Do we live in the Matrix? Researchers say they have found a way to find out

  • Any  simulation of the universe must have limits, and finding these would prove we  live in an artificial reality, physicists claim

By Damien Gayle

PUBLISHED:08:15 EST, 11  October 2012| UPDATED:08:28 EST, 11 October 2012

If the Matrix left you with the niggling fear  that we might indeed be living in a computer generated universe staged by a  malevolent artificial intelligence using the human race as an energy farm, help  is at hand.

A team of physicists have come up with a test  which they say could prove whether or not the universe as we know it is a  virtual reality simulation – a kind of theoretical red pill, as it  were.

Silas Beane of the University of Bonn,  Germany, and his colleagues contend that a simulation of the universe, no matter  how complex, would still have constraints which would reveal it.

Is the real world real? Physicists say they have come up with a way of determining whether the world we experience is actually a computer simulation, as imagined in The Matrix trilogy of filmsIs the real world real? Physicists say they have come up  with a way of determining whether the world we experience is actually a computer  simulation, as imagined in The Matrix trilogy of films

All we have to do to identify what these  constraints would be is to build our own simulation of the universe, which is  close to what many researchers are trying to do on an incredibly miniscule  scale.

Computer simulations have been run to  recreate quantum chromodynamics – the theory that describes the nuclear forced  that binds quarks and gluons into protons and neutrons, which then bind to form  atomic nuclei.

It is believed that simulating physics on  this fundamental level is equivalent, more or less, to simulating the workings  of the universe itself.

Even operating on this vanishingly small  scale, the maths is pretty difficult so, despite using the world’s most powerful  supercomputers, physicists as yet have only managed to simulate regions of space  on the femto-scale.

To put that in context, a femtometre is  10^-15 metres – that’s a quadrillionth of a metre or  0.000000000001mm.

However, the main problem with all such  simulations is that the law of physics have to be superimposed onto a discrete  three-dimensional lattice which advances in time. And that’s where the test  comes in.

Professor Beane and his colleagues say this  lattice spacing imposes a limit on the energy that particles can have, because  nothing can exist that is smaller than the lattice itself.

This means that if the universe as we know it  is actually a computer simulation, there ought to be a cut off in the spectrum  of high energy particles. And it just happens that there is exactly this kind of  cut off in the energy of cosmic rays, a limit known as the  Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin (GZK) cut off.

As the Physics  arXiv blogexplains, this cut off is well-studied and  happend because high energy particles interacting with the cosmic microwave  background lose energy as they travel across long distances.

The researchers calculate that the lattice  spacing forces additional features on the spectrum, most strikingly that the  cosmic rays would prefer to travel along the axes of the lattice. This means  they wouldn’t observed equally in all directions.

That would the acid test that the researchers  are searching for – an indication that all is not at it seems with the universe.  Excitingly, it’s also a measurement we could do now with our current levels of  technology.

That said, the finding is not without its  caveats. One problem Professor Beane identifies is that the simulated universe  could be constructed in an entirely different way to how they have envisaged  it.

Moreover, the effect is only measurable if  the lattice cutoff is the same as the GZK cutoff, any smaller than that and the  observations will draw a blank.

Professor Beane and his colleagues’ findings  are reported in Cornell University’s arXiv  journal.

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Author: Ralph Turchiano

In short, I review clinical research on an almost daily basis. What I post tends to be articles that are relevant to the readers in addition to some curiosities that have intriguing potential. As a hobby, I truly enjoy the puzzle-solving play that statistics and programming as in the python language bring to the table. I just do not enjoy problem-solving, I love problem-solving and the childlike inspiration and exploration of that innocent exhilaration of discovering something new. Enjoy ;-)

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