Philip Rosedale, creator of Second Life, appeared in front of an audience at the Singularity Institute recently, and made a mind blowing statement regarding the nature of our Universe. Whether he intended to or not, nonetheless, he compared his observation and challenges in creating a digital world, to observations made about quantum mechanics in the real world. In quantum mechanics, which is the science of the very small, such as particles, strange phenomenon is observed. Einstein and those who follow in his foot steps seek to find a universal theory of everything. They have run into barriers because the science of the big such as planets and the universe we observe with our human eyes, does not match up with the science we observe at the atomic level. One weird phenomenon observed in quantum physics is called quantum tunneling.
Wikipedia describes quantum tunneling as:
…the quantum mechanical phenomenon where a particle tunnels through a barrier that it classically could not surmount. This plays an essential role in several physical phenomena, such as shining stars, and has important applications to modern devices such as the tunnel diode. The effect was predicted in the early 20th century, and its acceptance as a general, physical phenomenon came mid-century.
As a consequence of the wave-particle duality of matter, tunnelling is often explained using the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Purely quantum mechanical concepts are central to the phenomenon, so quantum tunnelling is one of the defining features of quantum mechanics and the particle-wave duality of matter.
About five minutes into his talk at the Singularity Institute, Rosedale briefly explained quantum tunneling;
So [quantum] tunneling, of course, is this phenomena, where you have a marble, and you have it in a cup, and you shake the cup just a little bit, just enough to roll the marble around on the bottom. If it’s a big classical marble, you can shake that cup forever, and when you come back you’ll still find the marble in it. You can do it as long as you like, you can do it for a billion years, it doesn’t matter.
In the quantum mechanical domain you get this very odd behavior, which is if you shake the cup, just a little, and then you come back the next day, the marbles gone. It actually just left the cup. It just went through the sidewall of the cup. It tunneled, as we say in quantum mechanics through a classical barrier. It just left.
In his early thinking of simulating physics in Second Life he came to an eye opening conclusion.
When the computer only has a finite amount of power, you run into this very interesting problem.
Basically if you leave a marble in a cup in Second Life, and you leave all night and you come back, what happens? The marble is gone. ”
Rosedale says the problem is not fixable. He has observed that if the computer has a finite amount of power for simulating a virtual space, there would be no way to guarantee that it would not leave the cup over a certain amount of time due to computational limits.
Rosedale, not willing to go too far with this relationship between the weirdness of quantum mechanics and simulating a virtual world, brushed off the notion that he really believed we are living inside a virtual simulation.
However, the widely accepted theory of the Big Bang as the creation of the universe, has been challenged lately, and the search for answers continues. One theory gaining steam lately is that we are living in a Holographic Universe. String Theory, which is currently the closest thing to a universal theory as we have at the moment, allows for what is called the holographic principle.
The holographic principle is a property of quantum gravity and string theories which states that the description of a volume of space can be thought of as encoded on a boundary to the region—preferably a light-like boundary like a gravitational horizon.
String theory allows for dimensions that we can not see aside from the three of space, and one that is time. Some propose that perhaps one of these dimensions accounts for the force of gravity that we cannot see, and perhaps a dimension that contains all the information for everything in the universe. Everything you see and touch around you is essentially atoms arranged in specific patterns. These patterns and information could be contained in a holographic dimension and would go a long way toward explaining weird phenomenon such as quantum entanglement.
Quantum entanglement occurs when electrons, molecules even as large as “buckyballs”, photons, etc., interact physically and then become separated; the type of interaction is such that each resulting member of a pair is properly described by the same quantum mechanical description (state), which is indefinite in terms of important factors such as position, momentum, spin, polarization, etc. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, their shared state is indefinite until measured;
If there was a hidden dimension wrapped around our universe that contained all the data for the atoms in our world, quantum entanglement starts to make more sense. If this dimension existed, one would have to imagine that it is finite in the amount of information [atoms] it contains, especially since our knowledge of the universe at this time currently points to a finite amount of matter and space, Rosedale’s theory would be valid. The general agreement in quantum mechanics is that subatomic particles like photons behave like waves until looked at by a conscious observer. It’s not very easy to explain, because it defies what our brains deem logical. If one photon is shot at a wall with 2 slits in it, the photon appears to go through both slits like a wave, until its position is recorded by a conscious observer, then it acts as a particle.
Second Life, too, does not render until looked at by a conscious observer, but the data always remains in that hidden dimension outside the 3D virtual space. Just something to think about.