Documenting the Coming Singularity

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Maybe We CAN Tell if We're in a Simulation

MIT Technology Review - October 10, 2012

One of modern physics' most cherished ideas is quantum chromodynamics, the theory that describes the strong nuclear force, how it binds quarks and gluons into protons and neutrons, how these form nuclei that themselves interact. This is the universe at its most fundamental.

So an interesting pursuit is to simulate quantum chromodynamics on a computer to see what kind of complexity arises. The promise is that simulating physics on such a fundamental level is more or less equivalent to simulating the universe itself.

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There are one or two challenges of course. The physics is mind-bogglingly complex and operates on a vanishingly small scale. So even using the world's most powerful supercomputers, physicists have only managed to simulate tiny corners of the cosmos just a few femtometers across. (A femtometer is 10^-15 metres.

That may not sound like much but the significant point is that the simulation is essentially indistinguishable from the real thing (at least as far as we understand it).

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