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CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: Duality in Cosmology and the Limits to the Acquisition of Information by Lawrence B Crowell [refresh]
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Author Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 17:20 GMT
Essay Abstract

Some physics is advanced to argue it is not possible for humans or any intelligent life to completely simulate the universe. This preserves some element of scientific objectivity, for we have a measure of confidence that we are not avatars in a simulation and the universe is a natural system. There are then certain limits to growth humans and any Information Gathering Using System (IGUS) system is limited in its ability to acquire energy and information.

Author Bio

Doctoral work at Purdue. Worked on orbital navigation and currently work on IT and programming. I think it is likely there is some subtle, and in some ways simple, physical principle that is not understood, or some current principle that is an obstruction. It is likely our inability to work quantum physics and gravity into a coherent whole is likely to be solved through new postulates or physical axioms, or the removal of current ones.

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Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 16:01 GMT
My Dear Doctor Crowell,

I found your exceptionally well written essay quite fascinating and I do hope for your sake that it does well in the competition.

You wrote: “Time does not select unique events, but events occur within time independent of any time scale.” That statement is completely and utterly wrong. As I have thoughtfully pointed out in my essay, REALITY, ONCE, everything real and imagined is unique, once.

Reality is the simplest thing. All surfaces travel at the constant speed of light. All non-surfaces travel inconsistently at a speed that is less than the constant speed of light. You can prove this simple fact by looking around you. Whether it is the surfaces of the stars, or the moon, or the grass on the front lawn or your wife, you can see them when they are in view and the only way you could do that is if they and you were travelling at the same speed.

All information is abstract and it has nothing to do with reality. Each person has unique fingerprints. Each person has a unique dollop of DNA. Each person must have unique intelligence. Fabricated intelligence could never be unique in human terms. Fabricated intelligence has to be fabricated. The brain in the bottle could only be given instructions on how to select coded information. Informational instructions could never be unique.

With best regards,

Joe Fisher

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 00:32 GMT
The statement that time does not select unique events just means that event in time are distributed in a “Copernican manner.” The equivalent statement about space is that objects are distributed in space in an equiprobable manner. This is a cornerstone of physics, where the homogeneity of space gives conservation of momentum and isotropy gives conservation of angular momentum. A nonuniqueness of time and the distribution of events in time gives conservation of energy. Of course I was referring to the doomsday conjecture in this instance, where the argument tends to give a probability distribution based on time. It is similar to the gambler’s fallacy.

Your thesis about “reality” of course is in serious opposition with the character of physical thought and how natural principles are reasoned through. It is not possible that it can ever result in any change in our understanding of physical foundations. The scientific understanding of the physical world is not at all working in your favor. All of the uniqueness that you cite as fundamental to our world is really in many ways additional noise that tends to conceal underlying equivalencies.

Cheers LC

Joe Fisher replied on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 15:50 GMT
Dear Doctor Crowell,

Physics does not have a real cornerstone. Physics is an abstraction and the only thing physics has is an abstract cornerstone. The main fundamental, basic initial, abstract cornerstone of physics is that abstract energy equals abstract mass times the abstract speed of abstract light squared.

In reality, all surfaces travel at the constant speed of light. All non-surfaces travel at an inconsistent speed that is less than the constant speed of light. Galileo proved this when he reputedly dropped the two cannonballs from the top tier of the leaning tower of Pisa. Of course both cannon balls fell at the constant speed of light. Both cannonballs would maintain the constant speed of light even if they were pushed along the ground. However, due to the fact that each cannonball had a marked difference non-surface, it would be easier to move the hollowed out ball because there would be less of its non-surface than the un-hollowed material of the other ball.

Thank you for reading my essay.


Joe Fisher

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Torsten Asselmeyer-Maluga wrote on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 20:25 GMT

a really interesting essay. I was only able to skim over it. So more later certainly. Unfortunately I'm currently occupied with other things.

Amazingly I was concerned with electro-magnetic duality in the last time. So, I'm also eager to see your math.



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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 01:02 GMT
My essay is a bit of a shameless excuse for introducing some ideas in physics. Last week the BICEP ground announced that B-modes were found to 5 sigma. This is a signature of gravitons emitted in the inflationary cosmology that were stretched into longer wavelength gravity waves that influenced the surface of last photon scatter, or what is now the CMB. This is some interesting pieces of...

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Ryoji Furui replied on Mar. 28, 2014 @ 13:45 GMT
Dear Lawrence B Crowell,

i can not reach your essay at math part unfortunately but regarding at the end of section 2 and the comment above, i am interested in hearing more about your insight of bicep2 result. it may still hold wide range of gravitational models unless more precise data coming within this year or later. on the other hand, you may remember a paper written by Ernst Fischer in 2012 contest.

it was surely daily cumulative community ranking no.1 essay in 2012 and i referred it by adding its potential energy in my later paper update. bicep2 result tells that gravitational horizon may not reach at plank scale but above of it. do you think it can be an evidence of potential energy that Fischer claiming?



my essay at

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Mar. 28, 2014 @ 19:27 GMT
The BICEP result gives a ratio of tensor to scalar contribution that is large enough to conclude the B-modes are due to gravitation. String theory has a monodromy structure which has tensor and scalar modes. The tensor modes are generalized gauge potentials or gauge-like potentials in a Kaluza-Klein theory. The scalar fields are dilaton and axion fields, and the signatures of these should leave an imprint on the CMB according to higher moments in the polarization variation with a range r = tensor/scalar. In principle we should be able to measure this and this is information that is likely available to us.


Author Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 12:17 GMT
Dear Ryoji,

A negative constant of gravity would mean a repulsive interaction. This does occur in a way with the anti-de Sitter spacetime. This is a spacetime with a negative cosmological constant Λ < 0, is such that geodesic deviations are separating. A two dimensional version of the AdS spacetime can be seen in the Poincare half-plane or a conformal compact version in the Poincare disk. Escher drew up versions of this in his drawings “Circle Limit.” The boundary of the AdS spacetime is then an Einstein spacetime of one dimension less, that contains a conformal field that has symmetries dual to the AdS spacetime isometries. We may then exist on this boundary spacetime. This duality was proven by Juan Maldecena in 1998.

Cheers LC

Ryoji Furui replied on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 22:21 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

My beginning of physics thought was back to around 1998, so it was just the time we observed the accelerating expansion of super nova. So I naturally accepted that gravity could be a repulsive force not only attractive and this was my basic concept of universe image. I am still far from mastering general relativity but now try to express on math (it is the first time indeed).

Now we roll back Einstein equation by removing cosmological constant to its initial state and apply negative constant as I suggested therefore its equation would be

b=1, -a (Not sure yet it is the correct way to insert Fischer's potential energy to Einstein equation). Do you think this can form the universe we observe?



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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Mar. 30, 2014 @ 17:01 GMT
Modifying general relativity in this manner is in the literature. There is Bonnet form of GR and so called f(R) general relativity. I wrote an article that included some of this a couple of years ago in fact. It had the Ricci scalar replaced with

R --- > R + α’R^2

where the α’ is the string constant. The AdS spacetime does not need to do that however. This is a spacetime that is embedded in a five dimensional flat spacetime, which in fact has two time directions. The embedding involves setting one of the time directions to a constant and the result is a spacetime with negative curvature. This is different from the f(R) modifications of general relativity.


Ryoji Furui replied on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 02:48 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

thank you for your many feedbacks.

It is the first time to hear the name f(R) general relativity though ads is often heard with the combination of cft as a string qg solution. i would learn it more later along with your other papers. at the moment, do you know the same or similar equation to my newborn one in its variations?

at last, what i am still wondering is if bicep2 data could be a last piece of observation (includes experimental) of everything with a certain theoretical model. do we need more parameters to know or predict for a grande breakthrough of physics?

thank you again,


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James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 17:46 GMT

Your essay is quite impressive, not only in your perception of what is but also in the depth of your knowledge.

Your argument, of course, centers on what we know as an isolated species with mixed rates of success dealing with our planet and its resources. Based on that, your analysis is peerless. But if you consider the possibility of life on other planets, one would have hope -- as I do in my novel -- that other sentient creatures might have evolved armed with better ecologically derived motivations, better intellectual tools and perhaps more resources.

Certainly mired in a technological state that seems to anchor us to this planet, consideration of an advanced Type II rather than a Type 0 civilization tends to stymie our progress but not that of a Type II civilization.

From the perspective of our own planet, "peak environment" and a return to primitive times appears to be in the cards when leaders consider short-term planning -- months rather than years, so perhaps without guidance from a more advanced civilization maybe our prospects are truly dim.

You write a very intelligent and thought-provoking essay, Lawrence.


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 1, 2014 @ 01:03 GMT
I think that successful forms of intelligent life, which I think of as an IGUS (information gathering utilizing system) or collective, may recognize these limits and craft their future accordingly. It is hard to know to what extent free will exists, even though we have a strong intuitive sense it does exist. The human brain, and I think by extension any signaling network that has what we would call intelligent behavior, is probably far too complex for us to ever understand enough to answer the question. It amounts to trying to get the system to encode itself, which runs into issues with universal Turing machines and Godel’s theorem. So the debate can be raised as to whether we are driven by instinctive behavior that over rides what we call intelligence.

Living systems are driven by the need to pass on their genetic information, or presumably with extraterrestrial life something analogous to that. This means amplifying those genes, which requires growth. We humans of course have been very good at this, for our ability to exploit our environment is extraordinary, and we have pursued exponential growth. Whether we are able to override the impulse along these lines is to be determined. If we are able to rein in our appetites then we might have some chance of surviving long into the future with a measure of decent civilized living.

The main point of my article is that it is not likely for intelligent life or IGUS to develop into these hyper-civilizations. It does not mean that intelligent life is doomed utterly, but it does mean such is limited and will pursue a better future if they work within or around these limits.


Vladimir Rogozhin replied on Apr. 2, 2014 @ 11:40 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

Thank you, wonderful, profound essay!

You are absolutely correct write: «If we are able to rein in our appetites then we might have some chance of surviving long into the future with a measure of decent civilized living.»

Here the main idea - a "to rein ". It means to "limit" set "limits", set "frame".

This idea is important for physics, for the entire system of knowledge. Nobel laureate David Gross in an interview "What it consists of the SpaceTime" "Expert" magazine February 2013

"... String theory, which I have devoted most of his career, was not so revolutionary as we had hoped even fifteen or twenty years ago. It's just part of what I now conventionally call "general framework structure" of theoretical physics. While we do not know the structure of clear boundaries, clear mechanisms of cooperation between the different ways to describe it - string theories, field theory and other alternative concepts, but I hope that sooner or later we will be able to identify them. "

Therefore, the "frame of fundamental knowledge" is needed as physicists and all Humanity. Only in this way the development of Humanity may acquire resistance and go in the right direction all the more optimistic than now.

Version of such a "framework", the model of the Universe as a "complex simplicity", I gave in my essay "Absolute generating structure" and the development of ideas in the following essay "It from Delta-Logit"

I think that physicists and poets should be a unity framework model of the World (Universe), which carries all the meanings of the "LifeWorld" (Edmund Husserl).



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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 3, 2014 @ 10:33 GMT
String theory probably represents some aspects of the universe. I think there are stringy aspects to the universe, and interestingly AdS/CFT has found its way into solid state physics. D-branes are condensates similar to Fermi surfaces and this physics is emergent in solids.

The limits imposed on us are ultimately by nature. Nature is what dictates what it is that we can both know as well as what we can control. We humans have been overly enamored with our abilities and our ideological systems. This is something we need to grow out of. A type of maturity is what is urgently needed.


Author Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 22:21 GMT
Erratum for FQXi paper.

I wrote in my paper:

This means the WDW state vector is in a Hilbert space H = H_A⊗I + I + H_B …

The definition of the Hilbert space is wrong. This is a split decomposition of the space and should read

This means the WDW state vector is in a Hilbert space H = H_A⊗I + I⊗H_B and …


Cristinel Stoica wrote on Apr. 3, 2014 @ 07:34 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

Contrary to the current trend of speculating on the idea of the world as a simulation, you explored the cosmic physical limits of this idea. I think this is a realistic position, since we can go as far as we want by accepting that the world is a simulation. Science is not about going as far as we want, but only as far as physics allows us, which is your position. I also found refreshing the proposed resolution to the Fermi's paradox. Very well written work!

Best regards,


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 3, 2014 @ 20:49 GMT
This is an aspect of my argument, and I maintain that our limitations and I think the limitations of any intelligent life in the universe, are what give a degree of confidence in the objective nature about what it is that we can observe and say about nature. The universe in effect determines what is observably real, not mental beings of any kind, whether humans in the distant future or extra terrestrial beings of some sort.

This does not necessarily mean we humans are doomed exactly, though it probably does mean our existence is both limited and of finite duration. If we can’t do things like generate our own universe by appealing to the multiverse then our existence is probably impossible in a trillion years. Of course a trillion years is an awfully long time; even a million years is pretty long!

Cheers LC

James Lee Hoover wrote on Apr. 9, 2014 @ 17:43 GMT

"The main point of my article is that it is not likely for intelligent life or IGUS to develop into these hyper-civilizations. It does not mean that intelligent life is doomed utterly, but it does mean such is limited and will pursue a better future if they work within or around these limits."

My question relates to whatever humanity may be out there, yet undiscovered. Evolved differently than us, would that intelligent life achieve hyper-civilization, and in fact if they have already visited us -- undiscovered -- wouldn't they already have achieved a "hyper-civilization? I know it's speculation but that is what we are doing with our subject.


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 9, 2014 @ 22:41 GMT
The main argument I make is that it is physically improbable, if not maybe impossible, for these extreme hyper-civilizations to exist. The problem is that they can’t acquire energy and information necessary to do this. The primary limitations are the finite speed of light and the existence of cosmological event horizons. This is then my argument for why our observable universe is not some sort of simulation run on a hypercomputer built by some extreme IGUS.

I doubt that we have been visited by any sort of extraterrestrial intelligences. I suspect the distances are not just interstellar, but probably intergalactic. So such travel is unlikely. I prefer to use the ter IGUS for such beings, for I doubt they will in any way resemble humanity. They will probably assume a form and consciousness states that are hugely different than our selves.


James Lee Hoover replied on Apr. 9, 2014 @ 23:08 GMT

I hear you about the limit of light speed, but even with our existing Type 0 civilization we leave the door open to warp speed and the fabric of space exceeding light speed. I would wonder if you leap ahead to a type 2 civilization whether that light speed limit evaporates with access to Planck sizes and quantum access. Does quantum entanglement give you access to entangled particles light years away. I know orthodox physics frowns on this but look how perspective has changed in a few generations.


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Author Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 02:02 GMT
The speed of light is not the same as the speed of sound. The speed of light is a conversion factor between time and space. It is also in relativity a consequence of the spacetime distance or interval for a photon is zero. This means that the set of light rays in spacetime defines a projective geometry. Projective geometries are a set of rays or lines modulo length. Zero length photon rays are the perfect example of this type manifold. The speed of light is then a manifestation of topology as well as geometry.

Event horizons are congruencies of null rays, null rays being zero length paths that light or photons follow. The trapping properties of horizons are then a sort of invariant or topological property. The actual speed of light is not relevant. In fact the natural unit for the space of light is just one or c = 1light second per second. The funny units we see for it is then due to other parameters or constants, such as the electric charge or the mass of particles.

The invariance of the speed of light is a local property, or it operates for local inertial frames. The global manifold with curvature has different regions with local light cone conditions. The question of course is whether the causal condition of local invariance of speed of light holds globally. This depends upon whether a number of conditions are upheld in general relativity, in particular the Hawking-Penrose energy conditions. There are good reasons to think these hold, even in quantum conditions. However, as yet a proof does not exist.


KoGuan Leo wrote on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 08:37 GMT

I enjoyed reading your essay full with equations. I understand your view about natural world as it is is is. Even when you used mathematical equations which use few symbols to simulate natural world you still claimed as Seth Lloyd did that our universe simulates itself, or we need a universal size computer to simulate our natural universe. How come you need you to use few symbols...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 13:32 GMT
Dear KoGuan,

Thanks for your interest in my paper. There is clearly a quantum bit/logic component to the universe. Any physical system with a set of conservation laws is in a sense a “computer.” A conservation law is equivalent to a symmetry principle, by Noether’s theorem, and a symmetry principle gives a set of precise rules for the transformation between states. This has algorithmic aspects to it. However, I tend to avoid making a sweeping declaration that the universe is a computer. Of course that could be the case, and which does mean the universe computes itself. The computer is in effect the program and data stack. I think there are elements of this in the physical universe. However, again I avoid making a grand generalization that says the universe is a computer.


KoGuan Leo replied on May. 5, 2014 @ 06:43 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

Fantastic essay indeed! You wrote powerfully and wonderfully: "The question in the end is whether this in fact might be a good thing. We are in age where the ability to simulate the world is very advanced, and will advance much further. Further, the interface between human brains and computers is becoming very close. For an overview of the brain-computer interface (BCI) see...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 5, 2014 @ 15:10 GMT
Thanks for the high score.

The technology to simulate things and to create virtual worlds has become enormously advanced. The BCI and other developments are probably not far down the road. As you say we may become increasingly lost in a virtual reality as we will not longer be able to cipher what is simulation and what is not. Already with what exists there are many cases of how disinformation and intentional falsity are presented as reality, and I suspect that it will not be long before this becomes the norm, where humanity may becomes inwardly drawn into a mass mind meld. It has disturbing parallels with the motto of the BORG on Star Trek, “You will be assimilated, resistance is futile.”

I do think the universe is largely unitary, or in some general unital setting that could be unitary modulo singular points or meromorphic. This unital structure may however depend upon an open or hypercomputational system in black hole interiors and in exceptional situations. Quantum states in our exterior region are entangled with these states and unital structure is maintained by hypercomputation with these exceptional states.

I am even more confident that simulations are capable to performing this type of computation over an arbitrary time period. I did not include this for these hypotheses are rather conjectural at this time. A perfect simulation of this is not possible by the Godel-Turing theorems. Even a “darn good” simulation would require access to a huge amount of mass-energy and information, which becomes problematic in general.

Cheers LC

Wesley Wayne Hansen wrote on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 15:13 GMT
An interesting paper, Lawrence, although I often wonder, even if our Universe is a simulation, wouldn't it all have to bottom out in "nature" eventually? I mean, the word simulation implies something being simulated and, although I can easily imagine a countably infinite regress of simulations, it would seem the uncountably infinite would, by necessity, include "nature" somewhere within its...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 16:20 GMT
It is certainly not impossible that our observable universe is a simulation. It could be that in some other cosmology that mass-energy is not dispersed nearly as far as in our world and that IGUS beings are then simulating our world. However, inflationary cosmology does indicate that mass-energy is highly diffuse in cosmologies and the limit of light speed prevents beings from accumulating enough mass-energy to simulate the 10^{100}qubits of information necessary to generate our universe. Even a highly partial universe would require a vast amount of mass-energy to construct the information we observe locally. It is not absolutely impossible, but I think it is not highly probable.

These ideas do have some cross currents with religion. What if God is just a super-user in another cosmology? It reminds me of the 90s song, “What if God is a slob like one of us?” Of course God in the proper theological sense would be an infinite super-user, and infinity has a funny way of making analysis less tractable.

Religions are in a way a map of the human psyche. Look at the description of the sanctuary in Leviticus with the outer court, inner compartment and the Holy of Holies. This is a mirror of the Freudian idea of Id, Ego and Superego. Our beliefs about God, or gods, are in many ways representations of ourselves.


James Dunn wrote on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 19:24 GMT
If we are living in a construct that allows for simulation, then we ourselves may be able to use the underlying construct in Building Universes - Relativity from Quantum Causality.

Is this what you are referring to?

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James Dunn replied on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 19:57 GMT
Re: 3 Implications for intelligent life

So if you have a computer model, where there is environment evolved consciousness. Your statements seem to imply that a lack of substantive structure is an indication of a simulated environment. This is the realm of present particle physics, there is nothing substantive below the size of an atom. Yet artifact considered as subatomic particles have...

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James Dunn replied on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 20:10 GMT
I believe we can build a mechanism to Exactly model our universe, and manipulate it to create computational systems. But the physical outcomes will exactly match physics and not the approximations provided by mathematics.

In any "real" physical environment, it would take an extraordinary number of seemingly abstract mathematics relationships to model the systems of relationships that are in constant change within a cubic centimeter. To do so without error is presently and for the foreseeable future impossible.

However, by using the structure of the universe to build a system for analyzing a piece within our universe (quantum camera), then we are not relying upon approximations. Math will likely still be used, to get us into the general area we want to be. But the quantum camera would respond and interact with the our universe exactly.

The quantum camera would be a subset of a universe that we build.

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James Dunn replied on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 20:18 GMT
To be sure, this is not pie in the sky relationships.

Billions of dollars in grants are available for this type of research:

But who will control the technologies developed?

Business Model to Broadly teach Common Sense:

How should we steer the future of humanity?

Method for ethically monitoring and eliminating all corrruption:

Corruption = unethical allocation of resources and/or opportunities

inating corruption from both the Top/Down (management of NSA) AND Bottom/Up (broadly teaching Common Sense).

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Author Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 23:31 GMT

In response to the first couple of posts … A computer simulation does not come for free. One has to access enough mass-energy to assemble the bits of information necessary. The Khinchin-Shannon information of an information bit with probability P_n is I_n = log_2(P_n), and the entropy of a string of these information bits is

S = -k sum_nP_n I_n = -k sum_n P_n log_2(P_n).

Entropy is energy per temperature and the energy associated with it is E = TS. So beings must access a huge amount of energy to simulate a world completely. Even we lowly humans have to plug our Xbox360s or PS3s into the wall in order to run our world simulations or games. A complete simulation of Earth on and near the surface with avatars plugged into the “game” would require a vast amount of energy to run. Simulations of every larger scales explodes the amount of energy required, which translates into using machines that transform available bits or qubits in the world into those which construct the simulation.

Cheers LC

James Dunn wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 01:56 GMT
I am not very familiar with Khinchin-Shannon. Isn't that Information Theory based in probability?

Probability, Limits, and Error Analysis hide systems of causality to simplify analysis; i.e. approximations.

Probability depends upon Relativity; Relativity does not depend upon Probability. Probability enforces space/time considerations in the form of things that are observable. Probability washes out orders of magnitudes of complexities regarding secondary/tertiary/... systems of causality. Probability is based in reinforcing approximations to increasing degrees of exactness related to observable outcomes of physics; but ignores causal relationships buried by probability. These causal relationships are the basis of Axiom of Choice, not probability.

I am not saying that probability is without use; but it is not a final solution.

Consider two adjacent (simplification) photon of two different energies that has departed from a galaxy billions of light-years from Earth. They arrived adjacent and with measurable energies. What should the energies be with squared of the distance losses? What should the energies be based on billions of years of entropy? How many varying densities of hydrogen atom distributions were in close proximity to the photons over the billions of light-years of travel (wavelet distortions)? Combine these and the photons arrive with significantly stronger energies and without distortions from passing through gravity distortions.

What else unrelated directly to energy is going on, and how can we use it?

Just my opinions,

I will look up Khinchin-Shannon and see what they have to say.

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 10:57 GMT

you have written a really interesting essay. I didn't expect to enjoy it but I really did. I didn't understand the middle section of course.

Virtual or real extinction what's the difference? Unless there is some way to hack the simulation and make the environmental issues go away...You seem to be saying that the universe can not be simulated (and so that's not going to work.)

We need to be very cautious about geo-engineering because we don't want to make things accidentally worse. The examples of hydroelectric dam problems, silting, damaging fisheries, affecting water supply, preventing nutrients fertilizing land down river; and the problems of 'green'palm oil production fueling deforestation and orangutan habitat destruction should be cautionary tales. Both were solutions!

The many worlds idea kind of blurs the issues. We need to concentrate on the infrastructure and planning we need to get to the next century and beyond in this world. I agree we are not ready yet for space but I have suggested that perhaps learning to survive on a hostile Earth could be preparation for colonization of other worlds later on.

Thank you a good read. Best of luck, Georgina

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 15:37 GMT
The main thesis of my essay is not concerned with the eternal survival of the human race. The point is that it is not likely there can exist an intelligent system or set of beings in the universe that can completely simulate a cosmology to the level of detail we observe. The point is that the probability our universe is an objective universe, not the creation by some beings elsewhere with galactic sized deep-thought computers, is reasonably close to unity.

The survival of our species is likely to be more and more contingent upon our decisions. We may be forced into some forms of geo-engineering, whether we want it or not. It is a dicey proposition, and it could have pitfalls. However, recent data indicates that the methane trigger has gone off with hydrate and permafrost melt. Trying to reduce global warming by just reducing CO_2 output appears to be a case of closing the barn door after the horses have escaped.

Cheers LC

Georgina Woodward replied on May. 1, 2014 @ 02:39 GMT
Just a thought; Aren't we 'simulating' it, piece by piece, when we collect the data and form it into images of the cosmos? The visible universe is not the material, (made of atoms and fermion particles), universe that exists out in space, IMHO.

I am becoming more and more amazed by how very complex things can be formed by simple reiteration of algorithms. Just looking at fractals we can see details within details, within details,and so on, but simply produced. Which could possibly undermine the premise that it takes huge computing power to produce something dreadfully complex. Building unimaginable shapes,Michael Hansmeyer Those shapes are amazing!

Not that I'm saying the cosmos is a computer simulation, but thinking about how you came to that conclusion.

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Christian Corda wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 15:37 GMT
Hi LC,

My entry has been just put online, see Bohr-like model for black holes: the route for quantum gravity.

I am going to carefully read, comment and score your entry.



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Christian Corda wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 09:15 GMT
Dear LC,

I enjoyed a lot in reading your beautiful and well written Essay. Here are some comments:

1) Let us consider your statement that "a black hole is the smallest region in which information can be contained". As the gravitational radius of the universe is of the same order of the Hubble radius, the universe should be the smallest region in which all information of the universe can be contained. This endorses your statements that "The only "computer" capable of simulating the universe is the universe itself" and that "it is not possible for humans or any intelligent life to completely simulate the universe." On the other hand, considering a "multiverse prospective", holographic principle implies that all the information in our universe should be contained in the universe event horizon, which is of order of the Hubble sphere. Thus, it could be, in principle, possible, for an "external" observers (type V collective) to access to the information in our universe and, in turn, to simulate our universe. Fortunately, causality of relativity and nonlocality and non-signaling in quantum mechanics prevent this possibility. In my opinion, this implies that causality of relativity and nonlocality and non-signaling in quantum mechanics are, in a certain sense, foundations of the anthropic principle.

2) I find tremendous,but correct, your observation that "Given the rate of economic and energy growth of the human race faster than light travel implies we will consume the entire observable universe in the next few million years."

3) It is correct my understanding that you balance your pessimistic tapestry with the emerging of the anthropic principle?

Cheers, Ch.

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 13:50 GMT

I have been a bit slow in getting to many essays. Frankly most of them are a bit on the prosaic side. The question involves the question of whether humanity can plan a course of action which insures our survival into the future. As a result many essays are “blueprints” for our actions, which are by implication suggestions for either policy objectives or highly fantastical...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 13:53 GMT
This does not like reverse carrot signs

\langle ψ_b|. This means that time is a subjective quantity just as any state vector or wave is.

In Misner, Thorne and Wheeler “Gravitation” with Ch21 there is the discussion of the “many fingered time,” which points to how the analyst or observer can push time into the future according to any procedure. Time is in effect chosen by the analyst-observer and not something “given” by nature. I think in some fashion this is what connects quantum mechanics and general relativity, in fact implies an equivalency between the two.

Cosmological examples of this are the de Sitter and anti-de Sitter spacetimes. The metric equations are not globally extendible on the entire manifold, but exist only on certain coordinate patches. There are then no global coordinate systems, and by extension no global meaning to time. In the eternal inflationary scenario regions of the manifold quantum tunnel into a different vacuum state and define disconnected manifolds as pockets or bubbles. These then have their separate time direction with no extension to the dS manifold of inflation. A similar case may be argued for the AdS manifold as well.

Cheers LC

Member Rick Searle wrote on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 03:29 GMT

It is amazing how many of these essays share similar ideas- they must be in the ether.

These lines from your essay could have come straight from my own:

"Given the rate of economic and energy growth of the human race faster than light travel implies we will consume the entire observable universe in the next few million years."

"It might well in fact be argued the only long term culture that can exist is a stone aged one, where our current condition could just be a

transient event between two stone aged conditions. Will we be able to \steer"our selves properly? That is impossible to say, but we do not appear very good at managing complexity nor our selves. In recent decades there has been

a huge explosion in"management"structures in all segments of our world, both private and public, and we are as far removed from actually solving many serious problems as we ever have been. One might in fact be hard pressed to think of many serious national or world problems that we have actually solved over the last half century. There are limits to the level of social and organizational complexity we can arrive at, which in spite of growth so far seem

incapable of solving real problems that are themselves becoming exponentially complex."

The difference being yours is mathematically robust.

Please check out my essay, tell, me what you think and give me your grade.

Great piece!

Best of luck!

Rick Searle

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 01:51 GMT
The intellectual attraction of utopias is pretty low these days. Utopia = no place, is a sort of fiction meant to advance an ideology or agenda. Recent history has sort of rubbished up the attraction of utopias.

The irony of these things is the reason they fail is that once they are applied the application of them changes human behavior in ways not predicted by the system. This is what...

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Member Rick Searle wrote on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 12:07 GMT

"Largely political leaders do not exist to solve problems. We sometimes call political leaders “problem solvers,” and this is really only true from a certain perspective."

Well, yes and no. It it very often the case that solving one problem leads to another down the road, sometimes even bigger. But politics certainly does solve problems- think of the US after the Clean Air Act than before or before child labor laws, regulation on food production the list goes on and on.

I suppose one could think this was futile, but it is futile in the same way cleaning your house is futile. That it just gets a mess again is just part of reality- but it's better than living in filth.

"It really should not be looked upon as something that horrible. In 50 million years the Earth will be doing just fine, but we wont be there. The world will no more cry for the loss of our species than it does now over the loss of Tyrannosaurus rex."

I agree that other life on earth- in the short term- would be better off without us and do not agree with other essayists in this contest who seem to think humanity has some cosmic role to play. Yet, for any human being the end of our species should be seen as a tragedy whether we will personally experience it or not.

As for Utopia, it has indeed be rubbished by history, but I think we have thrown something valuable into the garbage pile which I am trying to pull out, clean off, and fix its broken parts.

All the best,

Rick Searle

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Wesley Wayne Hansen wrote on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 18:04 GMT

I was being a bit facetious with my first comment, perhaps I shouldn't have been. I don't have an opinion either way regarding the simulation issue but since you assume the speed of light as a maximum I would direct your attention to the work of William Tiller and Walter Dibble which I reference in my essay. Tiller's dual-space model assumes the de Broglie particle/pilot wave...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 01:45 GMT
I am aware of this. It is a sort of dispersion due to the quantum potential. I am not entirely sure how much can be read into that. There is a sort of subquantal motion that is off the light cone. I doubt that information is actually transmitted this way.

Cheers LC

Wesley Wayne Hansen wrote on May. 2, 2014 @ 18:27 GMT
Predictive physiological anticipation preceding seemingly unpredictable stimuli: a meta-analysis

Abstract: This meta-analysis of 26 reports published between 1978 and 2010 tests an unusual hypothesis: for stimuli of two or more types that are presented in an order designed to be unpredictable and that produce different post-stimulus physiological activity, the direction of pre-stimulus...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 4, 2014 @ 02:00 GMT
This is sort of interesting. The role of this sort of thinking can't be dismissed. My only caveat with this is that the researchers use p values, which is statistical garbage. The whole p-value assessment of data is proximal at best, and sometimes just plain wrong.


Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on May. 4, 2014 @ 00:05 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

Your essay approaches the question from an unusual angle. I think it is great to treat the question of whether we are simulations as a scientific one and try to find evidence one way or another.

Although I did not follow the details of your argument, I wonder whether what seems to me an unspoken assumption in your paper gets in the way, namely that the simulated world...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 4, 2014 @ 01:53 GMT
The only real assumption this makes with respect to physics is that if we are a simulation then the simulators use quantum bits. There have to be assumptions made somewhere that are based on what we are grounded in. Beyond that we are faced with Wittgenstein’s “That which we cannot speak we must pass over in silence.”

Of course we have no idea what the psychology of extraterrestrial intelligent life would be. All one has to do is to consider the range of physiological systems here on Earth, such as comparing insect mouth parts to that of chordates. The range of natural ordering is huge. One might ponder though whether any IGUS on some other planet drifts away from a functional relationship with reality, which might in some ways be compared to insanity. It is entirely possible that just as with humans there is some threshold for violence, and the development of nuclear technology makes their survival problematic. The existence of nuclear explosives most likely presents a huge challenge to any intelligent life or IGUS in the universe.

I think most likely the solution to the Fermi paradox is that the nearest IGUS or extraterrestrial intelligent life could be millions of light years away. This would make communications impossible and of course travel out of the question.

We are entering a curious situation where the world order since the passing of the USSR is starting to come unraveled. The Russians are trying to pick apart Ukraine, China is making militant moves against Japan over rocky islands, Syria has been a complete disaster zone for three years now, and the standard problems still remain with Iran, the Palestinian issue with Israel, N. Korea is as bizarre as ever and so forth. This is the perfect environment for sociopaths to exploit. In the US the numbers of privately owned guns are perfect for a large scale Rwanda situation where a sociopathic demagogue impels millions of Americans to kill millions of Americans.


Aaron M. Feeney wrote on May. 7, 2014 @ 01:46 GMT
Greetings Lawrence,

Thank you for your insightful comments and your great rating! I would like to send you my ebook, which contains a lot more information pertaining to the topics discussed in my essay, and many others. (I will email you the details soon.) I know I could learn a great deal from your extensive expertise, especially after you have an opportunity to see what I have managed to develop so far (whether it is right or wrong). I am also eager to discuss the topics you address in your amazing offering; you have raised a number of vital issues that have also been on my mind.

Your essay was extremely interesting and very relevant to our collective future. It's good to finally have cogent reasons for believing why we are likely not in a vast simulation, and to understand in principle how this may be conclusively proven someday. Bravo!


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 00:53 GMT
The (Closed Timelike Curve) CTC quantum paths I discussed yesterday are not something I entirely understand. It is I think likely that these CTCs are entirely contained inside event horizons of black holes. I doubt these exist in spacetime we causally interact with. Of course I might be wrong, but time travel seems to pose troubles that I doubt exist.

Though CTCs exist inside black holes quantum states in the exterior that are entangled with interior states will serve as a quantum computer. The closed paths interior to black holes will permit second order λ-calculus and computation of NP hard problems in P time. States exterior to the black hole will compute them as well. Of course there is a bit of a problem, for while this entanglement exists to properly read the output a classical key must be transmitted from the interior. That is a difficult question. The black hole quantum mechanically decays and this interior key does in effect escape. Whether or not the quantum information that escapes can be “used” as the key is unknown.

Of course from a practical perspective I doubt that black holes will be used as quantum computers any time soon. Quark-gluon plasmas have quantum gravity amplitudes in the quantum gravity – quantum chromodynamics correspondence, and this physics may influence the types of scattering processes involved. So it is not likely this will be a practical technology.

If you want to send material to me my address is

Cheers LC

Tommy Anderberg wrote on May. 7, 2014 @ 15:20 GMT
Oh, somebody else likes BCIs! I skipped your essay on my first pass, since the abstract suggested it would just be, as you say, "a shameless excuse for introducing some ideas in physics". :)

As Shirazi already pointed out, your argument against our living in a simulation assumes that physics works the same way in the real and the simulated universe. I am puzzled by your response that you...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 02:18 GMT
Physics is ultimately scale invariant, or where scaling principles adjust interaction strengths but not the actual physics. As a result there is no fundamental problem with the scale of processes.

There is a problem with trying to justify manned space travel. The arguments over long term good, survival of the species and so froth does not work. The expensive proposition of long term...

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Anonymous wrote on May. 10, 2014 @ 11:22 GMT

I'm somehow depressed by your propositions and conclusions. You suggest there is no reason to explores space but neglect to address or falsify all the reasons proposed, here and elsewhere. You as also disengage from the topic itself, and seemingly man's whole raisen d'aitre suggesting 'no amount of steering is likely to solve much'. You then don't offer an alternative to the natural implication that we should all give up and be happy with hedenism!

You reviewed loosely related concepts which each had some relevance to cosmology and futurism but most are familiar with them already so they seemed largely non-contributory. The moment I started to pick up a coherent thread there was a jump to something unconnected or interruption by needless maths spoiling the flow.

It was a shame, as I was interested in and waiting for the 'shameless..theory' you announced, but it never seemed to come, unless it was the message, there's no point as we can't do anything useful anyway' That may be a valid opinion but not one you rigorously supported, or one that I found I could agree with. Do you really see no ultimate point in advancement of scientific understanding? Do you have plans for how we cope with the population explosion in the planet?

I'm sorry to be negative. Perhaps I expected too much as you are near the top, but I just couldn't find anything I could warm to or anything the slightest bit positive. I haven't read that many essays so will however give it some time and perhaps return before I draw conclusion.


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 10, 2014 @ 14:18 GMT
I am not against the exploration of space particularly. In fact I am very in favor of space science. The Planck spacecraft, WMAP, WISE, Hubble ST, and so forth are very much a part of my interests. This does not necessarily equate to human spaceflight however.

At a space conference, I think it was Space 96, I met a gentleman who had been given the option of training for space shuttle flights. He studied the whole thing and declined stating that the whole system was an insane kludge and death trap. With all of the space shuttle flights only a few really managed to accomplish much of anything. Now we have this space station that is a huge white elephant in orbit. At best this has been a sort of diplomatic space system whereby astronauts from around the world have a chance at a joy ride. This has worked largely within an international order that in recent years has started to come unraveled --- Syria, Russia in Ukraine, China and Pacific Islands and so forth. Since the Apollo age manned spaceflight has been a program in search of a real mission.

There is no economic direction or plan of action where manned space flight can be directed so it has a positive return on investments. Maybe solar power satellites and later asteroid mining might work, but so far there seems to be little clear understanding of how this can work. A lot of manned space ventures are aimed at getting astronaut boots on Mars, with even some half baked ideas about permanent habitats there.

It has to be realized that everything off Earth is lethal. There is radiation to deal with. Lunar regolith is composed of micro-blades in the form of dust that is lethal. The Martian soil is filled with perchorates (toxic), the atmosphere is tenuous and CO_2 and .temperatures range from arctic to dry ice. Those two places are about the best out there. Space is simply lethal

China is making some indication they are interested in getting the moon by 2020. Maybe they can make something out of all of this. On the other hand it could be that by 2030 they are cancelled or scaled back things and the Chinese program will be in a bit of a nadir situation the American manned space program has been in. It could be that the whole manned space travel idea is never going to be realized in the way science fiction writers envisioned.

My paper though really deals with extreme technological IGUS or beings that are capable of enormous power. I think these things are unlikely, and frankly might amount to a flea climbing up an elephant’s ass with rape on its mind. I wrote this with a bit of a twist to illustrate where we may not be able to “steer.” The idea was then to indicate something of how certain ideas of the future are not likely. I did not write something that was meant to give my opinion on “how to save humanity.” There are plenty of papers in this contest with exactly that theme. I did something a bit different, maybe with a bit of an HP Lovecraft basis to it.

This does not mean I think we are automatically doomed in the near future. It is a bit of an acknowledgement that we are mortal as a species. To argue the need for manned space flight because the sun will make life difficult in a billion years is deeply silly, particularly given issues that may determine our prospects in the next century or decades. We might choose wisely in the near future and provide a way for us to persist in a civilized state for maybe thousands of years. That is not out of the question. That is different from thinking our survival infinitely far into the future depends upon our ability to acquire control over larger domains in the universe.


Judy Nabb replied on May. 22, 2014 @ 07:18 GMT

I can't agree that looking into the future and planning ahead long term is entirely silly. I suspect your opinion on that is why your view is short term, meaning you take no account of human evolution to acclimatise to space travel, or continued evolution of technological advancement. Both seem to show hints of the lack of vision I complain of in much present eugenics work.

Few are looking ahead beyond the next step. That seems to me rather like steering in thick fog. Only than does looking only a short distance ahead perhaps gain any value. But we have the power to remove the fog.

I also have an interest in QM and should point out that your comments on it below seem to betray a common misunderstanding. Bell assumed 'real' singlet states, to which his theorem applies, Peter does not, so circumvents Bell. I see he also pointed out your error on 'violations'. It is QM which violates the classical limit, not vice versa, so as his results do so classically they do what was considered impossible.

Not recognising the solution (not just you -see 'classical spheres') seems to typify the kind of intelligence failure and reliance on beliefs which I identify as endemic.


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 23, 2014 @ 01:10 GMT
As I indicated to Peter and Stephan in the post below I am not going into a deep discussion on the foundations of quantum mechanics. The FQXi site is not the best place for that, for there is this odd ball trend --- and it is wrapped up with these so called classical spheres. This stuff is pure mummery and nonsense, and it is only upheld by a community of bloggers at FQXi. I would not be surprised if JC comes whoofing into this essay blog site to accuse me of various libelous activity and so forth. JC is a bit like Lubos Motl in that he reacts with great anger to anyone who disagrees with him.

Take my word for it, the issues surrounding Bell’s theorem are very advanced and what people here, who are amateurs and dilatants for the most part, see as gaps are either not gaps or have been extensively researched.

My essay involves certain limits on the information and energy accessible to observers in the universe. My main point really involves ideas of hyper-advanced IGUS or ETI civilizations, assuming the term civilization is appropriate in this case. I do make some connection with our current condition that appears close to foreclosure on the manned spaceflight future.

Long term planning all sounds very good, but these things are for the most part dreams. There are no long term plans for where humanity is going. The basis of our world is the quarterly report on shareholder returns, not on any idea about providing a decent world or of building some future Star Trekkie reality. Further, the people who run the show have the money to insure that it keeps going that way, and have found the average person is easily pacified by a combination of media rot, drugs and alcohol and other diversions like consumer items.


Peter Jackson wrote on May. 10, 2014 @ 20:15 GMT

Certainly an original approach, I did find it seemed to flit about a bit, but you got a lot in the limited space so that's forgiveable.

I certainly agree space is lethal, and most other planets as well, but it seems that unless we have a sound solution to the many potential problems we're creating here then we must also consider if there are any suitable environments to colonise. That's probably a longer term view than you're taking, which if Martin Rees is correct is pointless, but hey, I feel much better if we're looking just in case!

Of course in the reeally long term, idf we survive 5Bn years in some form, it seems we may get swallowed up as part of the accretion disc of our growingly active AGN, recycled by re-ionisation, and spat out again in the (quasar) jet to all have another go (and probably infinitely many other go's, including some as part of other sentient beings, perhaps intelligent ones next time!. Is that really crazy?

Nice essay Lawrence, up to your usual standard, but still to many unreadable symbols for this context I think. In mine Bob and Alice don't have too much trouble in deep space, though it is in the future, and they do find major enlightenment from escaping 'Earth centric' thinking to advance understanding. It has a serious classical derivation of quantum correlations so I hope you'll check it out and comment.

Best wishes


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 11, 2014 @ 00:52 GMT
I would say that as a general comment, the idea you have in your paper is the sort of hidden variable theory the Bell theorem illustrates has no observable content. Your idea is a sort of double covering or almost a real valued spinor idea of a classical nature. However, Bell’s theorem indicates why quantum physics with this sort of underlying hidden wiring violates the inequalities nonetheless.

I really do not worry about millions and certainly not billions of years into the future. I think this comes down to a certain wish on the part of people to live forever. It might have something to do with how our species took themselves off the fitness landscape, but this did not end death. We have then certain ideas that without some immortality, best if personal, but ok if it is collective, our existence is completely meaningless. People can then becomes oddly concerned about whether we can survive the end of the sun, but at the same time less concerned if not dismissive of immediate concerns.

I think the idea of space flight, the need for humans in space and a positive economic return on this needs to be firmly demonstrated. Until such time all of this stuff seems to be just science fiction dreaming. This little clip static illustrates something about this.


Peter Jackson replied on May. 20, 2014 @ 11:49 GMT

I think you're talking sense with; "Maybe what is most urgently needed is a new paradigm for thinking and working messy problems of the third type." However it's the lack of that which drives your comment and error on Bell above. i.e.

My hypothesis is anything but "quantum physics with...underlying hidden wiring" You're correct that my classical derivation certainly "violates the inequalities". But that means I'm correct and Bells so called 'theorem' (it isn't) is CIRCUMVENTED. What you show is that (like most!) you don't understand the Bell inequalities. To violate them 'classically' is to expose the 'error' in QM compounded by Bell, so renders his 'proof' irrelevant.

The Bell inequality is a LIMIT which he shows, using his assumptions (including hidden ones) that classical physics cannot violate. He shows only QM can violate that limit on that basis. But I show his basis was wrong because he endowed Bohr's 'what we can say' limit with "reality" (collapse to 'singlet state' on measurement).

I show Bohr can be satisfied without Bells' assumption. So no spookyness or superluminal communication. Bell's logic can't apply any more than a logic showing 3 cans of paint can't be any more than 1 colour each applies to a case of 3 EM spectra of 'white' light. The key to unlock it was electron spin flip, which I assume you're familiar with. If the electron field spin orientation of two photomultiplies are both reversed, and if measurement is indeed 'transfer of OAM' then I propose that opposite one will then click, consistent with findings. Do you suggest not? If so on what evidence?

Best wishes


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Stefan Weckbach replied on May. 22, 2014 @ 08:55 GMT

just a brief statement of mine to what you are discussing.

It may be true that Bell's theorem does not exclude attempts to model QM-behaviour with a model that is using similar features of what is known so far about the microcosmical level of nature (by QM).

But this does in no ways neccessarily mean that those models are the accurate description of what is going on at the microcosmical level of nature.

Therefore i insisted in the comments on my essay-page, that Peters model has to predict something testable that is in opposition to QM/entanglement.

Otherwise those arguments for modeling QM/entanglement with some similar features of standard QM and some new ingredients are of no epistemological value for science. Without experimental tests one presumes what one wants to show.

For example if one wants to "show" that QM is deterministic or local or real, one could model the own hypothesis in a computer-language and derive QM-consistent "behaviour". Would this prove that QM is indeed strictly deterministic or local or real? No, because one presumed it to be, made a model for it and than it is no wonder that the model puts out - under strictly deterministic/local conditions of the computer - the aimed results. The same holds for running some scripts on two computers separately.

The only way to surely discriminate wether the new model or the old one is more accurate, is to run an experiment. Therefore the new model must predict some difference in the outcome of the experiment, different to the old model (QM).


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Ajay Bhatla wrote on May. 14, 2014 @ 05:47 GMT

Your point about being "hard pressed to think of many serious national or world problems that we have actually solved over the last half century" is very close to the truth. During this period, Humanity has been very successful at solving problems we didn't know we had e.g. no one had identified the dire need for a portable phone but we cannot now live without it.

Your statement that I have a bit of an issue with is: "simply running out of environment". The simple fact is that humanity has, so far, never run out of anything - we just figure out a new resource to use e.g. we didn't get cars because we ran out of horses.

Of course, there is always a first time for everything and we must be cautious. There are a large number of people - we may want even more - working environmental issues. How can we not be positive about out abilities to outfox our fellow human beings (those damaging the environmental) in the pursuit of a cleaner and more nutritious environment for all? I totally subscribe to "the silver lining" you mention

- Ajay

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 14, 2014 @ 22:41 GMT
There are three types of problems in this world. The first type of problem are of the information type, such as what scientists seek to solve. We have been pretty successful at solving these. The other type are of a control nature, or technology. We are pretty good at this, though we are faced with the joke question these days, “He dude, where is my jetpack?” The third type are entropy...

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James A Putnam wrote on May. 18, 2014 @ 18:44 GMT
Dr. Crowell,

A great blend of technical analysis (which I am not pretending to rate knowing that it is first rate by a professional) and clear exposition for the general reader. From the stretching of the universe to living on the Earth. From particles to people. From science to society. From simulation to civilization. In the end sober! A welcome read deserving to be above some that are presently above it.

James Putnam

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 19, 2014 @ 21:42 GMT
Thanks for the good word. The limits imposed on us are ultimately fundamental. We seem to be facing some scaling limits with technology, such as the difficulties with fusion technology and cost-investment returns on technology such as space travel. More fundamental limits such as the speed of light and what I think is a limit on qubit access in the universe by STU or modular duality are even deeper barriers to our power in the universe.

Cheers LC

Mohammed M. Khalil wrote on May. 19, 2014 @ 17:31 GMT
Dear Dr. Crowell,

Great essay! It is well argued, and beautifully written. I find your answer to the essay question very unusual; contemplating the cosmic limits and their implications on intelligent life is very interesting. I strongly agree with your conclusions in the last section "Implications for humanity". For example, Many people think that traveling into space is the solutions to earth's problems, but I agree with your opinion "The issue of space travel is useless unless we manage to get some grasp on our problems here on Earth".

In my essay, I discuss how to pave the way to solve our problems through science. I believe we should improve the way we do science to accelerate the rate of scientific discovery and its applications to find urgent solutions to humanity's problems. I would be honored if you read it and told me your opinion.

Best regards,


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 19, 2014 @ 22:11 GMT
As I indicate to Putnam above there are ultimately fundamental limits to our power in the universe.

I expected of course the standard idea that space colonization is the answer to our future to appear in these essays. I subscribed to some measure to these ideas when I was young. I worked in the business of spacecraft navigation. Actually working in the space business gives one a...

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on May. 20, 2014 @ 01:55 GMT
Dear Author Lawrence B Crowell

Your anxiety about endangered and the expected to develop in the universe is what I try to mention in this contest.

10 point to you have the opportunity to continue to represent for that proposal


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 21, 2014 @ 17:17 GMT
Thanks for the boost in score. That helps. Somehow I managed to get two scores of 10 in the last couple of days or since I last checked.


Don Limuti wrote on May. 20, 2014 @ 03:29 GMT
Hi Lawrence,

Good to see you in another contest, with an excellent entry. You make a good case that we are not going to make it. Your novel use of the Fermi paradox does point to this.

My attitude is, hey we are alive.... lets go for it. I do however appreciate your counterbalance to some how should I say... overly optimistic scenarios.

Don Limuti

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 21, 2014 @ 17:28 GMT
My sense is similar I suppose. I think these ideas about scaling ever greater heights of power and complexity might turn out to be dreaming. Further, even if we reach some limit to complexity or energy we can control or access it does not necessarily mean we are faced only with gloom and doom. We could in some hypothetical sense continue for a huge time period into the future just here on Earth if we are frugal. That our existence will come to an end should be of no greater source of depression than our own personal death.

All of existence is about change. Things change along this curious parameter we call time. The only thing which appears permanent is impermanence. At some point this weave in the tapestry of spacetime that defines us on this little corner of the cosmos will stop.


John Brodix Merryman wrote on May. 21, 2014 @ 11:26 GMT

Suppose that simulation is bottom up, not top down?

Might explain this sense of illusion of complexity floating in the abyss


John Merryman

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 21, 2014 @ 17:30 GMT
The simulation could be bottom up as a system of qubits run on a vast quantum computer. It would though be top down from the perspective of beings scripting up the synthetic cosmos.


John Brodix Merryman replied on May. 23, 2014 @ 16:16 GMT

Wouldn't any top down form, life or otherwise, be dependent on the viability, reliability and sustainability of the bottom up processes producing it?

So the computer would have to ultimately be self actualizing. Otherwise you have to assume that platonic realm of ideal forms and what is God, but the ideal form of an intelligent being? Yet what is an ideal ,but a collection of preferential attributes?

It seems to me, an absolute would be an equilibrium state and as such, the essence from which we rise, not an ideal from which we fell.

Complexity is basically unstable. It multiplies, until it becomes unsupportable and collapses. Consider life on this planet and its inevitable fate.

So while I also don't think we are simulation of a higher order, I do think we have a very limited grasp of the order which we manifest. Nature has spent billions of years evolving life to this stage and the appreciation and duplication we have attained and managed is but a very small fraction of what is really going on. It is just that our top down perspective is of fairly limited scope and self referential.



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Author Lawrence B Crowell wrote on May. 25, 2014 @ 01:56 GMT

The main thrust of my paper is that the universe is a natural system and not designed up by some hyper-advanced IGUS or intelligent life. The conclusions are positive in that it means there is an objective basis for science, or at least a reasonable expectation for it. The negative aspect of this is that it implies certain limits to the power any complex self-adapting system, IGUS, ETI or civilization as the case may be.

This is clearly something which certain people are not comfortable with. I am getting some fairly negative feedback from people on this. It is a bit like saying “Virginia there is no Santa Claus,” when we all wish otherwise and at the same time deeply suspect this is true. Being told there is this level of mortality is unsettling to many people. That my essay has fallen from #3 to #13 in the last few days, with an average vote of 3 given three times I think displays this displeasure. I am getting down voted not because of any scientific reason, but because this makes people uncomfortable.

Though I am not primarily against some of the future forecasts people make here, I do mention my skepticism of these ideas. All one has to do is look at past ideas about the future and of our age to see that reality is quite different from these prognostications. Much the same will like occur in our future. Further, our advancements have not generally brought about any great consensus about things, but rather a divergence of social opinion and interests. I think it is unlikely any of the future ideas presented here, no matter how good they may appear, and some of them are interesting, can ever be implemented in any long term and consistent way. Events now proceed very quickly, people are very fickle with opinions and the only consistency of social trends is that social trends will change.


John Brodix Merryman replied on May. 25, 2014 @ 03:32 GMT

WHAT??? You are saying there is no God, looking down over us!!!!!!

As I've long seen them, these contests are much more about the conversations and if they make people uncomfortable, you and I both tend to do that.

I'l give you a bounce.

Over on the contest thread, 5/25, 2:27, I just posted another installment of a continuing rant about what is wrong with this world and how few in this contest are seeing it. You may find it interesting.



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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 26, 2014 @ 02:23 GMT
Your writing on the contest blog site involves things in the news. There are a number of reasons why I can’t get too passionate about these things.

When it comes to money there is a big reason we have a fiat economy. In the late 19th century there were a series of what were called panics, and these resulted in runs on gold. At that time the economy of the world reached a value beyond what could be backed up by precious metals. That is why we went off the gold standard; it no longer works.

With Russia they are losing out on the oil and gas production because they are behind. Standard methods of extraction of light sweet crude oil are less operative. The world has reached peak out on this form of petroleum. The drop in such production is being made up for with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and this is becoming the modern source. It is keeping the supply steady and the price moderated. Russia is operating with a more expensive form of oil and gas production. This is one thing that is causing some of these troubles.


Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel replied on May. 26, 2014 @ 15:15 GMT
Dear Dr. Crowell,

You wrote: "The main thrust of my paper is that the universe is a natural system and not designed up by some hyper-advanced IGUS or intelligent life. The conclusions are positive in that it means there is an objective basis for science, or at least a reasonable expectation for it."

You are correct that having multiple IGUS dieties (i.e. paganism) does indeed remove the objective basis for science, as does the idea of an utterly transcendent Allah. However, a monolithic diety who is the personalization of Truth and Love (as in the Christian concept of God) is compatible with an objective basis for science. In fact, science depends on such an idea of God.


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Philip Gibbs wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 14:57 GMT
Lawrence, I avoided the subject of how our long term future will look so it is interesting to see the different views on this subject from other authors. Your view is very thought provoking and different from the others. Nice work.

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 26, 2014 @ 20:59 GMT

At first I was going to sit this essay contest out. Many of the papers here are the standard fair about “how to save humanity,” or ideas about a Star Trek future and so forth. I have to admit I have no idea on how to save humanity, nor am I sure that space colonization and the like will ever happen. Yet it dawned on me there is an interesting possible limit to what power intelligence can acquire and its impact on scientific objectivity.

I read your essay some time back and even scored it. I don’t remember the score, but I think it was fairly high. Your essay is based on the vixra effort. I have thought that the traditional approach to communicating scientific information has been coming to an end. Your idea seems to be a plausible way around this without submitting to intellectual anarchy.

Cheers LC

Anonymous wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 15:59 GMT
Kedves Dr. Crowell,

Miert van ojan sok cik Magyarorszgtol? They are certainly overrepresented here. Must be all the Martian blood. :-)

My most critical question for your essay is this:

How could someone write about Matrioshka brains and Kardashev scale civilizations while remaining so pessimistic?

You wrote confidently that the human mind might be simulated, but then...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 26, 2014 @ 20:12 GMT

I think von Neumann made a comment, "Miert van ojan sok cik Magyarorszgtol? ," like this to Einstein once.

The comparison with the ocean voyages of the 16th century is not quite on track. The reason for the ocean voyages is that it was known people were out there. The idea Columbus had, taken from Philip the navigator, is that by sailing west you would end up in China or the...

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Anonymous replied on May. 28, 2014 @ 03:23 GMT
Dear LC,

Re: The Martians: The joke was on Fermi, played by Szilard and Teller.

You certainly know your history, and yes, there are certainly important differences between the New World of the Americas and the New World of the Space Frontier. Actually, the fact that our Solar System (and most probably our galaxy as well) does not contain...

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Anonymous wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 20:43 GMT
John Merryman,

Economics works because of one thing; people believe it works. It is when people stop believing in it that it fails. Between GW Bush and B. Obama $4 trillion was created out of nothing to hedge off the economic collapse from the real estate bubble burst of 2008. Hard core conservative economics tells us this is disastrous, for it will lead to inflation, but this did not...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 26, 2014 @ 20:45 GMT
This is written by me.


John Brodix Merryman replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 02:26 GMT

There has been enormous inflation, but it has been confined to the investment sector. That the stock market, not to mention real estate in certain zip codes, high end race horses, and other such luxury items, only goes up, is due to all that money being pumped out by the Fed. The real trick has been keeping it out of the rest of the economy.

Jimmy Carter picked Paul...

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John Brodix Merryman replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 11:25 GMT
An interesting analysis.

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Torsten Asselmeyer-Maluga wrote on May. 27, 2014 @ 11:53 GMT

nice essay, you stretch the idea to simulate the cosmos to its ends.

Good luck for the contest (I suported it with a high rate)


(This year my position is to bad for the nextlevel)

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 16:34 GMT

I think I voted yours pretty highly too. The topic is a bit off the hard science mark. If I would not have thought of the cosmological limits to information and its possible implications I would have sat out this essay contest.

I have been doing some work on the role of braid groups in spacetime physics. I might send you an article I am preparing which is based on very elementary considerations that builds to braid group structure. This seems central to the exotic aspect to four dimensions and possibly the physics of spacetime.

Cheers LC

Author Lawrence B Crowell wrote on May. 27, 2014 @ 15:03 GMT
Economics is more of a shell game than anything else. The game works, or works in certain ways, because people believe it works. Those most vested in the game of course work to insure the maintenance of this belief. The world has always worked this way, whether it is divine right of kings or divine right of capital. The communists worked to keep their situation going by working to keep people...

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John Brodix Merryman replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 17:01 GMT

Once you accept your own mortality, it is just an enormous science experiment, of which you have the privilege to be part.

The function of narrative is to have everyone pointed in and moving in the same direction. Otherwise they are just milling about in that biotic thermal medium and we are all just molecules bouncing into one another and trading energy and information....

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John Brodix Merryman replied on May. 28, 2014 @ 11:25 GMT

I was contemplating that observation about how war is two states taking the measure of each other, on personal terms of how to react to aggression, either moving directly into a point of contact, or falling back to get a more distributed perspective and allowing one to avoid the other's point of attack and it occurred to me how similar this is to the dichotomy of wave vs. particle. That the particle being the concentrated energy and the wave being the more distributed and holographic vision, where one really is the dispersed field, not just a statistical figment of it.

So I thought I'd bounce the idea off you and see if it kicks up any more insights. Sort of like a conceptual particle accelerator.



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John Brodix Merryman wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 11:33 GMT

Not to keep bothering you, but this is such a to the point description of serious inflation in the investment sector, I thought I'd pass it on.



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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 28, 2014 @ 23:54 GMT
Different socio-economic systems in history have had different aspects of statecraft, tradecraft, priestcraft and warcraft. The last great principally warcraft system was Nazi Germany. The USSR was more statecraft with a strong warcraft component, but squashed tradecraft and priestcraft. The United States is primarily a tradecraft system, where in effect our political and policy making systems...

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John Brodix Merryman replied on May. 29, 2014 @ 03:45 GMT

For all our many talents, we don't possess the ability to scrub life from this planet, even if we knock it back on its heels for a few millennia.

Reality does function in cycles and life manifests this through mortality of individuals and passing source code through genes.

So if you were to put human civilization on a biotic scale, would it be simply as a...

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Anonymous wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 17:41 GMT
Hi Lawrence,

Interesting paper! It reminded me of Dyson's Time without end: physics and biology in an open universe. It's interesting that you indicate that you'd prefer not to live in a simulation, since then you would know that physics was "objective", i.e. really about the lowest possible levels of existence rather than about the rules of a simulation; I hadn't thought about the possible value of that kind of objectivity.

I take it from your comments that you don't think much can be done to improve humanity's long-term future. Is that right?

Best of luck,


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on May. 29, 2014 @ 01:54 GMT
The Dyson paper does not take into fact the universe is accelerated in its expansion. This means that mass-energy will race away from any observer faster than they can access it. The universe in about 10^{100} years will become a de Sitter vacuum. That is a pretty brutal ultimate termination, for I am pretty sure that nature prevents warp drives and wormholes that permit us to escape this...

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Jun. 1, 2014 @ 02:48 GMT
Hello Lawrence,

This is an excellent paper, and while it does mainly explore a tangent; the central thesis relates back to the question posed by FQXi in a way nobody else thought of. The only close brush I've seen is the reference in Dewey's paper about the 'Cosmological Forecast..' paper by Circovic, relating various cosmologies to the way they might shape humanity's future history. You...

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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Jun. 2, 2014 @ 12:49 GMT

Thanks for the positive judgment. I think some people are not happy with this, for I am not making some great anthem of ever greater technological power, but rather proposing ultimate limits on such. Of course there is plenty of high-tech and space based growth possible within my scenario. We might become a type I civilization and colonize the solar system extensively. We...

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Anonymous wrote on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 15:28 GMT
Hi Lawrence,

I briefly skimmed your whole essay but read some parts in more details (I'm running out of time). The introduction is a nice set-up for the rest of the article especially in regard to the limits placed on information access. This is an important and current issue. The "recent" (well since 2012) firewall paradox, while maybe not exactly so relevant to your arguments is another...

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Douglas Alexander Singleton replied on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 15:29 GMT
The above was me.



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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 01:58 GMT
The solution a ~ t^{1/2} is the matter dominated result and t^{2/3} is the radiation dominated result. If you have

da/dt = a*const*sqrt(ρ)

then for a ~ t^n, then for ρ ~ a^{-3} matter density you have

t^{n-1} ~ t^n t^{-3n/2}

this means that n -1 = -3n/2 + n === > n = 2/3, and for ρ ~ a^4 for radiation, this gives n - 1 = -2n, so n = 1/2. This is a fairly standard result. I did write e^{3t/2} and I really meant t^{2/3} and t^{1/2}. This is a rather curious mistake, and I am not sure why I wrote this. This appears to be a rather embarrassing brain fart.

Your comments about interactions and entanglements are interesting. It is a bit late for me to go into this, so I will do so tomorrow. There is something odd occurring with entanglement is that the gravity field is not local in the way other fields are. The nonlocality of gravity, or really quantum gravity, changes the nature of entanglement. Most QFTs are local, such as the Wightman canonical quantization condition and causality one gets in basic QFT texts. Gravitation is different, and I think entanglement monogamy and such may no longer apply.

Cheers LC

Petio Hristov wrote on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 06:57 GMT
Hello Lawrence,

As an appeal for correspondence and exchange of ideas between FQXi members I have send you my books on your email address.

Their content is not only a new approach in the understanding of the Universe, but a new sort of physics, because in my study of the physical laws I had to give a new definition of time and space regarding the sequence and nature of their creation.

For some myths Egyptologists use the phrase: “divine mystery” the reading of which helps me to understand the cosmic mysteries. This understanding I gain by running the myth “through the prism” created by the physical laws and I decipher the formed image.

I hope that this will help you in your own field and in your studies.

Best wishes,


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Author Lawrence B Crowell replied on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 00:28 GMT
Thank you, I will try to give this a reading in the near future.

Cheers LC

Author Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 00:32 GMT
I attach a corrected version of my paper here. There were a couple of misquoted equations here. These have been corrected, even though they do not effect the outcome or conclusion of the paper.


attachments: FQXi_2014.pdf

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