“So, what exactly is that?”
“In a word? That’s Genesis. Chapter One”
I stared. Mesmerized. At what was not supposed to be, but was. And as I stared, I reminisced.
The journey to the present situation had been long, and convoluted. It had involved scores of eccentric and liberal minded people. And it had also span across several centuries. Perhaps, in a sense, the underlying thought behind the present situation had started with the Italian polymath, Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci had, in his lifetime, thought about, and drawn, several artifacts that pickled even the most average mind, and triggered metaphysical questions. Or perhaps, with its intimate association with fractals and the Fibonacci sequence, this thought had, more correctly, started with yet another Italian, Leonardo Fibonacci – an entire millennium ago.
Either way, the journey was birthed in mathematics – the purest of human disciplines.
The Fibonacci sequence has always been regarded with awe by mathematicians. Consecutive numbers in the sequence show a weird interrelationship… one best depicted as the ratio Phi – which is approximately 1.61803. When this interrelationship is depicted graphically, a spiraling shape emerges. What is amazing about this shape is the sheer number of instances in which nature has encoded phi into its core makeup. From the microscopic instance, such as the DNA’s helical dimensions, to the average-sized, such as cowrie shells and floral presentation in most plants, all the way up to the shape of most galaxies, the Fibonacci – inspired spiral is ubiquitous.
Prior to the age of computing, the omnipresent nature of Phi in the universe used to be regarded as just but one of the many cosmic puzzles still to be unraveled. But as computing advanced, a few insightful analogies started emerging. Chief amongst them was the realization that a huge amount of complexity could be created from a simple iteration of fractals. Phenomena traditionally perceived as being chaotic, such as weather patterns, could be broken down to simple interactions of elementary principles. Given an exhaustive knowledge of all such elementary principles, and with enough computing power, all chaotic events in nature could be accounted for and, even more intriguingly, forecasted.
It was upon this cognitive foundation that the very seams of our universe started coming apart.
Slowly at first, but quickly gathering speed, a new paradigm started forming amongst the top scientists in the world. This paradigm had the scientists realizing that, with the ubiquitous nature of fractals in the observable universe, the amount of computing needed to encompass all cosmic information was finite. And hence, if the basic principles of the universe were to be tabled out, it was mathematically possible to simulate a replica of a small part of the universe, scale it up through numerous recursions, and essentially end up with another universe, similar to this one in complexity and depth of detail. And yet, even with all the vast scales involved in such an undertaking, the amount of computing needed would remain finite… and possibly even within human capacity.
Based upon this new perception, the scientists started researching on the upper limits of the universe – in a bid to establish, firmly, that this universe was, indeed, finite. Almost immediately, several upper limits started emerging. One of the most well-known such limit relates to speed – fixed at C, approximately 300,000 Km/s. The total electric energy of the observable universe, in electron volts, is estimated to be about 10 raised to the 27th magnitude. Time duration itself has a limit – but on the lower extreme – the Planck time limit… below which no meaningful event can occur. And of course, there is the fact that the universe does have a finite age – implying that at a certain time in the past, it didn’t exist.
With the observations on the finitude of the universe, a rather inescapable thought came upon the scientists: that the universe was containable – it had external limits in time, space, mass, temperatures and so on, and anything capable of grasping all these limits could, theoretically, contain the entire universe. In short, the entire universe could be the creation of another, vastly bigger, but still finite, entity. The finitude of this creator entity would explain the fractals and self-similarity observable all over the universe: with such recursion, the amount of control capacity – or computing capacity – needed to have a simulation the size and scale of the universe would be relatively small. Given this, idea that the entire universe was but a simulation was not only plausible, it was rapidly gaining hard credibility.
And so it was, that I found myself invited to a physics facility in Ellesmere Island – Northern-most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, to witness as scientists began to create a proof-of-concept simulation of the universe. With present computing power, the actual fraction of the universe that could, in totality, be simulated, was slightly more than a cubed millimeter in size. But still, within this admittedly small space, all the fundamental dynamics that make the larger universe what it is were replicable. Through digital magnification, I could observe, within this artificial area, particle dynamics that remained consistent and coherent up to the quark scale. This was an extremely high level of detailing, hence the huge amount of computing needed to maintain it. I learnt that, with Moore’s law of computing, and given that fractals would soon be introduced into the simulation, an artificial universe the size of an average living room could be created within 60 years from now.
From my visit to the physics facility, a few questions remained unresolved. Firstly, since it was becoming rather irrefutable that the entire universe could be simulated, was our particular universe real, or simulated? Secondly, if this universe is a simulation, where are the simulators? And where does all the processing occur? Could the mysterious dark energy and dark matter observed in this universe account for such hidden resources in the universe? Thirdly, were all the trade-offs between time, space and gravity, as detailed out in general relativity, mere, and straightforward,