Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Universe doesn't ''really'' exist

Our universe only exists as an abstract mathematical entity.


Blogger Mitchell said...

You really need to critically reconsider the philosophical premises, whatever they are, that lead you to make such a statement. A few questions you could ask yourself--

1) Is there anything you regard as 'really existing', that is, existing as something other than an 'abstract mathematical entity'? I guess not, since you say the whole universe exists in that way.

2) When you say that the universe only exists 'abstractly', you are implicitly contrasting 'abstract existence' with 'concrete existence' of some sort. Can you even define or characterize what you mean by 'actual' or 'concrete' existence?

Sun Nov 20, 02:32:00 PM PST  
Blogger Count Iblis said...

Hi Mitchell,

I was planning to elaborate more about this idea later. These ideas are not new; Tegmark and Schmidhüber have recently written about the idea that the Theory of Everything is just an ensemble theory where the ensemble is just the set of all possible mathematical models.

I believe that ''mathematical existence'' is the only form of existence. There exists a mathematical description of you and me and that is all that exists of us. To us our universe appears to be ''real'' in the sense that it is different from other mathematical models in which we do not find ourselves in.

But, of course, this difference may just be due to the mere fact that we are in this universe and not in other possible universes, rather than due to an intrinsic property of our universe that makes our universe in some way different from other possible universes.

So, my favorite idea on life, the universe, and everything is that all possible formally describable models define their own universes; a universe is nothing more than it's description.

There are a number of motivations for this idea. E.g. if your brain was simultated perfectly, then that simulation would have your consciousness. But this is independent of the way the computer that is simulating you works.

So, the hardware doesn't matter as long as the right software is being run. So, to find you I need to find where your program is being implemented, which fits in well with the idea that everything is a formally describable model.

Another motivation is that it makes the problem of where our universe came from irrelevant. Even if there was a Big Bang, you now don't have to worry about how our universe came into existence from ''nothing''.

Sun Nov 20, 04:55:00 PM PST  
Blogger Wolfgang said...

> E.g. if your brain was simultated perfectly, then that simulation would have your consciousness.

How do you kow this ?

Sat Dec 17, 07:49:00 AM PST  
Blogger Count Iblis said...

Hi Wolfgang,

I guess there is no way to know for sure if some machine is really conscious or just a ''zombie'' pretending to be conscious.

It seems plausible to me that a person's consciousness is generated by the ''computations'' performed in the brain. If consciousness were to depend on something else, then you could imagine creating a system that would function in exactly the same way, but would have ''different''consciousness.

Still the system would not be able to tell you that he feels different because the system would respond to questions in the same way as the original person.

This suggests to me that consciousness does only depend on the ''program'' that is run by the system, not on the ''hardware''.

Tue Dec 20, 06:08:00 PM PST  
Blogger nigel said...

Count Iblis,

If the universe is mathematical then the equations are immensely complex because you are dealing with 10^80 fermions and god knows how many bosons.

I just think it is too extravagant. I read Sir James Jeans' books, all of them, including the Mysterious Universe (1930) where he says

"God is a PURE mathematician"

(emphasis added by me to key word, with capitals - note that god is deemed not merely an applied mathematician, let alone a physicist or engineer). Jeans also says in the same book that the planets formed from massive tides on the sun (a solar system theory now long discredited). He also lists some atomic numbers and says what special properties they have - atomic number 6 creates life (carbon), numbers 26 and 28 create magnets (iron and nickel) and then absurdly he says atomic number 92 (uranium) creates radioactivity!!!

Even in 1930, it was known that radioactivity could be induced in just about anything by particle reactions (Rutherford had started nuclear reactions for this in 1919). I know Crockcroft and Walton's accelerator and the van der Graaf machine were 1930s inventions, but radium and radon (although admittedly uranium decay products) were known to be radioactive and discovered in 1900s by the Curies.

That really backfired on him. The mathematical complexity is so great, it is impossible to calculate. It would be easier for the universe to be physically real, than a set of equations to be solved. The equations for gravity would have every atom in the universe affecting the motion of every other atom, however slightly. The complexity would mean that a computer to exactly solve the equations would have to be far bigger than the real universe itself. This defies Ockham's razor. The universe is not likely a piece of software in a computer, therefore. What you see is what you get, and that isn't a bunch of equations.

Feynman hints at this here:

"It always bothers me that, according to the laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of space, and no matter how tiny a region of time. How can all that be going on in that tiny space? Why should it take an infinite amount of logic to figure out what one tiny piece of space/time is going to do? So I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed, and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the chequer board with all its apparent complexities."

- Feynman, Character of Physical Law, 1964 Cornell lectures (broadcast on BBC2 in 1965 and published by the BBC in 1965), pp57-8.

Obviously, mathematics is vital for understanding the world, but there is some kind of dynamics really going on for every equation.

Fri Sep 29, 02:59:00 PM PDT  
Blogger nigel said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Fri Sep 29, 03:35:00 PM PDT  
Blogger nige said...

Correction: where I wrote in the previous comment that the equations are hard to solve exactly, I should have written they are IMPOSSIBLE to solve exactly.

In fact, of course you have the 3+ body Poincare chaos problem. No exact analytical solutions are possible.

However, it makes a lot of sense - if you are able to be unorthodox enough to think radically - to see atoms as capacitors (separated positive and negative charges) and then the universe becomes a hardware computer.

At every instant, you have a vector sum of electric fields possible across the universe.

The fields are physically propagated by gauge boson exchange. The gauge bosons must travel between ALL charges, they can't tell that an atom is "neutral" as a whole, they just travel between the charges.

Therefore even though the electric dipole created by the separation of the electron from the proton in a hydrogen atom at any instant is randomly orientated, the gauge bosons can also be considered to be doing a random walk between all the charges in the universe.

The random-walk vector sum for the charges of all the hydrogen atoms is the voltage for a single hydrogen atom (the real charges mass in the universe is something like 90% composed of hydrogen), multiplied by the square root of the number of atoms in the universe.

This allows for the angles of each atom being random. If you have a large row of charged capacitors randomly aligned in a series circuit, the average voltage resulting is obviously zero, because you have the same number of positive terminals facing one way as the other.

So there is a lot of inefficiency, but in a two or three dimensional set up, a drunk taking an equal number of steps in each direction does make progress. The taking 1 step per second, he goes an average net distance from the starting point of t^0.5 steps after t seconds.

For air molecules, the same occurs so instead of staying in the same average position after a lot of impacts, they do diffuse gradually away from their starting points.

Anyway, for the electric charges comprising the hydrogen and other atoms of the universe, each atom is a randomly aligned charged capacitor at any instant of time.

This means that the gauge boson radiation being exchanged between charges to give electromagnetic forces in Yang-Mills theory will have the drunkard's walk effect, and you get a net electromagnetic field of the charge of a single atom multiplied by the square root of the total number in the universe.

Now, if gravity is to be unified with electromagnetism (also basically a long range, inverse square law force, unlike the short ranged nuclear forces), and if gravity due to a geometric shadowing effect (see my home page for the Yang-Mills LeSage quantum gravity mechanism with predictions), it will depend on only a straight line charge summation.

In an imaginary straight line across the universe (forget about gravity curving geodesics, since I'm talking about a non-physical line for the purpose of working out gravity mechanism, not a result from gravity), there will be on average almost as many capacitors (hydrogen atoms) with the electron-proton dipole facing one way as the other,


You find that statistically, a straight line across the universe is 50% likely to have an odd number of atoms falling along it, and 50% likely to have an even number of atoms falling along it.

Clearly, if the number is even, then on average there is zero net voltage. But in all the 50% of cases where there is an ODD number of atoms falling along the line, you do have a net voltage. The situation in this case is that the average net voltage is 0.5 times the net voltage of a single atom. This causes gravity.

The exact weakness of gravity as compared to electromagnetism is now explained.

Gravity is due to 0.5 x the voltage of 1 hydrogen atom (a "charged capacitor").

Electromagnetism is due to the random walk vector sum between all charges in the universe, which comes to the voltage of 1 hydrogen atom (a "charged capacitor") multiplied by the square root of the number of atoms in the universe.

Thus, ratio of gravity strength to electromagnetism strength between an electron and a proton is equal to: 0.5V/(V.N^0.5) = 0.5/N^0.5.

V is the voltage of a hydrogen atom (charged capacitor in effect) and N is the number of atoms in the universe.

This ratio is equal to 10^-40 or so, which is the correct figure.

Thu Dec 21, 03:33:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just another form of "reality is an illusion", or "you cannot perceive reality", or "reality only exists in your imagination". It's all philosophical garbage with a mathematical veneer, and I use "garbage" in the most perjorative sense of the word possible.

Mon May 21, 02:32:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Count Iblis said...

"This is just another form of "reality is an illusion","

Not really, just read the other blogpostings.

Thu Feb 28, 03:47:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It dawned on me recently that the universe doesn't really exist. I was rather disturbed by the concept, but it is undeniable. I was listening in my uneducated way to physicists talk about the nature of atomic structure and their recent observations of subatomic structure and it dawned on me that the universe is merely a perception in my own brain. In exactly the same way that we perceive a circle when watching a majorette spin a baton very quickly. We see a circle, but there is not really anything circular there at all. To extend the analogy imagine a trillion maojorettes on a large field spinning their batons and arranging themselves on the field to form the shape of a flower. The flower would actually exist only in the mind of the person who viewed it. This is how our universe is composed with atoms instead of majorettes. Atoms whirring around and around at velocities and numbers so great that in our minds their arrangement constitutes complex objects--what we call matter or substance. The real kicker is that the atoms themselves are comprised of even smaller particles whirring around and around in numbers and velocities the arrangement of which we perceive as protons, electrons, neutrons. The point of all this is that the next time you see the marching band spell out the words "GO TEAM" across the football field you should know that the universe exists no more tangibly than that message in your brain. "Go TEAM!"

Fri Apr 04, 01:36:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the beauty of our lives. Even if we all are just the same thing, the complexity of it all and our seemingly endless search for the true meaning is the only reason we remain interested in living.

Fri Apr 11, 08:34:00 AM PDT  
Blogger DrMD said...

The universe has been around for a long time (approx. 14.5 billion years. It existed all this time without the benefit of humanity’s (or any other alien being’s) equations to describe or govern it. This reminds me of Australian settlers trying to claim ownership of these massive naturally occurring rock formations; the aboriginal Australians were amused, since they knew these formations were ancient (actually about $50 M years). They asked the settlers if they created the large stones. Therefore a mathematical existence is irrelevant as far as the universe goes.

That being said, I believe there are several ways to create your own private universe. There was an interesting article in this months’ Popular Science. Established astrophysicists are starting to create mini-universes to better understand our universe and to be able to modify physical parameters while monitoring changes in matter distribution.

This morning, I believe I discovered two more approaches to create mini universes. I’ll revisit this site when I have thought it though in more detail.

One parting thought to Count Iblis. I know you don’t exist since I am the only one who exists.

Mon Apr 14, 04:15:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr MD, you miss the point entirely. What Count Iblis is saying is that there is no such thing as matter in the traditional way that humans think of it. There is no substance to the universe. There is no such thing as a particle. All matter is more accurately described as "information" and this is the way science now refers to it. You state that the universe has existed for 14.5 billion years as if this were a rebuttal, but actually it is no argument at all and is not relevant to the conversation.

Thu Apr 17, 01:47:00 PM PDT  
Blogger DrMD said...


I am afraid you miss the point. By your assertions, you imply the universe does not exist before you perceive it. Clearly that is not the case. Also, I did not simply state the age of the universe. It is the established and proven model of the general physics community. And what science claims there are no particles, just information?

Sun Apr 20, 02:00:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Md? Can you hear yourself? Proven Model? Did you actually use the word proven? Existence is merely speculation. There is no proof of anything, lest of all that the universe existed before it was perceived. Even the most narrow minded scientists use the word "theory".

Thu May 15, 02:14:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Mike said...

If everything is just a mathematical creation and nothing really exists, who or what is forming this imaginary everything, or are they too just another mathematical creation ad infinitum?

...and if so why?

Don't these same rules apply equally to a real existence that too cannot be explained by the greatest collective minds?

Thu Oct 09, 10:04:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Count Iblis said...


the idea is that everything is math. You can think of your brain and the rest of the universe computing you.

But the universe is itself a mathematical structure that can be well approximated by the Standard Model and General Relativity.

Wed Oct 22, 08:53:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Daniel said...

I have always felt that nothing really exists, there is no true matter, nothing of material content. All that has ever existed is pure thought and pure energy to create that thought. To justify that thought everything that we sense is a mere creation of that thought and has been created as a form of entertainment, to keep from becoming bored you might say. I believe this to be true. All the joy and pain that we experience is and always will be happening as a mere thought. Time does not exist. When this particular series of thought patterns reaches its end, another will take its place. Sounds to simple to be accurate? Believe it.

Mon Dec 08, 09:16:00 AM PST  
OpenID qualium said...

Hello Count

You have some very interesting posts here, and comments also. I am an artist, not a scientist or philosopher, but am fascinated by these questions.

Could an argument be made that the primary reality is all possible abstract ideas, mathematics being only one of those ideas? A universe would be a consistent subset of those ideas.

Perhaps a universe exists (as an idea) where there is no space, but some other medium in which events occur. The internet is similar to this, but requires physical space, computers etc. But when a storyteller spins a tale, he creates an imaginary universe composed of no matter and a flexible kind of time. It exists in the minds of the listeners, who can travel back and forth through the elements of the story. Is there a fundamental difference between that kind of universe and our physical universe?

If not, could it be that this physical universe seems so hard and "real" only because those are the attributes included in the Idea of it?

A universe is consistent with the ideas that describe it. Ideas are abstract, but can they not describe any degree of concreteness?

What if I propose a universe with no physical matter in it, but only "drows," which interact with each other in prescribed ways that I arbitrarily assign. Similar to the elements of our physical atoms, there are say, 1209 drows, and they each have unique properties, which I could give them, behaving alone and in relationships. Have I created a universe or not?

Maybe I've just created such a universe since it now is a rudimentary idea in my mind, and in yours also. If I share it with other minds, we can give it attributes, qualities and any desired degree of "reality."

This may be trivial, I don't know. But it is enjoyable to contemplate . . .

Sun Mar 01, 12:01:00 AM PST  
Anonymous george berkeley said...

god perceives himself as the universe through "you"

Mon Jan 04, 08:12:00 AM PST  
Blogger Daniel said...

All this math about if something really does or does not exist and the theories that are derived are just fragments of what you are now capable of thinking. Consider the fact that we, our brains, need to evolve about another million years before anyone can even begin to understand what is and what it all means. Good luck.

Mon Jan 04, 08:27:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess all those trolls on YouTube are not conscious of what they are doing...

Fri Mar 26, 11:36:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Jimmy Francis Ghanem said...

I think you are making things more complicated already, to take it more simply as i believe it is:
Imagine meditating and thinking about an apple and designing this apple, well this apple to you was just an Idea and went off, but for the apple itself it exist somewhere somehow to itself. and i will say we all live in a an IDEA, which is intangible and our exsistance in it makes it tangible, If you look around you everything is an IDEA, try to search for something which is not, YOU CAN'T, Simply.

Sat Apr 02, 10:28:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

It is a stretch to assume that the universe has infinite resolution - what evidence do we have of that? Taking this a bit further, you would not need an infinite computer to simulate the entire universe because it would not have to run in real time. It could take billions of years in the "real" universe to simulate 1 nanosecond of our universe. Also, if we assume that we are running in a simulation, we cannot make any assumptions about how fast you can perform computations in the "real" universe.

Thu Jul 07, 04:05:00 AM PDT  

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