Friday, October 06, 2017

Apparently we are not all just equations in a computer programme ...

Nardole from Doctor Who ("I really hope I'm wrong") can relax - scientists think they have found evidence that we are not living in a computer simulation.

Spoiler alert - if you have not watched the tenth series (since relaunch) of Doctor Who and don't want to read a spoiler for one of the storylines, do not read past the next paragraph.

From when Descartes coined the phrase "Cogito Ergo Sum" (I think therefore I am) to "The Matrix" here has been speculation about whether reality as we perceive it might be an illusion. Perhaps even an artificially generated one.

Nardole and Bill found something in their world which did not work properly because of the inability of computers to perfectly simulate reality. But in our world, a team of Physicists at Oxford led by Zohar Ringel and Dmitry Kovrizhi have found evidence that the computing power required to model quantum mechanics for even a few hundred electrons would be so vast, and increases exponentially with the number of particles being simulated, that it is difficult to imagine that any computer could be powerful enough to model an entire universe at the Quantum level.

Their conclusions are set out in a paper published in the journal Science Advances, or you can read a press report about them here,

Another quote from Doctor Who is that "Truth is found only in mathematics" and absolute proof likewise, but since their study seems to show that a computer capable of simulating an entire universe would practically have to be as large as an entire universe, I think we can now put down the possibility that anyone could possibly find it worthwhile to build such a computer is pretty remote.


According to the New Scientist the authors of the paper,  Zohar Ringel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and Dmitry Kovrizhin at the University of Oxford are "a bit taken aback at the conclusions the media is drawing." from their work Asking whether we live in a simulation is not even a scientific question, Ringel says. See post to be published 16th October.


Jim said...

when i was child then i remember being amazed at PAC man. before that the computing power of colossus cracked the tunny variant of the fish cipher, the Apollo missions succeeded with less power than a current digital watch.

Imagine back then thinking the entire worlds library's would be accessible to a person using a hand held device thats smaller than a notebook, and also works as a telephone.

Chris Whiteside said...

The rate of advance of some aspects of technology in our lifetimes has been amazing.