When it comes to quantum mechanics, there’s a lot of weirdness we can’t account for. Superposition, quantum tunneling, entanglement, and a lot of other things, have had scientists scratching their heads for about a century or so. Recently, some physicists using mathematical models found that bizarre quantum behavior and even the rift between quantum mechanics and general relativity could be healed, if we saw the universe as a 3D projection laid over a 2D space. In other words, the universe could be a hologram.

Of course,
this theory isn’t new. Depending on how you look at it, it could be thousands
of years old, if you take into account the Buddhist phrase, “The world is
illusory.” A number of sci-fi references including The Matrix, a certain Star
Trek: The Next Generation episode ("Ship in a Bottle") and an episode
of Doctor Who, all deal with this. And then there's tech scion Elon Musk. He’s
so certain, he says there’s a “one in billions” chance we’re not living inside
a simulation, created by some form of superintelligence.

Neil
deGrasse Tyson agrees. At a discussion at the Hayden Planetarium last year,
Tyson said it’s “very likely,” the universe is being simulated. Musk said that
computing power is growing at such a tremendous rate that at some point,
reality will become indistinguishable from VR.

One thing
though, that doesn’t mean we’re stuck in a video game, now. As it turns out,
one researcher at the University of Oxford and his Israeli colleague have
proven this theory a flight of fancy. We’re not living inside The Matrix. The
universe is actually 3D. And they proved it. Theoretical physicists Zohar
Ringel and Dmitry Kovrizhin conducted the study. Their results were published
in the journal Science Advances.

Both Neil
deGrasse Tyson and Elon Musk believe the universe is likely a simulation.
Credit: Getty Images.

Researchers
took what we know about some of the properties of physics and ran them through
Monte Carlo simulations, types of computations that through random sampling,
offer insights into quantum systems that are so complex, they’re difficult to
solve directly. Ringel told Popular Science, “When you do physics and you don’t
know how to solve something, you say, maybe I can just have my computer solve
it for me and that will give me some intuition.”

The program
takes random occurrences in a system and tries to make sense of them. Monte
Carlo simulations are meant to study the quantum many-body effect, when lots of
different particles, say thousands, are interacting at the same time.

The
physicists compared gravitational anomalies known to classical physics, much
like the warping of space-time, and compared them to how a computer works. It’s
important to note that Monte Carlo simulations aren’t airtight but are
insightful. When the negatives and positives cancel each other out, it’s called
a sign problem. That’s what came up here. The reason is, the power needed to
generate a computer simulation with just a few hundred electrons, would require
more atoms than the entire universe contains. With each new particle added, the
simulation became exponentially more complex.

Just to
simulate a few hundred electrons would take more atoms than the universe
contains. Credit: Getty Images.

The
physicists didn’t set out to prove the universe is really real. They were
trying to better understand certain anomalies such as the quantum Hall effect.

The Hall
effect occurs when you pass electricity through a metal. The electrons normally
flow through it in a straight line. But if you introduce a magnetic field,
perpendicular to the metal, the electrons will follow with the current until
they reach the field.

Once they
do, they move off to the sides. With the quantum Hall effect, extremely cold
temperatures are introduced, -459.67 °F (-273.15 °C) which is near absolute
zero. In this environment, particles behave even more strangely. To physicists,
the quantum Hall effect looks very much like gravitational anomalies in
space-time, such as gravitational distortion or the warping of space-time.

Ringel and
Kovrizhin were running the quantum Hall effect through Monte Carlo simulations.
They didn’t expect to solve the mystery. A number of others have attempted
through this method before and failed. This attempt was no different in that
sense. But they did gain an insight.

Ringel said,
"If you see a phenomena that can't be simulated by a classical computer,
that means we can’t be part of a huge classical computer that is simulated
while someone steals our energy, for example." There’s one caveat—besides
our alien overlords programming in such information as a red herring. What
might be more likely is that the universe is an enormous quantum computer,
rather than a classical one, processing particles rather than 1s and 0s.

Updated version of the previous article.

When the term Matrix is used for the world that we live in, it doesn't actually mean the Universe is the Matrix, but rather the mind set and and the way that most of the humans live is like a Matrix...

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