Since I study physics at my university, I often will read articles of new experiments in the field. I like to start with Scientific American, and from there access the original papers of the researchers. Recently, I came across this article: http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/Is_Space_Digital.pdf and this article: how-the-hippies-saved-physics-science-counterculture-and-quantum-revival-excerpt
The second article is about Bell and his theorem, which showed Einstein’s criticisms of the idea that particles existed in all states until measured was flawed. The article itself is well written and explains this concept extremely well, so it’s worth the read.
Now these two articles got me thinking about the storage of information in a digital format. Information is encoded digitally as “bits.” These are the smallest unit of information that can exist. The bit seemed to me to be similar to the quantum mechanics idea of quantized states.
This lead to the following thought (pure speculation based on what I’ve learned and read): what if spacetime has all the information for all the possible states encoded within it, and this is what is being accessed when the wave function of a particle collapses to a particular state? Say, two entangled particles were two light years apart, when when one is measured, a state from the “spacetime database” (for lack of a better term), is selected. However, since that state was shown for that measurement, the other entangled particle cannot access that state in the “spacetime database” and thus is forced into the other state. This idea depends on the two particles being entangled; since my idea is that each particle has its own set of possible probabilities “stored” in the “spacetime database.” However, when two particles are entangled, they would only be able to access one set rather than two sets – one set for each particle. It is as if them becoming entangled overlapped them to the point of them seeming as if they were one particle rather than two. The implication here being that spacetime is actually a huge database of information, that contains all the possible probabilities of all the possible particles that make up all of the universe, and the wave functions are just a way to access that database to create reality as we know it.
I emailed this idea to my Quantum Mechanics professor to see if it is a viable idea in the realm of physics, or if there is a logical flaw. Seeing as I’m only a student currently, I still have a long way to go toward reaching the status of a true physicist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still speculate about how the universe may work. I’ll be sure to report if he finds my idea too outlandish, it is a crazy thought, but it could serve as an interesting basis for a story.
For what would happen if a civilization was advanced enough to “access” this database? Wouldn’t they then be able to manipulate reality itself? However, how would they even access it if they too are apart of this database? If they accessed it, wouldn’t they also start to upset the balance within the database – this conservation of information? For if they tried to force one particle into one state, but in doing so disrupted the states of the particles around it, could that cause a disruption that they could tangibly experience with real objects? It’s a lot of food for thought.
This discussion reminds me of Alistair Reynold’s Revelation Space Trilogy, especially the second book that discussed how the advanced human civilizations found a way to suppress inertia, allowing themselves to turn their ships’ masses to near negligible and thus come closer to the speed of light. However, this had dire consequences that were highly unsettling – I’ll post an excerpt to explain just how unsettling, but I’ll put it under a spoiler for those that may not want to view a spoiler.
Highlight to see spoiler: “You’re saying her Mercier really existed?” [Clavain said.]
“Yes, I am. At which point I found myself faced with two possibilities. Either Sukhoi was somehow aware of the dead Mercier’s life story, and for one reason or another chose to believe that he had not in fact died, or that she was actually telling the truth.”
“But that isn’t possible.”
“I rather think it may be, Mr. Clavain. I think everything Pauline Sukhoi told me may have been the literal truth; that in some way we can’t quite comprehend, Yves Mercier never died for her. That she worked with him, here in the room you have left, and that Mercier was present when the accident happened.”
“But Mercier did die. You’ve seen the records yourself.”
“But suppose he didn’t. Suppose that he survived the Melding Plague, went on to work on general quantum-vacuum theory, and eventually attracted my attention. Suppose also that he ended up working with Sukhoi, together on the same experiment, exploring the less stable state transitions. And suppose then that there was an accident, one that involved a shift to a very dangerous state indeed. According to Sukhoi, Mercier was much closer to the field generator than she was when it happened.”
“It killed him.”
“More than that, Mr. Clavain. It made him cease to have existed.” H watched Clavain and nodded with tutorly patience. “It was as if his entire life story, his entire world-line, had been unstitched from our reality, right back to the point when he was killed during the Melding Plague. That, I suppose, was the most logical point at which he could have died in our mutual world-line, the one you and I share.”
“But not for Sukhoi,” Clavain said.
“No, not for her. She remember how things had been before. I suppose she was close enough to the focus that her memories were entangled, knotted-up with the prior version of events. When Mercier was erased, she nonetheless retained her memories of him. So she was not mad at all, not remotely delusional. She was merely the witness to an event so horrific that it transcends all understanding. Does it chill you, Mr. Clavain, to think than an experiment could have this outcome?” From Chapter 22 of Redemption Ark.
In this excerpt, the characters are discussing a fantastical technology that allows them to “suck some of the inertia out of matter,” which lowers the mass of an object, allowing it to draw closer to the speed of light without dramatic effects on the lives of the people inside the bubble created by this technology. However, in the excerpt I quoted, the characters encounter the dire consequences of pushing this technology too far; the reasons why one should never try to travel at the speed of light or faster than it. As one of the characters says in Chapter 22, “It is not that it [traveling faster than the speed of light] is impossible, merely that it is very, very inadvisable.”
This conversation Clavain and H have discusses the merits of the inertia-suppressing engines as well as some of its major drawbacks. The important concept revealed in this example is that with each technology there is a set of risks and benefits, and so there cannot exist a mechanism that does not have both a benefit and a consequence. Reynold’s did an excellent job of devising a fascinating and unsettling consequence to a powerful technology – a consequence so dire that it may outweigh the benefits of that fantastical technology. This is an important aspect of world-building when it comes to creating technology in science fiction – or even spells/abilities/magical objects in a magical system for fantasy.
If the database idea of spacetime is viable, then I could essentially use it to help explain some of the more interesting aspects of my Elivera World’s technology and altered human Abilities. Even if it my professor finds it too crazy to take seriously, that doesn’t mean I can’t still explore it within science fiction since the whole idea itself would be ridiculously hard to prove or disprove. This is where I find my physics training to be highly useful in my science fiction world-building.