I was watching one of Neil Degrasse Tyson talks and there was a scientist (can't recall his name sorry) who was talking about a recent discovery:

"Doubly-even self-dual linear binary error-correcting block code" has been discovered embedded within the equations of superstring theory.

Is this for real? Does it imply that our universe just a sophisticated emulation running on some supercomputer?


Would it be possible to set up an experiment that would be able to test this hypothesis?

I am thinking about World of Warcraft, for example, how would an elf in WoW test if his world is an emulation or not? Is it even possible?

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    $\begingroup$ Link to talk? Related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/759/2451 , physics.stackexchange.com/q/47511/2451 and links therein. $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Aug 12 '14 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ The fact that a google search turns up mostly...dubitable sources for this is not an encouraging sign. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind
    Aug 12 '14 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ The Church–Turing–Deutsch principle makes this impossible to decide using the structure of the laws of phsics as it will always be compatible with the universe being simulated by a quantum computer. $\endgroup$ Aug 12 '14 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ @CountIblis That's a good thing to turn into an answer. $\endgroup$
    – user10851
    Aug 13 '14 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ arXiv:0806.0051 seems to be the relevant paper. Apparently there's some structure in supersymmetry algebras that's related to certain error correcting codes. I'd tend to blame this on the generalized strong law of small numbers. "Doubly-even self-dual linear binary error-correcting block code" sounds more complicated than it really is. "Doubly even" just means the number of 1 bits is divisible by 4, for example. $\endgroup$
    – benrg
    Aug 13 '14 at 1:08

I am on record of having the opinion that there is no real argument against us being a simulation in a general sense, however we frequently find people jumping to quick into the simulation pool and stating there new what-ever-it-is proves the universe is a simulation. The example given above sounds like one of them.

First off, Quantum Error Correcting Code (QECC) are mathematical approaches to allow for stable transfer of quantum information by correcting for decoherence effects. If some version of QECC is apparent in any formulation of quantum mechanics, it is interesting but probably not very meaningful in proving we exists in some sort of emulation. Second, just because it shows up in one theory, unless that particular version is shown to have the ability to predict physical effects then it is hard to make the claim about its relevance.

Whether these things are testable is a matter of debate. However, there are people who are proposing to look for "glitches" in the universe. Some would hypothesize that if we lived in a simulation based on Lattice Quantum Chromodynamics (LQCD) we should be able to find places where the lattice work becomes apparent. This is clearly far-fetched but who am I to judge?

For the World of Warcraft, although I do not play that game, the first evidence of a simulation is along the same lines as the theory to test for LQCD latticework. The pixelation of the characters would be the first indication of potential emulation. The universe as we know it has a continuous spacetime (versus discrete), so any sign of blockiness is a good indicator.

Generally, anything that is an inconsistency with basic laws of physics (e.g. perpetual motion, decreasing entropy, etc) would be the first indicator something was wrong. Now, in WoW one can assume that they might operate under a slightly different set of physics than our real world. So ultimately inconsistencies in some portion of the world relative to the laws of physics would be a flag.

Something you should look into is the Equivalence principle. In a nutshell it is a statement that the laws of physics should be the same regardless of you location in spacetime. It is very critical to our notion of the world around us, but a similar rule should be applicable WoW, and significant inconsistencies would be cause for exploration.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm just curious how this became an accepted answer with so many votes. The OP had asked about emulation, not simulation. There is a distinct difference between the two. A simulation is where a program is designed for a specific architecture and is not compatible to any other which implies that someone else simulated that same program for their own machine. We've seen this with different versions of Pong in the 70s. An emulation or emulator is where a particular machine is emulated on another machine that is to say that programs from the original can now be emulated on the new. $\endgroup$ May 4 '18 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ ... However the answer is very intuitive as it does have a good amount of information available to the topic in general although the two are mutually different. $\endgroup$ May 4 '18 at 16:25

Simulation implies an author, so this is another attempt at trying to find a creator for the universe, imo. Thus it is metaphysics and not relevant to the subject of physics.

Physics as a discipline starts from observations and fits them with mathematical models that have predictive power, having accepted axioms and postulates. The mathematical forms are tools. In a similar way that wave equations appear both in the classical models and the quantum mechanical models, but it is just a confusing feature as the wave models different physical observables ( energy waves in the case of electromagnetism, probability waves in quantum mechanics ....) various codes and symmetries can be present in various models, which have little to do with physics per se, as defined above.

Further there cannot be a proof of physical theories, by definition of a physical theory. Physical theories can only be validated by new data, and if so they continue to be valid for the region of relevance (classical mechanics macroscopically, quantum microscopically). Invalidation pushes theorists back to the drawing board to modify postulates, mathematical tools, etc until observations and theory are reconciled. Then predictions should be made and validated for the new theory.

The models of physics that rely on integer numbers have not been validated as they hit on the Lorenz symmetries which are supported by an enormous amount of data and have not been falsified up to now.

Let us suppose that an experiment shows that Lorenz symmetry fails under some conditions, and the ultimate sub level is modeled with the mathematics of integer numbers. The argument that "because two formulations share the same mathematics does not mean they share the same physics" still holds. In this case , in the improbable one that integers are at the heart of the onion, it will not be a proof that the onion was made by a programmer, simulated. It will be just a similarity between two tools used to model physical observations on one hand human ingenuity on the other.

  • $\begingroup$ From my own intuition and not what popular belief would teach you, I feel that we've been taught a few concepts in general mathematics from a very young age that are instilled into us that this is how it truly is when in fact, I've been able to find proofs otherwise to prove the erroneous underlying principles. We use these fallacies everyday as they leak into every other field imaginable from counting money to building space ships... The two principles that I would argue against the status-quo is that there are no negative numbers, zero is not a number, and you can divide by it! $\endgroup$ May 4 '18 at 16:13

As Count Iblis pointed out, The Church–Turing–Deutsch principle makes this impossible to decide using the structure of the laws of physics as it will always be compatible with the universe being simulated by a quantum computer.

Nevertheless, in this well-known paper the author argues that if we accept some very reasonable assumptions, then is is almost certain that we live in a simulation.

Therefore, if for any reason you are uncomfortable believing that we will live in a simulation, then you will have to either:

i)Reject the Church–Turing–Deutsch principle, (This will allow you to refute the claim by directly proposing an experiment that proves otherwise,)

ii)reject one or more or the very reasonable assumptions in the paper or

iii)find some fault in the reasoning in the paper.

In any case, this whole story provides plenty of food for thought...


If you were a simulated person inside an emulation, would you ever be able to tell the universe was emulated? the answer is no, not if it is set up correcty.


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