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Using Simple Dots on a Graph to Decode the Universe


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    Without getting into the weeds too much, wanted to get everyone's take on this alternative approach in physics to String Theory, which is our current leading candidate in physics for the Theory of Everything.

    Basically String Theory tries to solve the problem of unifying General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics into one theory known as Quantum Gravity. The problem is the two theories are great for answering many of science's questions about the nature of reality, but they are incompatible and can't ultimately both be true -- GR deals with gravity on the macro scale, while QM deals with non-gravitational forces on the very small scale. And there are edge cases in science that neither theory can account for.

    So Quantum Gravity, a unified theory that can be the bridge that brings both theories into one, is considered the holy grail of physics right now. That's what String Theory attempts to do. Here's a good video on String Theory:

    You also have another attempt at a Quantum Gravity theory called M-Theory. That one is arguably more complicated but is along the same lines as String Theory but instead deals with superstring theory.

    There are different ideas out there though, trying to answer the question of quantum gravity that go in a completely different direction. One of them doesn't have a catchy name just yet but is the brainchild of Stephen Wolfram. Best this article I'm going to share can label it, its going by the name of 'Wolfram Physics Project'.

    And here's the full explanation:

    Short version: Creator of Wolfram Alpha Has a Bold Plan to Find a New Fundamental Theory of Physics
    Very long version: Finally We May Have a Path to the Fundamental Theory of Physics…and It’s Beautiful

    And here's my attempt:

    This will likely be a very dumbed down, not 100% accurate way of describing it, but basically he thinks the universe is fully computational. And that it can be modeled using simple rules and graph theory (which looks like complex geometry). You just have to get lucky and guess the right rules and do the math and run the computation long enough.

    Said another way, you have a computer application. You have a few basic building blocks to start with, some basic shapes or points/dots that you can plot on a graph. Then you assign very simple rules for these building blocks. Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat millions, billions, trillions or even zillions of times until you get a result that mirrors our own universe.

    He uses the same approach of treating every particle in the universe as a 'point in space' but instead of focusing on gravitational and non-gravitational forces, he just lets the computer turn simple code into very, very complex, multi-dimensional objects, hoping that one day someone somewhere will input the right variables and repeat the computation enough times that poof - out comes a result that perfectly illustrates our universe. And then from there, it seems like you can reverse engineer, well everything.

    Here's an image for context:

    And Wolfram just recently opened up this software and database to the world. So its now a completely open-source project. The hope is that collaboration greatly speeds up the process and that for everyone without something to contribute to now, with the world being shut down due to the pandemic, this will give them something to work on.

    There are a ton of detractors of Wolfram, with perhaps a majority of science annoyed with him because he doesn't go through the proper peer review process, like everyone else has to, because he has a lot of money and can get publicity and attention in ways that many others in physics cannot. But that doesn't mean he is wrong here.

    What do you think? Is it possible our universe comes down to a few simple rules and a few building blocks that we can model in a computer, basically like a simple line of code, that's just repeated an amazing amount of times, that creates all the complexity and seeming randomness of the whole of reality? To my mind, its not any more out there than String Theory.

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    Cosmic Kid Wrote: What do you think? Is it possible our universe comes down to a few simple rules and a few building blocks that we can model in a computer, basically like a simple line of code, that's just repeated an amazing amount of times, that creates all the complexity and seeming randomness of the whole of reality? To my mind, its not any more out there than String Theory.
    I agree Wolfram's project it isn't any more "crazy" (for lack of a better term) than String Theory. It's so easy to go down either, or countless other, rabbit holes when it comes to physics.
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    Cosmic Kid Wrote:

    And Wolfram just recently opened up this software and database to the world. So its now a completely open-source project. The hope is that collaboration greatly speeds up the process and that for everyone without something to contribute to now, with the world being shut down due to the pandemic, this will give them something to work on.

    This is one of the things I like to see the most, a scientist showing their work and handing it up to the scientific community for further study. No cards are up sleeves here, which makes this more approachable. I can definitely see where this theory is possible. Building blocks in the universe on a elemental scale can be micro or macro depending on how closely you're looking. Micro-wise, these building blocks become more and more intricate and complex, yet are fundamental as we know it. I could see this being proof that there is a recipe in a sense for the universe. I just think that it bends further from a solid understanding.