For a number of years now, I’ve argued the case that the universe may just be some alien grad student’s simulation for his thesis. He’s probably failing, but that’s irrelevant. While the idea is a bit tongue-in-cheek, it serves as a very good base argument for a lot of things. It’s impossible to disprove which is fun in its own right, causing many a feather to be ruffled by an argument so preposterous sounding. But it can be used to explain a lot of scientific conundrums as well.
Take, for instance, our inability to ever truly find the fundamental building block of the universe. Once it was the 4 elements of earth, wind, fire, and water. At some point, it became the nuclear atom in its various forms (laid out in a nice, periodic table). Then we smashed those and decided quarks were what atoms were made of. Then string theory came along, trying to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity, and string theory says that quarks, electrons, etc. are not actually 0-dimensional objects, but 1-dimensional strings that vibrate. That’s where we are in the chain right now, but rest assured that smaller particles will be discovered in my lifetime.
Now, if we’re a giant alien simulation, this can make sense. Since there really isn’t a fundamental building block in the simulation, it could be that the simulation is programmed to come up with new particles each time we get to the smallest known particle. These would only show up when we try to observe the new particles, and the new particles are orders of magnitude smaller than the previously smallest known particle. I’m not saying this is correct, but I am saying it’s an easy enough programming problem to solve that an alien being who can create a simulation for the entire universe can surely do this, particularly if the alien is trying to make the universe such that the universe never becomes aware that it is really a simulation. A trivial matter relative to the task of programming our entire universe (and perhaps hundreds more). Another one is our understanding of space-time, and how we should be able to move “backward” as easily as “forward” in time, but can’t. That’s a simple rule change in the code, and Voilá! Only forward and seemingly linear travel in time.
But where this really becomes interesting is in the Fermi Paradox. For those who don’t know, the Fermi Paradox uses assumptions and estimations to try to indicate the odds that earth houses the only (or at least most advanced) intelligent civilization in the universe. If Enrico Fermi’s assumptions were even remotely close, we should’ve been contacted (or at least seen evidence of) multiple alien civilizations as (or more) advanced as our own. But, strangely, it still appears we may be alone in the universe. But what if we’re just a computer simulation?
If we’re a computer simulation, the presence or absence of other intelligent civilizations is simply up to the universe’s architect. Are they just creating laws of the universe, amount of mass/energy, etc., and just letting it run, or are they trying more to determine how a single intelligent species tries to reconcile the fact that they may be alone, but shouldn’t be? If it’s the former, our apparent solitude isn’t explained. If it’s some form of the latter, however, we’ve magically solved the Fermi Paradox! Isn’t this great? Who knew that solving seemingly difficult scientific problems was this easy?