Conventional wisdom says that quantum mechanics is a theory of discreteness, describing a world of irreducible building blocks. It stands to reason that computers—which process information in discrete chunks—should be able to simulate nature fully, at least in principle. But it turns out that certain asymmetries in particle physics cannot be discretized; they are irreducibly continuous. In that case, says David Tong, author of "Is Quantum Reality Analog after All?" in the December 2012 issue of Scientific American,the world can never be fully simulated on a computer.
This article was originally published with the title "Reality Check: You Are Not a Computer Simulation [Audio]" in Scientific American 307, 6, (December 2012)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
George Musser is a contributing editor at Scientific American and author of Spooky Action at a Distance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015) and The Complete Idiot's Guide to String Theory (Alpha, 2008). Follow him on Mastodon @firstname.lastname@example.org Credit: Nick Higgins