...all of a sudden, one day I saw them all over the floor surrounding the tree. I kept finding more and more spreading out from around the tree into other rooms. Finally we saw they were all over the trunk and branches of the tree.But fret not, stories like this are extremely rare, so don't let them spoil your holiday cheer! Besides, tree-infesting insects are, for the most part, completely benign. According to Jordal, "As they cannot feed on the limited plants found in most households, the bugs will quickly dry out and die. These insects and bugs do not constitute any risk or danger to people or furniture."
Can we know if we are actually living in a computer simulated universe? New physics research gives us some possible clues about how we might tell and how hard it would be to artificially create the world we experience. This work is at the fine border between scientific speculation and speculative science. Keep in mind that it is about as far from practical and testable as physics can get.
The heart of the matter is to determine whether the space we live in has infinitely small distances. What do I mean by that? Everyday intuition tells you that you can take one step, or half a step, or half of a half of a step, or a half of a half of a half (1/8) of a step, and so forth. The universe, so far as we know, probably allows you take smaller and smaller steps forever (infinitely).
However, when a computer simulates reality, it does things differently. It can't use infinitely small space because it can only store a limited (finite) number of things in its memory. This places a limit on the very smallest step you can take. So, if we were living in a simulation, we might find out that trying to take too small of a step is impossible!
One of the very best current computer simulations of reality is lattice QCD. QCD is the quantum theory of the strong force. It describes what protons and neutrons are made of and how they interact to form atomic nuclei and carry out nuclear processes. Computer simulations of QCD must use space with a limit on how small the size of a step can be. These simulations assume that space has a smallest possible step to move (or set of positions that you can occupy). Currently, the smallest step is somewhere around one tenth to one twentieth of a femtometer (10-16 m = 10-1 fm). This is about one hundred times smaller than the nucleus of an atom (2-15 fm).
To simulate a cube of space the size of the period on this page, you would need roughly 1035 possible steps you can take or locations you can be at in that space. Right now our fastest computers could never do this in a trillion years.
Lattice QCD simulation (Brookhaven National Laboratory)
This work analyzes extremely high energy bursts from outer space, called cosmic rays. Based on the energy of these rays, physicists claim that the space they come from must have steps at least as small as one millionth of one billionth of a femtometer (10-27 m = 10-12 fm). So if we are being simulated by some future computer, it must be incomprehensibly powerful to be able to analyze this many possible steps. (Think trillions of years to simulate the size of an atom.)
This raises a new question. Is it even possible to build such a computer and carry out a simulation this powerful? While we have been experiencing approximately 50 years of unbelievably high (and consistent) increase in computer power, it would take centuries (or millennia or more) of growth continuing at the same rate for this to be possible for us. Furthermore, there are certain other problems, like whether there are enough atoms in the universe to build such a powerful computer, which no one has any idea about.
While this new evidence gives us something to think about, we are still back to essentially the same ancient conundrum. Before the computer age, philosophers wondered if we could all be living in someone else's dream. Like that old puzzle, the new practical conclusion is that we still can't tell, and so we might as well not worry about it.
Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) lab where Ebola research is conducted. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Imagine, though, that five different research teams test an interesting theory that's making the rounds, and four of the groups correctly prove the idea false, while the one less cautious group incorrectly "proves" it true through some combination of error, fluke, and clever selection of data. Guess whose findings your doctor ends up reading about in the journal, and you end up hearing about on the evening news?Other explanations include poor or biased experimental design, emphasizing statistical significance over biological relevance, or -- in extreme cases -- outright fraud.
With the "Wow!" there wasn't any noise on any of the channels except for one, and that's just not the way natural radio sources work. Natural radio sources diffuse static across all frequencies, rather than hitting at a single frequency... It was a very narrow band, very concentrated, exactly like a radio station, or a broadcast, from another world would look.Furthermore, the signal was detected at a frequency of 1420 Megahertz (1420.4556 MHz to be precise, according to Ehman). This is almost identical to the frequency at which hydrogen, the most common element in the universe, resonates. Years earlier, two Cornell physicists, Philip Morrison and Giuseppe Cocconi, writing in the journal Nature, postulated that aliens might attempt to make contact using that frequency, since it would likely be meaningful to a society with an understanding of science.
"All costs of investigation, trial, and execution were borne by the accused or her relatives --right down to the per diems for the private detectives hired to spy on her, wine for her guards, banquets for her judges, the travel expenses of a messenger sent to fetch a more experienced torturer from another city... Then there was a bonus to the members of the tribunal for each witch burned. The convicted witch's remaining property, if any, was divided between Church and State. As this legally and morally sanctioned mass murder and theft became institutionalized, as a vast bureaucracy arose to serve it, attention turned from poor hags and crones to the middle class and well-to-do of both sexes."