Researchers to Test if Our Reality is Simulated

A team of U.S.-based scientists have announced plans to test whether we live in a simulated universe.


A theory that seems to have been pulled straight from the movie The Matrix, scientists at the University of Washington and the University of New Hampshire have put forward a proposal that could begin to probe the depths of the cosmos.

Martin Savage, professor of physics at the University of Washington, Zohreh Davoudi, one of his graduate students, and Silas Beane of the University of New Hampshire, say the experiment will focus on determining whether reality is the result of a very sophisticated computer simulation run in a different dimension.

“You look at the very highest energy cosmic rays and look for distributions that have symmetry problems, which are not isotropic, or the same in every direction,” Savage continued. “This is the first testable signature of such an idea.”

The team of scientists say the experiment could be groundbreaking in that it may provide the first definitive evidence relating to whether the universe’s composition is based on an advanced algorithm.

“Everything looks like it is on a continuum,” Savage noted. “There is no evidence to show that is not the case at the moment. We are looking for something to indicate you don’t have a space-time continuum.”
The concept that current humanity could possibly be living in a computer simulation was first seriously proposed in a 2003 paper published in Philosophical Quarterly by Nick Bostrom, a philosophy professor at the University of Oxford. In the paper, he argued that at least one of three possibilities is true:

  • The human species is likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage.
  • Any posthuman civilization is very unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of its evolutionary history.
  • We are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

Savage said, however, signatures of resource constraints in present-day simulations are likely to exist as well in simulations in the distant future. These constraints include the imprint of an underlying lattice if one is used to model the space-time continuum.

The space-time continuum — defined as a four-dimensional grid by supercomputers performing lattice quantum chromodynamics calculations — allows researchers to examine the effects of the strong force, one of four fundamental forces of nature.

“If you make the simulations big enough, something like our universe should emerge,” Savage said.

It remains unclear how long the test could take to complete. Savage suggests that the test could simply serve as a blueprint for scientists thousands of years from now who may have the computer power and technology to use the laws of physics to “recreate” history.

“No one is simulating complete human beings today, but we’re simulating clusters of atoms or molecules. If we have enough computing power, we’ll be able to simulate our history, our evolution,” he says. “If we simulate a complete universe, it will have simulated life, and that simulated life will be performing its own simulations.”


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