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Look at your hand. Look closely. Can you see the pixels? Probably not, right? The human eye might not be able to discern the individual “pixels” that make up our reality but, according to NASA scientist, Rich Terrile, they are there.

Our universe’s pixels, in the sense that Terrile describes them, are the smallest possible units of space, time, volume and energy. They are so small that they cannot possibly be broken down into anything smaller. For reasons that we’re not smart enough to understand, the existence of these units means that our reality is finite and therefore computable.

What this means, at least in theory, is that it will eventually be possible for us to create a perfect simulation of our universe. Such a universe would be mathematically identical to our own universe and therefore indistinguishable. It then stands to reason that the inhabitants of that simulated reality would eventually be able to create their own perfect simulation, until we have a long line of simulated realities indistinguishable from the first “real” universe. So, how do we know that our universe is the original, unsimulated one?

Photo: Nayuki

How do we know?

We don’t. In fact, according to University of Oxford philosopher, Nick Bostrom, it’s far more likely that we are in a simulated reality than not. It’s simple statistics. If there are a potentially infinite number of simulated realities and just one real reality, the probability of ours being the real one is virtually zero.

If you’re still not convinced that we’re all living inside the Matrix, then theoretical physicist, James Gates, might be able to change your mind. The respected scientist claims to have found an error-correcting code in the theoretical mathematics that governs the universe. What makes his discovery truly bizarre is that the exact same code was already being used by the likes of Google to find and correct errors in data transmission. According to Gates, finding this code in a universe that is not computed would be “extremely unlikely”.

So there we have it. We’re all simulated so life is meaningless, right? Maybe not. Max Tegmark, a cosmologist from MIT, thinks that we can still find meaning in life: “If you’re not sure, at the end of the night, whether you’re actually simulated or not, my advice to you is to go out there and live really interesting lives, and do unexpected things, so the simulators don’t get bored and shut you down”.

Photo: Electronic Arts via IGN

Seriously, don’t let them get bored

What do you think? Are we living inside a computer simulation? Let us know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to avoid missing out on new articles!

Chris is a pop culture nerd from London. He has a master's degree in Criminology and a pretty solid Pokémon card collection. His favourite Star Wars character is Jar Jar Binks, because he likes an underdog.

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Hawking’s Black Hole Paradox Explained

Where does quantum information go when it enters a black hole? Investigate the theories of the black hole information paradox.

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The Universe As We Know It Shouldn’t Exist: The Matter-Antimatter Problem

The universe is a pretty grand place to live, but scientists have one issue with it, it’s an anomaly that should be scientifically impossible.

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Do Parallel Universes Exist? The Many Worlds Theory Says They Do

Have you ever made a decision that you later regretted? We have some good news for you.

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Have you ever made a decision that you later regretted? Maybe you put all of your money on red instead of black, accepted one job offer instead of another, or prematurely sold your shares in Apple for a fraction of what they would eventually be worth. If you’ve ever done anything that you’ve later regretted, then we have some good news for you. You didn’t do it.

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“But I’m pretty sure I did do it?”

Well, you did and you didn’t. The Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics holds that any action with more than one possible outcome results in the universe splitting into parallel worlds for each and every possibility. If you put all of your money on red in one universe and lose, in another you’ll put all of your money on black and win. In another world still, you’ll bet on red and win. Any possible outcome that you can think of is accounted for in one of the infinite parallel universes that spring into existence with every action.

The Many Worlds Interpretation was conceived by physicist, Hugh Everett III, in 1957. Everett came up with the theory in an effort to reconcile Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum theory. These two theories form the basis for our entire understanding of the laws of physics, yet they are fundamentally incompatible with one another.

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Relativity and quantum mechanics just can’t seem to get along

The laws of physics according to the theory of relativity are entirely deterministic. Every cause has a precise and certain effect. This is not the case in quantum mechanics, however, where events happen seemingly at random. There are no certainties in the quantum universe, only probabilities. In further contrast to the theory of relativity, the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics holds that an object exists in all possible states until it is observed. You’re probably familiar with this concept through Schrödinger’s cat.

Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment proposes a scenario in which a cat is sealed in a box with a small amount of radioactive material, a geiger counter, a vial of poison and a hammer. Over the course of an hour, there is a 50/50 chance of the radioactive material decaying enough for the geiger counter to detect it. If radiation is detected, the hammer shatters the vial and the cat is killed by the poison. The cat’s fate would not be known until the container was opened and its contents observed. If we apply the Copenhagen interpretation to the cat’s predicament, the poor creature would be simultaneously alive and dead until the point that it is observed as being one or the other.

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“Arrgghhhhhh”

Schrödinger himself thought that this scenario was absurd, reasoning that the Copenhagen interpretation must be flawed. How and why would something go from being in two states at once, to just one state when we look at it? Everett’s Many Worlds Interpretation solves the problem by stating that an object exists in every possible state even when being observed. If we open up Schrödinger’s box and the cat is alive, then it’ll be dead in the parallel universe that was created before we opened the container. This would also imply that quantum theory is in fact deterministic, just like the theory of relativity. Every cause has the precise and certain effect of every possible outcome being achieved across infinite new timelines.

Everett’s theory was largely dismissed by the scientific community at the time. However, it has since gained substantial support to the extent that it is now considered to be a mainstream interpretation of quantum physics.

What do you think? Do parallel universes exist? Let us know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to avoid missing out on new articles!

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