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Sorry, the universe wasn’t made for you

6 Sep 2016, 11:14 UTC
Sorry, the universe wasn’t made for you
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Last month, game reviewers were all over No Man’s Sky, a new space adventure launched to much press attention. Unlike previous video games, this one calculates players’ environments from scratch rather than revealing hand-crafted landscapes and their populations. This way, No Man’s Sky’s virtual universe is populated with about 1019 planets, all with different flora and fauna – at least that’s what we’re told, not like anyone actually checked. That seems a giganourmous number but is still less than there’s planets in the actual universe, estimated at roughly 1024. User’s expectations of No Man’s Sky were high – and were highly disappointed. All the different planets, it turns out, still get a little repetitive with their limited set of options and features. It’s hard to code a universe as surprising as reality and run it on processors that occupy only a tiny fraction of that reality.Theoretical physicists, meanwhile, have the opposite problem: The fictive universes they calculate are more surprising than they’d like them to be. Having failed on their quest for a theory of everything, in the area of quantum gravity many theoretical physicists now accept that a unique theory can’t be derived from first principles. Instead, they believe, ...

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