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How to test if we’re living in a computer simulation

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Physicists have long struggled to explain why the universe started out with conditions suitable for life to evolve.Why do the physical laws and constants take the very specific values that allow stars, planets and ultimately life to develop?The expansive force of the universe, dark energy, for example, is much weaker than theory suggests it should be – allowing matter to clump together rather than being ripped apart.A common answer is that we live in an infinite multiverse of universes, so we shouldn't be surprised that at least one universe has turned out as ours.

But another is that our universe is a computer simulation, with someone (perhaps an advanced alien species) fine-tuning the conditions.The latter option is supported by a branch of science called information physics, which suggests that space-time and matter are not fundamental phenomena.Instead, the physical reality is fundamentally made up of bits of information, from which our experience of space-time emerges.

By comparison, temperature “emerges” from the collective movement of atoms. No single atom fundamentally has temperature.This leads to the extraordinary possibility that our entire universe might in fact be a computer simulation.

The idea is not that new.In 1989, the legendary physicist, John Archibald Wheeler, suggested that the universe is fundamentally mathematical and it can be seen as emerging from information.

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