Is Our Universe a Giant Simulation?

The physics paper of the week is “Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation” by Silas Beane and company at University of Bonn in Germany. Their fundamental question: is the universe just a giant simulation, in which we are all puppets? From their abstract:

Observable consequences of the hypothesis that the observed universe is a numerical simulation performed on a cubic space-time lattice or grid are explored. The simulation scenario is first motivated by extrapolating current trends in computational resource requirements for lattice QCD into the future. Using the historical development of lattice gauge theory technology as a guide, we assume that our universe is an early numerical simulation with unimproved Wilson fermion discretization and investigate potentially-observable consequences. Among the observables that are considered are the muon g-2 and the current differences between determinations of alpha, but the most stringent bound on the inverse lattice spacing of the universe, b^(-1) >~ 10^(11) GeV, is derived from the high-energy cut off of the cosmic ray spectrum. The numerical simulation scenario could reveal itself in the distributions of the highest energy cosmic rays exhibiting a degree of rotational symmetry breaking that reflects the structure of the underlying lattice.

Could you fathom the possibility that our entire cosmos is running on a vastly powerful computer? I cannot.


(via Technology Review)