What If...

The Matrix Revolution

If the universe is just a Matrix-like simulation, how could we ever know? Physicist Silas Beane thinks he has the answer.

There is a famous argument that we probably do live in a simulation. The idea is that in future, humans will be able to simulate entire universes quite easily. And given the vastness of time ahead, the number of these simulations is likely to be huge. So if you ask the question: 'do we live in the one true reality or in one of the many simulations?', the answer, statistically speaking, is that we're more likely to be living in a simulation. So, how did you end up working on this issue? Beane's day job is to do high performance computing simulations of the forces of nature, particularly the strong nuclear force. He and his colleagues use a grid-like lattice to represent a small chunk of space and time. They put all the forces into that little cube and calculate what happens.

In effect, they're simulating a very tiny corner of the universe. In our universe the laws of physics are the same in every direction. But in a grid, this changes since you no longer have a space-time continuum, and the laws of physics would depend on direction. Simulators would be able to hide this effect but they wouldn't be able to get rid of it completely. So, can we improve our own simulations? According to Beane "the size of the universe we simulate is a just fermi, that's a box with sides 10-^15 meters long. But we can use Moore's Law to imagine what we might be able to simulate in future. If the current trends in computing continue, we should be simulating a universe the size of a human within a century and within five centuries, we could manage a box 10^26 meters big."


That's the size of the observable universe!


Kemo D. 7

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