“Is Our Universe a Simulation?” with Brian Greene

Neil deGrasse Tyson channels Morpheus on StarTalk TV on the National Geographic Channel. Image Credit: NG Studios.

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About This Episode

Is our universe just an incredibly complex computer simulation? Or is it just one of many universes, each brought into existence by the choices we make? In this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson investigates the nature of reality, from quantum physics and string theory, to the multiverse and The Matrix. To grapple with these questions, both very big and very, very small, Neil interviews his friend, theoretical physicist Brian Greene, while in studio, he gets help from co-host Maeve Higgins and David Chalmers, who is a Professor of Philosophy and co-director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness at NYU. Discover why the multiverse concept makes mathematical sense, at least through the lens of quantum physics. You’ll hear how Schrödinger’s Cat can be simultaneously both dead and alive and why Planck’s Constant has changed our understanding of how reality plays out on a quantum level. You’ll learn about the “simulation hypothesis”: that we are all living in a computer simulation, and why any evidence to the contrary (or glitches in the matrix) could be part of the simulation, too. Find out what Gödel’s incompleteness theorem says about the complexity of that simulated universe, and why the idea that we are all characters in a game designed by a pimple-faced 15-year-old from the future may be more in line with the laws of physics than the idea of a creative god. Finally, explore the relationship between physics, string theory and music with Stephon Alexander, who is both a theoretical physicist and a musician. Plus, Chuck Nice heads to the streets to find out what the people know about theoretical physics, and Bill Nye ponders what life as a sim would be like.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: “Is Our Universe a Simulation?” with Brian Greene.

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  • Christopher LaHaise

    If you want to talk about multiple worlds, take a look at Run Lola Run. 🙂

  • Sean Eveland

    So if reality is just a consensus, then a group of people on hallucinagenic drugs have one hell of a reality. 🙂

  • Edward Robinson

    The word “simulation” has no meaning in this conversations’ context; it implies that there is something real that can be simulated. How would any entity determine what is “real” if anything could be simulated?

    • Christopher

      Why can’t you simulate a simulation?


    I don’t think these top scientists (or anybody) understand what you know as the “basics” quantum physics. By basics I meant the current notion on electrons, atoms, neutrons… go tinier than that (and I don’t mean string theory).

    They have made assumptions of what it is, strengthening 1920s theories that could be based on wrong assumptions, even if backed up by some tests (2 slit for example) that just help on keep on building the wrong idea (hey, everyone is gotta make a living…). What if an electron is nothing like you think it is? What if Einstein’s theories, for a brilliant as they were to devise, only partly explain 0.000000000001% of what the Universe behaves like? E.g. Earth might be in a tiny tiny area of the universe full of black holes (millions of light years wide) but the rest of the universe might not be like that.

    What if electrons are not single entities but a bunch of things revolving around each other that can split and get back to form the one entity when they pass through something? That would explain the dead/live cat. Revise the basics of quantum physics and ask more questions about the basics before going too grand on theories on the rest of the universe. Good chat though.

  • Георги Кънев

    So where we
    can expect intelligence life to does exist in the universe? The short answer is
    anywhere at micro cosmos and macro cosmos…Why?…In the macro cosmos we must
    take into account this:

    scientifically expectation about intelligence life without any fantastic imagination,
    only scientifically that should be in around the radius-orbit of our Sun in the
    galaxy and bigger one and into star system where the star is similar to the Sun
    like age and size. That guaranty that this star has similar to our solar system
    planets, but like own belts of centripetal accelerations, not compulsory
    exactly the same sizes planets like ours. And one more important condition:
    this star to possess similar angular velocity of revolving to our sun. That is
    important because this velocity actually is the velocity of birth about each
    orbiting around the star planet.

    Now about
    micro cosmos let remind again this: Rutherford dispersing appears only if we
    observe this phenomenon distantly from the position of “solid body”…then the
    micro cosmos is thickening with coefficient: 2,63.(10 rising to a 4 power) see
    part II USM http://www.kanevuniversy.com
    and the nucleus looks like that much times thickening and we have
    illusion that the space between the nucleus and the first electronic orbit is
    empty. There it isn’t any chaos because on the atom’s space acts the quantum
    rules of space degree of freedom, as well on the between atoms space – quantum
    rules of freedom about the free electrons in crystal structure or whatever.

    First empty
    space doesn’t exist and if we sink into the space of atom and become part of
    it, then size of nucleus will increases almost to the size of first electronic
    orbit, so the atom will looks very differently than the Rutherford dispersing
    and more and more will looks like a galaxy…why? see USM http://www.kanevuniverse.com According to this theory the
    galaxies in our space are atoms (nuclei) in the over space…why it is so and
    what really are this two spaces You can see on the site. So when we observe
    some extremely phenomenon in our space of galaxies, we need always to imagine
    the processes in our atoms space and that are quantum activation, collisions
    between atoms and nuclear particles, swallowing and radiation of waves, which
    have frequency in the over space in accordance with efficient of time
    connection between the spaces, see part II USM http://www.kanevuniverse.com That is in force about the
    decision on the age of the galaxies which we observe from our position of
    observation the Sun and it is means that firstly we must to decide whether
    there are some energy stimulation in accordance with above and then to decide
    which galaxy is older and which is younger.

    So because
    each atom in our space does represent galaxy from the subspace then follows
    that in any such galaxy (atom in our space) can exist “stars” similar to our
    Sun in our space but in subspace and with similar to our planets but from the
    subspace! The practically question is can we ever will know about such subspace
    intelligence life or not? The answer is almost it is impossible because when in
    our space passes one second in the subspace passes 10 rising to a 31 power
    seconds (that is roughly ten thousand billion of years), so if one full cycle
    of birth- death of Sun is 20 billion years then when this subspace intelligence
    star is birth and death thousands of times this will be measured in our space
    with one second only! Obviously it is almost impossible to search any contact
    with such sub life. But imagine we make some nuclear collision for example in
    our space but incidentally with the examined sub galaxy (atom) then what will
    happen with this sub life? The answer is sub life most probably never will know
    about such experiment on the over space for them which is our space for us
    because of the huge time scale difference. So obviously the contact with such
    hypothetical sub life is almost impossible. The same is in force looking from
    the over space towards ourselves in our space. G.Kanev

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