From the Not-Sure-I-Really-Want-To-Know Department…
As readers know, some physicists believe that the universe as we know it is actually a giant hologram, giving us the illusion of three-dimensions, while in fact all the action is occurring on a two-dimensional boundary region (see here, here, and here)… shadows on the walls of a cave, indeed.
A common theme of science fiction movies and books is the idea that we’re all living in a simulated universe—that nothing is actually real. This is no trivial pursuit: some of the greatest minds in history, from Plato, to Descartes, have pondered the possibility. Though, none were able to offer proof that such an idea is even possible. Now, a team of physicists working at the University of Bonn have come up with a possible means for providing us with the evidence we are looking for; namely, a measurable way to show that our universe is indeed simulated. They have written a paper describing their idea and have uploaded it to the preprint server arXiv…
Phys.Org has the whole story at “Is it real? Physicists propose method to determine if the universe is a simulation“; the paper mentioned above can be downloaded here.
As we reach for the “reset” button, we might send carefully-calculated birthday greetings to Paul Isaac Bernays; he was born on this date in 1888. A close associate of David Hilbert (of “Hilbert’s Hotel” fame), Bernays was one the foremost philosophers of mathematics of the Twentieth Century, who made important contributions to mathematical logic and axiomatic set theory. Bernays is perhaps best remembered for his revision and improvement of the (early, incomplete) set theory advanced by John von Neumann in the 1920s; Bernays’s work, with some subsequent modifications by Kurt Gödel, is now known as the Von Neumann–Bernays–Gödel set theory.
Lest, per the simulation speculation above suggest that cosmology has a hammerlock on weirdness: Set theory is used, among other purposes, to describe the symmetries inherent in families of elementary particles and in crystals. Materials such as a liquid or a gas in equilibrium, made of uniformly distributed particles, exhibit perfect spatial symmetry—they look the same everywhere and in every direction… a condition that “breaks” at very low temperature, when the particles form crystals (which have some symmetry, but less)… Now Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek has suggested that there may exist “Time Crystals“– whose structure would repeat periodically, as with an ordinary crystal, but in time rather than in space… a kind of “perpetual motion ‘machine’” (weirder yet, one that doesn’t violate the laws of thermodynamics).