Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thank you Rich Terrell

I would have sent an email, but there are far too many Rich Terrell's in the world it seems. I saw an episode of Through the Wormhole on the Discovery Channel, in which Mr. Terrell expressed something I thought only existed in my crazy brain. The idea that the universe as we know it is really a computer program.

The beauty of it was that he used the same logic to come to the same conclusion, and he has a bunch of letters after his name so people actually take him seriously about such things.

The most obvious to me is that we humble, simple humans are only a few decades away from being able to create a simulated universe, complete with thinking beings. In cosmic terms, we haven't been around very long. It stands to reason that if we can do it, it's already been done. This doesn't require a super being, just the passage of time and the preservation and accumulation of knowledge and experience.

The other clue is quantum physics. When I was a kid we learned in math, that theoretically you can divide a line in half forever. As long as you keep zooming in, there's no reason you'd ever get to a point where you can't cut it in half anymore. However, that's not the case in real life. There is a point where particles can't get any smaller, units of energy can't get any smaller, time can't get any shorter. These are quantums. They "shouldn't" exist, but there they are. The presence of such finite quantities suggests something artificial. We probably were never expected to look that close. Another clue is the nature of elementary particles. They take on a specific form and location when observed and measured, and vague properties when they're not. This is similar to how your computer displays things. All of the pictures in your iPhoto library are there, but the file isn't expanded and the pixels aren't lit up until you decide to look at them. This is a major resource saver. There's no point using all that display energy if nobody's looking at it.

Almost nothing goes unobserved on the surface of the Earth, whether by humans or some other form of life. But in space, perhaps it is only the data that's recorded and transferred properly unless and until we "call up the file" by looking at it. The program runs, but doesn't display a particular frame until someone "clicks" on it by turning their attention to it.

That's a lot of computing power, but consider that all of the brains in all of the living organisms on Earth (and elsewhere?) have stored information about everything they've perceived and are perceiving. The system (aka the universe) likely would use this resource as a means of both memory storage and parallel processing. But what if the solar system were to blow up? A lot of information would be lost. That's okay. They system only has to present an observer with a solution that's possible given the existing data.

Anyway, it was refreshing to find that I'm not the only lunatic out there. Thank you Mr. Terrell, wherever you are.

1 comment:

Octavian said...

Check this

It is in romanian with some poor translation in english.