However, it bugs me when people dismiss the idea without formal consideration. I also find this quote by Hawking to be interesting.

?Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?? Hawking is an extremely intelligent man and an atheist but I appreciate the fact that he does not shy away from hard questions that stretch the bounds of science, philosophy, and religion.

Twixtea said:

Jeez, what does it even matter

Tygerstrike said:

@Twixtea

Well, if it was proven that there was "Intellegent Design" in the creation of the Universe, it would definatly point to a "Creator". Maybe not the "God" versions, but definatly intellegent. Which would not dicount "God", but would show that, A. W e are not alone in the universe. B: There is a Creator. C: Life would be everywhere in the universe as no intellegent creature (I hesitate to say being) would waste that much space.

ikesmasher said:

It would explain why no one from the future has come back in time yet...xD

mosu said:

This proves only that we are nowhere near the correct theory about Universe, matter and time and maybe it's time to re-consider our basics.

Guest said:

Some Physicists have far too much time on their hands, have taken way too much acid, and obviously have no accumen to cure Cancer et al.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

42

hehehehe

Guest said:

Better scientist who ask if this is "real" then a regular human who thinks in god(s) (not aliens).

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

Maybe there are some hackers out there to prolong our lives.

Lol, being in a computer simulation and playing the sims 3. Makes sense.

tonylukac said:

What if we were created by man or computer using a time machine in the future?

Guest said:

An article about the origin of the universe and out of the 31 comments only one post mentioned a bible verse? Oh come on, religious people! You can do better than that! We need our Saturday morning coffee entertainment!

Guest said:

Yes, we live in a computer software, and global warming is just a bug or glitches happen :D

Zeromus said:

Hm, I not physic if any kind but that lattice limitation...Is that similar to rounding errors?

Zeromus said:

*physicist

Sorry I'm using Swype.

ikesmasher said:

An article about the origin of the universe and out of the 31 comments only one post mentioned a bible verse? Oh come on, religious people! You can do better than that! We need our Saturday morning coffee entertainment!

science doesnt disprove religion, therefore religion is irrelevant to any science article, including this one.

R3DP3NGUIN R3DP3NGUIN said:

The find the intelligence level of some of these comments, quite amusing *Sits back with Coffee in hand*. I could start trouble by saying, anyone who knows David Icke will know he has spoken on the subject for decades.

Niels Vandamme Niels Vandamme said:

No better than any other creationist theory: it points at something we don't fully understand yet as "proof," meanwhile using weasel words as only authority. This New Age version is no better than the Christian one.

Any species capable of creating consciousness in computer simulations would have achieved a Technological Singularity and would therefore have no more need for computer simulations, as it would be a computer, and instead of simulations it would just use its imagination. The difference between simulation and imagination is that when we imagine someone, we don't give it a consciousness of its own. And even if it would have any use to do so, it would be inhumane.

Doctor John Doctor John said:

Any species capable of creating consciousness in computer simulations would have achieved a Technological Singularity and would therefore have no more need for computer simulations, as it would be a computer, and instead of simulations it would just use its imagination. The difference between simulation and imagination is that when we imagine someone, we don't give it a consciousness of its own. And even if it would have any use to do so, it would be inhumane.

What's a Technological Singularity?

Guest said:

5/10

Science has, and continues to, debunk the claims of religion. Thereby proving all religions are false. I don't know if there is a god, I reserve judgment until there is legitimate evidence, but I do know all religions are superstitious nonsense devoted to gods which debunk their own existence with the incorrect claims they make.

Guest said:

You naughty troll, you! :)

Guest said:

I'd hate to be that SysAdmin... :eek:

ikesmasher said:

5/10

Science has, and continues to, debunk the claims of religion. Thereby proving all religions are false. I don't know if there is a god, I reserve judgment until there is legitimate evidence, but I do know all religions are superstitious nonsense devoted to gods which debunk their own existence with the incorrect claims they make.

you continue to say this yet you lack any evidence or examples.

PoisonHeadcrab PoisonHeadcrab said:

@Twixtea

Well, if it was proven that there was "Intellegent Design" in the creation of the Universe, it would definatly point to a "Creator". Maybe not the "God" versions, but definatly intellegent. Which would not dicount "God", but would show that, A. W e are not alone in the universe. B: There is a Creator. C: Life would be everywhere in the universe as no intellegent creature (I hesitate to say being) would waste that much space.

First of all it's generally absurd to think the human race is as an intelligent species alone in the universe.

Secondly the problem with the concept of a simulation or an intelligent creator is simple - How are we supposed to explain the "host universe"? With another intelligent creator?

It actually makes much more sense to assume that everything emerged out of nothingness, sort of like a very complicated fractal, originating from the simplest formula and then spiralling into more and more complexity and diversification.

1 person liked this | AlbertLionheart AlbertLionheart, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I drink therefore I am.

ikesmasher said:

First of all it's generally absurd to think the human race is as an intelligent species alone in the universe.

Secondly the problem with the concept of a simulation or an intelligent creator is simple - How are we supposed to explain the "host universe"? With another intelligent creator?

It actually makes much more sense to assume that everything emerged out of nothingness, sort of like a very complicated fractal, originating from the simplest formula and then spiralling into more and more complexity and diversification.

it makes no sense from something to come from nothing, as that breaks the laws of (at least, what we believe) of physics. but if intelligent design was correct (and im not stating any more about my views on that) then it would make sense for a being that always existed (in line with the bible) to have the power to do things beyond human comprehension. Hypothetically, we could fool ourselves into saying we could comprehend it, but we would not be able to. im not saying you are incorrect, im simply offering another argument that it would be interesting to get a response.

BetaguyGZT BetaguyGZT said:

So the idea is that this universe is a simulation? And they think they can prove it?

It sure puts an interesting spin on the idea of Reincarnation and the 'Repeating Universe' theories and hypotheses. Something gets mucked up and they simply issue the reset command (whomever "they" are)?

I agree with the above that I hope this is a reality in beta testing.

Very interesting indeed.

PoisonHeadcrab PoisonHeadcrab said:

it makes no sense from something to come from nothing, as that breaks the laws of (at least, what we believe) of physics. but if intelligent design was correct (and im not stating any more about my views on that) then it would make sense for a being that always existed (in line with the bible) to have the power to do things beyond human comprehension. Hypothetically, we could fool ourselves into saying we could comprehend it, but we would not be able to. im not saying you are incorrect, im simply offering another argument that it would be interesting to get a response.

I think the law that'd be broken would rather be a law of logic, rather than physics. I admit my point wasn't entirely accurate the way I formulated it, if we were to follow the analogy of the fractal, there certainly had to be some sort of trivial entity which the universe originated from.

Anyways, the biggest problem I see with the idea of an intelligent creator is the fact how extremely biased it seems on the human being, if you try to look at it rather objectively. I mean, the idea implies the existence of a person-like entity with arbitrary properties such as "will" and "intelligence" (Religions even go as far as attributing emotions like love or anger, almost completely "humanizing" this creator).

Now, I don't think terms like these can be assigned to anything else other than some sort of biological being, I dare you to present me a concept or example that suggests otherwise. I don't know what your take on this would be, but to me it seems kind of logical, that something that occurs inside a universe cannot happen outside of it, let alone lead some kind of a timeless existence. Things like us are formed by the universe and our existence relies on all of it's rules, mechanics and time. In conclusion that leads me to think that if an "intelligent creator" was in fact responsible, it must be resident in a(nother) universe.

I don't think all of this necessarily involves things beyond human comprehension... What concerns their existence however I'm pretty interested if there's a way to either be able to prove it or realize that doing so would be a paradox.

ikesmasher said:

I think the law that'd be broken would rather be a law of logic, rather than physics. I admit my point wasn't entirely accurate the way I formulated it, if we were to follow the analogy of the fractal, there certainly had to be some sort of trivial entity which the universe originated from.

Anyways, the biggest problem I see with the idea of an intelligent creator is the fact how extremely biased it seems on the human being, if you try to look at it rather objectively. I mean, the idea implies the existence of a person-like entity with arbitrary properties such as "will" and "intelligence" (Religions even go as far as attributing emotions like love or anger, almost completely "humanizing" this creator).

Now, I don't think terms like these can be assigned to anything else other than some sort of biological being, I dare you to present me a concept or example that suggests otherwise. I don't know what your take on this would be, but to me it seems kind of logical, that something that occurs inside a universe cannot happen outside of it, let alone lead some kind of a timeless existence. Things like us are formed by the universe and our existence relies on all of it's rules, mechanics and time. In conclusion that leads me to think that if an "intelligent creator" was in fact responsible, it must be resident in a(nother) universe.

I don't think all of this necessarily involves things beyond human comprehension... What concerns their existence however I'm pretty interested if there's a way to either be able to prove it or realize that doing so would be a paradox.

I can see what we lead to this conclusion, however, there is no evidence suggesting that a creator does not have humanlike traits. I can also say that the bible states that god created man "in his image"..

When it comes right down to it, there really isnt a way to completely prove either science or intelligent design. which is why religion is synonymous to "faith"-believing something we cannot prove is true. Two atoms coming to existence from nothing isnt any more possible to prove than a God, because that would be implying that everything we know about science is 100% accurate, which is highly, highly unlikely.

Guest said:

We dont have the answer because this universe is just a part of the real one. only this make sense.:)

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