How Two Physicists Proved We’re Not Living in The Matrix
There is however, at least one caveat.
When it comes to quantum mechanics, there’s a lot of weirdness we can’t account for. Superposition, quantum tunneling, entanglement, and a lot of other things, have had scientists scratching their heads for about a century or so. Recently, some physicists using mathematical models, found that bizarre quantum behavior and even the rift between quantum mechanics and general relativity, could be healed, if we saw the universe as a 3D projection laid over a 2D space. In other words, the universe could be a hologram.
Of course, this theory isn’t new. Depending on how you look at it, it could be thousands of years old, if you take into account the Buddhist phrase, “The world is illusory.” A number of sci-fi references including The Matrix, a certain Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ("Ship in a Bottle") and an episode of Doctor Who, all deal with this. And then there's tech scion Elon Musk. He’s so certain, he says there’s a “one in billions” chance we’re not living inside a simulation, created by some form of superintelligence.
Neil deGrasse Tyson agrees. At a discussion at the Hayden Planetarium last year, Tyson said it’s “very likely,” the universe is being simulated. Musk said that computing power is growing at such a tremendous rate that at some point, reality will become indistinguishable from VR.
One thing though, that doesn’t mean we’re stuck in a video game, now. As it turns out, one researcher at the University of Oxford and his Israeli colleague have proven this theory a flight of fancy. We’re not living inside The Matrix. The universe is actually 3D. And they proved it. Theoretical physicists Zohar Ringel and Dmitry Kovrizhin conducted the study. Their results were published in the journal Science Advances.
Both Neil deGrasse Tyson and Elon Musk believe the universe is likely a simulation. Credit: Getty Images.
Researchers took what we know about some of the properties of physics and ran them through Monte Carlo simulations, types of computations that through random sampling, offer insights into quantum systems that are so complex, they’re difficult to solve directly. Ringel told Popular Science, “When you do physics and you don’t know how to solve something, you say, maybe I can just have my computer solve it for me and that will give me some intuition.”
The program takes random occurrences in a system and tries to make sense of them. Monte Carlo simulations are meant to study the quantum many-body effect, when lots of different particles, say thousands, are interacting at the same time. The physicists compared gravitational anomalies known to classical physics, much like the warping of space-time, and compared them to how a computer works.
It’s important to note that Monte Carlo simulations aren’t airtight but are insightful. When the negatives and positives cancel each other out, it’s called a sign problem. That’s what came up here. The reason is, the power needed to generate a computer simulation with just a few hundred electrons, would require more atoms than the entire universe contains. With each new particle added, the simulation became exponentially more complex.
Just to simulate a few hundred electrons would take more atoms than the universe contains. Credit: Getty Images.
The physicists didn’t set out to prove the universe is really real. They were trying to better understand certain anomalies such as the quantum Hall effect. The Hall effect occurs when you pass electricity through a metal. The electrons normally flow through it in a straight line. But if you introduce a magnetic field, perpendicular to the metal, the electrons will follow with the current until they reach the field.
Once they do, they move off to the sides. With the quantum Hall effect, extremely cold temperatures are introduced, -459.67 °F (-273.15 °C) which is near absolute zero. In this environment, particles behave even more strangely. To physicists, the quantum Hall effect looks very much like gravitational anomalies in space-time, such as gravitational distortion or the warping of space-time.
Ringel and Kovrizhin were running the quantum Hall effect through Monte Carlo simulations. They didn’t expect to solve the mystery. A number of others have attempted through this method before and failed. This attempt was no different in that sense. But they did gain an insight.
Ringel said, "If you see a phenomena that can't be simulated by a classical computer, that means we can’t be part of a huge classical computer that is simulated while someone steals our energy, for example." There’s one caveat—besides our alien overlords programming in such information as a red herring. What might be more likely is that the universe is an enormous quantum computer, rather than a classical one, processing particles rather than 1s and 0s.
To learn more about the theory of a quantum computer universe, click here:
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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