Could we be living in a computer simulation?

The good folks over at io9 have posted a really nice piece on the possibility that we are living inside a huge computer simulation.

Sound like codswallop?  Probably.  Is it possible?  Definitely.

A snippet:

[quote]Interestingly, the researchers consider their simulation to be a forerunner to more powerful versions in which molecules, cells, and even humans themselves might someday be generated. But for now, they’re interested in creating accurate models of cosmological processes — and finding out which ones might represent hard limits for simulations.

To that end, they have investigated the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin limit (or GZK cut-off) as a candidate — a cut-off in the spectrum of high energy particles. The GZK cut-off is particularly promising because it behaves quite interestingly within the QCD model.

According to the Physics arXiv blog, this cut-off is well known and comes about when high energy particles interact with the cosmic microwave background, thus losing energy as they travel long distances. The researchers have calculated that the lattice spacing imposes some additional features on the spectrum, namely that the angular distribution of the highest energy components should exhibit cubic symmetry in the rest of the lattice (causing it to deviate signi?cantly from isotropy).

“In other words,” write the arXiv bloggers, “the cosmic rays would travel preferentially along the axes of the lattice, so we wouldn’t see them equally in all directions.”

And that would be the kind of reveal the physicists are looking for — an indication that there is indeed a man hiding behind the curtain.[/quote]

Read the whole thing here.


New Comet May Outshine Moon

An exciting piece of news from over at Geekologie.

A new comet, which has been discovered near Saturn, could become one of the brightest ever recorded when it speeds past the Sun in late 2013/early 2014.

The comet, entitled Comet ISON (C/2012S1) will burn up past the sun.  Although it won’t be as large as the moon, it may well outshine it, and perhaps even be visible during the day.

Although nothing is certain, and only time will tell whether it will actually be as bright as experts claim, it seems that the comet will reach its optimum position for viewing in the weeks following the 28 November 2013.  Comets vary in their composition, and this to a large extent determines who bright they will be from Earth.

It’s the second exciting comet forecast for next year, as Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) will pass by in March 2013, and should be visible in the evening sky.


The Asteroid That Saved Christianity

The year is 312AD.

Constantine, Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, has launched a pre-emptive attack on rival emperor Maxentius, with the two meeting in battle at Milvian Bridge.

Constantine, by this stage, was likely a Christian.  Christianity in the early 4th Century was a small religion in Europe, with relatively few adherents compared to paganism and the other cults of belief along the fringes of the Roman Empire.  As a Roman Emperor, Constantine kept his faith quiet.

The historian Eusebius claimed that Constantine received a signal from God – a revelation that led him to glory in battle.  Constantine was able to attribute his victory to divine intervention from a Christian God, and rose to power (his faith along with him).

The Edict of Milan (313AD) displayed a rapid-fire move towards toleration of Christianity, and further patronage of Christian churches and the faith were to follow. More widespread Christian iconography was not far behind.

In the last decade, research has revealed that it seems that Constantine may indeed have witnessed something remarkable.  The discovery of an impact crater in 2003 suggested that a meteor could have impacted Italy at around 312AD.

As this object burned up over the sky, Constantine interpreted it as a sign to advance despite the persistent reluctance of his advisors.  Constantine emerged victorious, with reputation as a “Christian victor”.

The meteor would have provided Constantine with tremendous gravitas amongst his men: his Christian beliefs appearing to be based upon substance to the soldiers in his army who shared in the ‘vision’ of a celestial body burning up in the atmosphere.

We tend to think of meteor and asteroid impacts as destructive events: cataclysmic causes of extinction depicted in films such as Deep Impact and Armageddon.  Yet it is beginning to appear more likely that objects from space have deeply influenced the course of human history at several stages.