What do the Matrix franchise, Elon Musk, and Neil deGrasse Tyson have in common? They all hint at the notion that we're actually living in a simulated universe. However, a team of physicists might've ruined one of theoretical science's biggest ideas.
A recent study determined that the physics of our universe couldn't be quantified given quantum many-body effects. Thus, we're not living in a computer simulation.
A team of theoretical physicists from the University of Oxford and Hebrew University in Israel used computational simulations with quantum objects moving throughout the universe. They looked at gravitational anomalies and compared those activities against the most advanced computers.
What the team found was that computers cannot create the mathematics necessary to replicate those anomalies. More specifically, the team looked at an anomaly known as the quantum Hall effect using a quantum Monte Carlo. The quantum Hall effect causes the simulations to become exponentially more complex as particles increase. A Monte Carlo is a method using random sampling to study quantum systems. The researchers determined that even with the largest scale computing possible, recreating massive simulations of quantum physics would be "impossible."
"If the growth is exponential, or in other words if for every extra particle one has to double the number of processors, memory, etc., then this task becomes intractable," the researchers stated.
Taking the Red Pill
Ironically enough, the University of Oxford also produced one of the most frequently-cited works about the simulation movement. In 2003, Nick Bostrom theorized that human consciousness is just a figment of the simulated world in which we live. That idea has been perpetuated by other researchers -- including physicists -- ever since brought into popularity. deGrasse Tyson mentioned he's betting on a 50-50 chance that our lives are the work of a giant Minecraft game.
"I think the likelihood may be very high," he said, mentioning the difference between human activities and chimpanzee activities despite a 2 percent DNA difference. He implied that whoever is 'controlling' our existence would have a much greater intelligence than our own. "We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence," he said. "If that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just a creation of some other entity for their entertainment."
Musk presented his case for 99.9 percent certainty of the simulation idea at the Recode Conference last year.
“The strongest argument for us probably being in a simulation I think is the following,” Musk said at a conference last year. “40 years ago we had Pong—two rectangles and a dot. That’s where we were.
“Now 40 years later we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year… If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, just indistinguishable.”
Enjoy debating whether or not your existence is actually 'real'? Like pondering over the meaning of 'reality'? Check out the American Museum of Natural History's full discussion about the idea. The two-hour debate is moderated by none other than deGrasse Tyson.