Last night I was watching some physics doco's and I felt like rambling about some of the thoughts which crossed my mind. I ended up writing this long
thread which you may or may not find interesting. This probably isn't the best time of day to post a thread on ATS but I don't expect this thread to
go too far anyway. I'm going to start off with a bit of quantum mechanics and the prospect of virtual reality. Then we'll shift gears and really push
the laws of physics to their limits as we theorize about the nature of time. Now I'm not a physicist so feel free to criticize anything I say.
What does quantum mechanics tell us about reality?
Well if it tells us anything, it tells us reality is nothing like we originally thought it would turn out to be. Consider the
double slip experiment
for a moment. Does that experiment tell us that things don't really
exist until we observe them? Many people will try and argue it does, but I don't think it tells us that. When we attempt to observe which slit the
electron actually goes through, we collapse the wave-function, and the electron goes back to behaving like a normal particle instead of a wave. This
is of course amazing.
Einstein was famous for rejecting quantum mechanics, saying that he refuses the believe the moon only exists when he looks at it. However, even when
we're not observing the particle, it still exists as a wave. Particles still exist in some sort of weird quantum wave state even when we're not
observing them, and we can prove they were in that state by using experiments like the double slit experiment. But if particles actually become these
weird wave things when we're not looking at them, does "matter" really exist at all?
Quantum mechanics appears to imply that when we aren't directly observing small quantum objects, they "revert" back into a more primitive "state".
This wave state that they go into almost seems like some sort of abstract informational state. The wave state is always hidden from sight, experiments
have shown there's no way to observe the particle without collapsing the wave state. The experiments indicate that particles only behave as normal
particles when they're required to (when observed), and at all other times they're simply a hidden "background calculation".
In other words, we can say that particles do indeed exist when we're not looking at them, because we can shoot these quantum particles through the two
slits and then see an interference pattern. So even though we were not observing the particle on it's path between the apparatus firing the particles
and the fluorescent screen that the particles hit, we can still see that the particle must have travelled from point A to point B because the
interference pattern on the screen proves it, and also proves that the particle was acting as a wave between those points.
So even though we can't directly observe it, we know there was some sort of "background calculation", some sort of process was happening which
determined where those particles would end up. And even though the nature of the particle-wave is inherently probabilistic, like a "smeared out cloud"
of probably positions, we still know there was some sort of deterministic process happening which made the particles end up where we expected it to
end up, within a certain range of probability. If we stop looking at the moon we can still guess where it'll be 100 years from now.
Does this suggest we may be living in a simulated reality?
Think about the way a video game hides the things which aren't being observed by the player. Some times you will enter a new area in a game and you
will see objects pop out of no where (ideally these objects should be loaded into the game right before they are required for observation). But even
when you aren't directly observing something on your screen, you still know that the game is calculating information in the background which will
determine the future placement and state of those objects (eg off-screen moving objects like NCP's).
Quantum mechanics has many features which seem to indicate we may be living in a computer simulation. Everything in quantum mechanics is "quantized"
into discrete units, even the smallest unit of length, the Planck Length
, indicates space may
be quantized in this way. Then we also have upper limits built into the laws of physics, such as the maximum velocity of any object, which is of
course the speed of light. This is exactly what one would expect to see in a universe being generated on a computer with upper and lower computational
and memory limits.
Now lets look deeper to see just how viable this concept may be. If the universe is being generated by a computer, just how powerful would that
computer need to be? Consider this post I made a few weeks ago in this thread
was discussing the possibility of a simulated reality:
Originally posted by ChaoticOrder
While I think it's a very real possibility we live in a simulation, it's still a very low possibility imo. The reason I think this, is because our
Universe is so enormous. Mind numbingly enormous. And every single atom in the Universe is extremely complex. To simulate every single atom in a
single living cell with real physics, requires a computer 1000x more powerful than the most powerful supercomputer on Earth. Imagine trying to
simulate a whole person, or the entire planet, or even our entire solar system, or our entire galaxy. The amount of power required to achieve such a
feat is beyond comprehension... let alone trying to simulate the entire Universe.
Don't even try to imagine how much power that would require because I can tell you that none of us here have the ability to comprehend how much
computing power that would require. We have trouble even comprehending the distance to the nearest star in our own galaxy, or the distance between our
galaxy and the nearest galaxy. Keep in mind there are billions of galaxies in our Universe. In fact the Universe may be infinite for all we know, we
can only see so far, and no matter how far we look there appears to be no end. These facts lead me to believe we are in a "genuine" Universe, and not
a simulated one. But I'm not completely convinced either way.
I had some good responses to this post. One of the key questions was this: if the universe is a computer simulation, wouldn't it be like a game where
they just hide everything when we're not looking at, and wouldn't that explain how a computer could generate the entire universe? Well consider what
we just learned about particles: even though they may revert into a simple type of abstract informational wave state, there are still background
calculations going on there. It's not as if things entirely disappear when we stop observing them.
edit on 10/2/2013 by ChaoticOrder because:
(no reason given)