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It From Bit or Bit From It
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Questioning the Foundations
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Is Reality Digital or Analog?
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What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
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basudeba: on 3/20/11 at 6:09am UTC, wrote Sub: Possibility of manipulation in judging criteria – suggestions for...

Constantinos Ragazas: on 3/15/11 at 18:34pm UTC, wrote Dear Alfonso, I appreciate all your intellectual endeavors to understand...

basudeba: on 3/14/11 at 3:32am UTC, wrote Dear Sir, We have gone through your excellent analysis and must complement...

Peter Jackson: on 3/13/11 at 23:27pm UTC, wrote Alfonso I enjoyed your quite fascinating essay. I could certainly see...

Alan Lowey: on 2/24/11 at 12:52pm UTC, wrote Hi Alfonso, thanks for thinking about the thought experiment. It -is- the...

jenning-paul: on 2/23/11 at 23:21pm UTC, wrote Hi Alfonso, Thank for your answer. Again sorry to have been a bit harsh...

Alfonso Treviño: on 2/23/11 at 20:28pm UTC, wrote Hi, Alan: Your thought experiment is interesting. I would like to take...

Alfonso Treviño: on 2/23/11 at 16:47pm UTC, wrote Hi, Paul: I'm trying to leave no posts unanswered. I'm dissapointed that...


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Building Agency in the Biology Lab
Physicists are using optogenetics techniques to make a rudimentary agent, from cellular components, which can convert measurements into actions using light.

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The Quantum Agent
Investigating how the quantum measurement process might be related to the emergence of intelligence, agency and free will.

First Things First: The Physics of Causality
Why do we remember the past and not the future? Untangling the connections between cause and effect, choice, and entropy.

June 3, 2020

CATEGORY: Is Reality Digital or Analog? Essay Contest (2010-2011) [back]
TOPIC: Is Reality Analog or Digital? by Alfonso Treviño [refresh]
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Author Alfonso Treviño wrote on Feb. 17, 2011 @ 08:50 GMT
Essay Abstract

This essay focuses on the nature of reality, whether it’s discrete or continuous. Although space and time seem continuous, they could be discrete at a very tiny scale. Based on quantum mechanics, scientists have calculated the values for lower limits for energy, mass, temperature, length and time, among others. The author gives his reason to favor Loop Quantum Gravity over String Theory and armed with the former he proposes that reality is discrete, saying that a minimum quantity of energy requires a minimum time to be emitted or absorbed during an interaction; such an interaction can make a particle move at least a minimum distance. A model of the universe as a finite state machine is presented and then used to demonstrate how reality could function with discrete time and space. As complex structures appear in the universe, their interactions among themselves and their parts require longer times and distances, so they become unaware of the discreteness of space-time. Finally, the author argues that his finite state machine model for the universe can also function with a continuous space-time, and emphasizes the importance of choosing the theories that make the best predictions in accordance to observation.

Author Bio

Alfonso Treviño was born April 2, 1964 in San Antonio, Texas. At the age of 6 his family moved to Monterrey, Mexico, where he is living at present. Since an early age, he got interested in science and science fiction and developed a passion for writing. He has a Bachelor Degree in Computer Systems and a Master Degree in Computer Science from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico's most prestigious university, where he works as Director of IT Architecture. He's an active member for the local astronomical society and he's a frequently speaker exposing science related topics.

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Alexander Lamb wrote on Feb. 17, 2011 @ 17:39 GMT
Hi Alfonso,

I enjoyed your essay and agree with your take on the discreteness/continuity question. Do you have any thoughts on how the kind of discreteness you mention might be explicitly captured in code? (I note from your bio that you have a computing background.) I ask because this is where the focus of my own research lies, and I'm keen to gain the perspectives of others who've thought about this topic.

I have invested some effort in building concrete software simulations that replicate some key experiments, such as simple instances of relativity and the double slit experiment. Would you be interested in looking at some Java that models some of the physical phenomena you mention?


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Alfonso Treviño replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 16:08 GMT
Hi, Alex.

First of all, thanks for your comment on my essay. Modeling the whole universe as a finite state machine is obviously something hard. I'm not a cosmologist or physicist myself, though these subjects appeal to me a lot and I'm not scared of equations, but I'm far from knowing all the mathematucal detail underlying relativity and other theories, but any equation implies some kind of interacyion between two or more components, so understanding the interactions can lead us to a good model.

In the essay I ilustrated my point by modeling a pronto-proton reaction, it's relatively simple, but when trying to model the fusion reactions of the whole Sun this way you'll have the outpit of a FSM as the input of another and the output of the second one entering the third and taking longer snapshots. Each FSM would model just a set of particles, but as particles mover randomly, some of the by-products would interact with other particles, so you start another FSM.

I hope I was more or less clear.

About your Java code, it's been some time since I left behing the programming side of IT to move into the startegic line, but if you want to send something with specific questions I could ask the help of one of the guys working with me.


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Alan Lowey wrote on Feb. 18, 2011 @ 14:14 GMT
Hello Alfonso, I thought our essay was very professional with good illustrations to engage the reader. I like the common sense appraoch you have and the stating of fundamental ideas. I have a foundational new way of visualising a GRAVITON using an Archimedes screw mechanical model. Is this something you have thought of before? If this helical model of a graviton travelled around a wraparound universe then it would emerge on the other side as an ANTI-GRAVITON or force of repulsion i.e. DARK ENERGY! Did Newton miss this simple trick to explain the spooky action at a distance Alfonso? Kind regards,


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Anonymous replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 16:14 GMT
Hi, Alan:

Thanks for your comments on my essay. Your idea of the graviton modeled around an Archimedes screw is interesting; I hadn't thought about it, though I remembered reading sometime ago on SciAm an article in which dark energy was explained as the way gravitons interact with matter in relation to the shape of the universe. I don't have the details at hand right now, in fact, is something I would like to read again.

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Alan Lowey replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 16:28 GMT
Thank you for considering the mechanical model of the proposed graviton Alfonso. I have a thought experiment which illustrates the important relationship between chirality, loops and mirror images. Incidentally, I learnt from a repeat of QI on TV last night about oranges and lemons. The aroma of a lemon is the exact mirror image of an orange and vice versa. Our olfactory sense, the first one to develop via evolution I believe, is ultra sensitive to right and left handedness of airborne molecules, which I find quite interesting. Here's the simple thought experiment:

"I'd just like to re-iterate my point about a spinning helix which travels around a hypersphere being analogous to an electric circuit. Imagine you are on the inside of a battery which is connected to a simple loop of wire which makes an electric circuit. Imagine a handle rotates clockwise from the positive terminal as seen from your internal perspective. Now trace this turning handle as it travels along the wire and arrives at the negative terminal of the battery. Which way is the handle now turning from the viewpoint of the battery's interior? Is it clockwise or is it anti-clockwise?"

I found it a revelation and I hope you do too. Kind regards, Alan

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Alfonso Treviño replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 20:28 GMT
Hi, Alan:

Your thought experiment is interesting. I would like to take the liberty of defining chirality and symemetry in laymen terms. Chirality has a direction --clockwise or counter-clockwise, from left to right or viceversa--, whil symmetry means that a something presents equal characteristics when viewed against an axis.

What it would be interesting is to put your mental experimental going backwards. If there's no distintion between forwards and backwards, then you'd have found a symmetry.

Although this is only a thought experiment and there's no math involved, which I deem relevant to be able to ennunciate a good hypothesis, finding a symmetry could imply the existence of anti-gravity, something that yet has to be accounted by general relativity. Although some scientists believe in the possibility of adding two short-range forces to the four fundamental ones, this scenario is not favored by most scientists.

Finding out that there's no symmetry in yoir thought experiment would imply that gravity has just one sign--attractive--allowing for just one direction for the arrow and time.

Well, those were my after lunch thoughts.

Good luck with your experiment.


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Juan Enrique Ramos Beraud wrote on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 05:47 GMT

Very interesting essay. There are several essays which analyze the relation of the universe and computation. Among those essays the ones from the 3 Mexicans : yours, Hector Zenil's - whom i guess has been quite successful here- and mine.(Juan Enrique Ramos Beraud )

Take a look on the essays and drop a comment if you can.

I am director general of S&C Constructores de Sistemas, and I think I've meet you before (maybe you know Javier Olvera who used to work with us).

Again, a very good essay.

Good luck.

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Alfonso Treviño replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 16:20 GMT
Hi Joan, thanks for your comments on my essay. Maybe we have met, but I don't remember where or when. I work at Tec de Monterrey as Director of IT architecture and some years ago I used to be Director of Information Engineering, an elegant name for the boss of the DBAs and application server managers.

I don't know if we met with respect to some software evaluation or maybe in some Oracle event.

Good luck with your essay.


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jenning-paul wrote on Feb. 22, 2011 @ 01:45 GMT
Your essay is a bit unorganized and, with due respect, suffers from lack of rigor and of originality.

To illustrate the lack of rigor, when you say that English language is a finite language because, you say, it is based in 26 letters (that doesn't make it finite) or because you are trying to make a connection to automata theory, it is not clear at all whether you are dealing with formal...

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Alfonso Treviño replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 16:47 GMT
Hi, Paul:

I'm trying to leave no posts unanswered. I'm dissapointed that you dind't like what I wrote, and also, I don't agree with you about what you say about my university, but I respect your opinion and I just wanted to say thanks for your comments. Not all comments have to be good and you've got to respect other people's points of view.

In science--and I'm not a professional scientist, just someone who, spite of his career, has had a great interest in science since childhood--you have to be prepared for all kind of opinions.

The only thing I can say in my defense is that I tried to do by best and, yes, maybe my example about English is not formal enough, but I was expecting to use English as a brief example. Putting the English language into mathematical form in order to prove it can be parsed by a finite state machine is beyond the scope of the contest and it would've take some space which I preferred to devote to the subkect at hand.

The other thing is that, yes, UNAM is maybe the university in Mexico where the most research is done, but UNAM, being a government university gives it some advantages --more funds-- and some disadvantages --more than once there had been movements and strikes with political tainting. My claim thet Monterrey Institute of Technology is the most prestigous in Mexico is not mine and I recognized the prestige of other mexican institutions as well.

Ultimately, it depends on the eye of the beholder the aspects you want to take in account when wvaluating a university.

Again, thanks for your comments and no hard feelings.


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jenning-paul replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 23:21 GMT
Hi Alfonso,

Thank for your answer. Again sorry to have been a bit harsh but poor views accompanied with arrogant statements do not help. The thing is that English cannot be fully parsed with finite automata, perhaps you can recognize words with a finite automata but natural language is not a regular language (when I say regular language notice that there is a precise mathematical definition of regular language as you may know being a computer engineer). I would be surprised if you can prove that English can be parsed with a finite automaton unless you imply that parsing is just recognizing certain simple features of English, such as a dictionary lookup.

On the evaluation of universities, I don't agree that it depends on the eye of the beholder, or if that is the case, official rankings are made precisely to give some objectivity to such subjectivity. It's fine to believe that your university is the most prestigious university, but then you should add the precision that you mean among the private universities. When you said it was the best right in your bio (which I think anyway is not the place to do so) you didn't say that you were ruling out others because they are government funded or because they sometimes go into strikes… --which by the way I don't see what the problem would be if still produces most research in the country and remains in the top places worldwide. It seems you should rather be proud of your national university, as far as I know state universities are not owned by a handful of people in mexico but by every Mexican.

As you say, no hard feelings, just hope you and your university friends can hold grandiose claims if they use to make them often as I'm told they do. Cheers.

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Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 23:27 GMT

I enjoyed your quite fascinating essay. I could certainly see some logic and interesting thoughts. I'm not an expert on LQG and haven't yet had time to study it in detail. I've concentrated on the slightly greater scale. I hope you may get a chance to look, score and comment before tomorrows deadline as many can't conceptualise well enough, but I think you may. Any possible connections and consistencies with LQG would be very interesting.

Best wishes


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basudeba wrote on Mar. 14, 2011 @ 03:32 GMT
Dear Sir,

We have gone through your excellent analysis and must complement you for your analytical abilities. We both are conceptually closer to each other, though our descriptions seem to contradict each other on many occasions.

You have assumed that both c and G are constant. The velocity of light in different media varies with the density of the medium. There is nothing like true...

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Constantinos Ragazas wrote on Mar. 15, 2011 @ 18:34 GMT
Dear Alfonso,

I appreciate all your intellectual endeavors to understand our Universe better. We share in that passion. You say “ a minimum quantity of energy requires a minimum time to be emitted or absorbed during an interaction”. I couldn't agree with that idea more! But unlike your 'discrete Universe', I take the view that the Universe is fundamentally continuous. Central to the results presented in my essay is the idea that 'energy accumulates continuously before it is manifested discretely'. And also, 'energy propagates continuously as a wave, but interacts discretely'. With these principles I am able to explain the double-slit experiment as well as mathematically derive Planck's Law for blackbody radiation.

In my essay I show that Planck's Law is actually an exact mathematical tautology (like the Pythagorean Theorem) and does not really depend on any physical assumptions like 'energy quanta'. This is the real reason why the experimental blackbody spectrum is indistinguishable from the theoretical curve.

One other result which I posted just a few days ago you will find especially interesting as it shows that the constant speed of light hypothesis of SR contradicts the photon hypothesis of QM! I have mathematically proved that “If the speed of light is constant, then light is a wave”.

These are profound and iconoclastic results. I need your help and support to bring these results before the panel of experts for a fair and serious review. Can I count on you?

All the best,


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basudeba wrote on Mar. 20, 2011 @ 06:09 GMT
Sub: Possibility of manipulation in judging criteria – suggestions for improvement.


We had filed a complaint to FQXi and Scienticfic American regarding Possibility of manipulation in judging criteria and giving some suggestions for improvement. Acopy of our letter is enclosed for your kind information.

“We are a non-professional and non-academic entrant to the Essay...

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