The Universal Hologram

One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1999 film called 'The Thirteenth Floor'. In that movie, the principle character, Douglas Hall, descends into his company's virtual reality simulation to discover information about the murder of his real life business partner.

Entering the simulation, he eventually finds a letter from the dead man. The letter advises Douglas to do something strange: Once out of the virtual reality simulation, he is to get into his car and drive to some distant wildnerness spot that he's both never been to before and has had no plans to visit previously.

When he picks his spot and goes there, he is shocked to discover that he has driven to the end of the 'world'; the horizon beyond is a mere computer-generated wireframe skeleton. Douglas Hall discovers that his 'real life' is a simulation, even more detailed and more intricate than the one produced by his company.

I think you may already surmise where I'm going with this article. Having been heavily involved with current online virtual reality worlds (technically, they're 3d Chat worlds; they won't qualify as true virtual reality worlds until I can visit one and actually SMELL a rose), I know a little about how the character of Douglas Hall must have felt when he stumbled out of his car and saw the wireframed horizon in front of him.

The film poster for this movie, coincidentally, has the same phrase stamped across it that has been my own personal mantra for well over thirty-six years now : 'Question Everything'.

It was a fabulous movie, to me, at least. It didn't fare well in the cinemas, at the time, though it has attracted a fairly decent cult following, since then. The movie, though fiction, made you think. It opened up a 'door' in your mind, just a crack, and made you ask questions about your own reality and your own life that most people would never dare to give voice to.

Do we, like Mr. Douglas Hall, also live in a simulation, albeit one that is incredibly complex, detailed, and camouflaged? What DOES happen when one of your characters in the game 'The Sims 3' suddenly and unexpectedly looks up towards your monitor with questioning eyes?

Keep in mind: I can't prove that our world is a computer simulation. But there is interesting and, at times amazingly eery, circumstantial evidence to that possibility. If you're not convinced of that, take a weekend off, hit the library, and read a science magazine about some of the recent discoveries in the field of Quantum Physics. Then read the ensuing and often heated discussions between various scientists in the field as they argue the topic and how its recent discoveries threaten to throw conventional science into a tailspin.

One famous experiment I read about involved shooting subatomic 'particles' through a specially designed 'wall' with five gates. When the experiment was performed and the results recorded automatically by computer, the outcome was as expected by the scientists: The particles flew through each of the five gates in apparent random fashion.

However, when the experiment was monitored by direct observation, an amazing thing occurred: All the particles went through only ONE GATE.

And the gate that the particles would travel through was the one assumed to be the target by the observer prior to the beginning of the experiment. The direct observation of the experiment drastically changed the expected results. The thought directed the reality, it would seem.

A somewhat eccentric but wise jewish carpenter is purported to have taught about something similar to this, some two thousand years ago. That man called the observation and its ability to directly affect reality 'faith' and claimed that if one had enough of this 'faith', you could speak to mountains and cast them into the ocean.

I've never witnessed a mountain being spoken into the ocean, nor have I ever been able to observe and direct the motion of something far less complex, like an ocean wave or an open flame. But if the observations of Quantum Physics ultimately are also true on a much larger scale, than the universe we live in may someday be proven to be rather drastically different than what we've always believed it to be, and some key concepts of our reality may have to be re-evaluated.

Have you ever set your car keys on the kitchen table, turned to speak to someone briefly, and then found them gone when you turned back? You search every room in the house, and ultimately you find your lost car keys, just in time to get to work.

You find them on top of the kitchen table, right where you left them. Perhaps that is a weak example, for this discussion, but as a software developer it almost makes sense, to me: For a brief moment in time, some process failed, for one reason or another, to properly refresh the 'visible' property of the key object...

Again, this is mere speculation, not a statement of fact. I can't prove this. But knowing that doesn't hinder the opportunity to go about my life and examine the world from a different set of eyes, and a different perspective, do they? Isn't that how MOST world-shaking and revolutionary discovers begin?

Many hundreds of years ago, the entire civilized world thought that the planet Earth was the center of our solar system. A man named Copernicus looked up into the heavens and found an alternative possibility, that the Sun was the center of our solar system. He was a very hated man for that 'heresy', for awhile.

A few hundred years back, an adventurer, well versed in the works of Homer, found an incredibly large and strangely shaped hill in Turkey. He declared it to be the covered remains of a large city mentioned in Homer's 'Illiad'. Of course, the contemporary scientific community, by and large, declared him to be mad and scoffed at his claims. The ancient manuscript he used as the basis for finding this large hill was FABLE, not FACT. They depicted this questioning man, not as an archeologist, but as a buffon much in the likes of our modern day 'Indiana Jones'.

He was not dissuaded. That 'quack' dug up that hill and found the city of Troy underneath the strange shaped hill. He saw that hill with a new pair of eyes, and the 'reality' of what was there changed in front of him. Suddenly, what could be SEEN wasn't neccessarily what was THERE, and ancient texts once thought to be FABLES turned out to be FACT.

At this point, perhaps the character Douglas Hall from the movie 'The Thirteenth Floor' might just ponder, like I do, the possibility that what Heinrich Schliemann discovered under that strange shaped mound BECAME FACT directly because of his thought and observation. Perhaps his expectations prior to his dig resulted in the discover of Troy just as much as the dig ultimately did.

Cities that do not exist, suddenly exist. Keys that are lost, become visible again, and in the same place they were originally lost. Matter is both a wave or a particle at the same time, or perhaps they're always a wave, but in the form of a 'standing circular wave', which would simulate the mass and resistant force of a particle.

We live in a strange universe, it would seem, and not even the most logical 'cause and effect' scientist would deny that, nowadays. Quantum Physics destroyed that luxury of thought forever, when it discovered matter acting as both a wave and a particle, particles seperated by billions of miles somehow acting in instantaneous 'synchronicity' with each other, and subatomic particles that reach their destinations before their journeys even begin....

A favorite joke of mine:

A bartender looks up from the bar and yells towards the door. "Hey, YOU! Get your ass out of here: we don't ALLOW faster than light particles in our establishment!

A quark walks into a bar....

The moral of this fractured tale might be the same phrase emblazoned on the movie poster of 'The Thirteenth Floor' - Question Everything. To do that, of course, you have to look at apparently normal situations and objects from a brand new perspective; you have to 'step outside of your comfort zone' just a little bit and be willing to consider alternative possibilities to nearly anything you encounter.

It's a brave journey, but an enjoyable one: It's the beginning of true discovery and true knowledge. Always remember: True education and discovery isn't ALL about rote memory of existing knowledge. Sometimes it's about mixing two strange chemicals, just for the hell of it, and blowing up a lab beaker or two...

And who knows: One of us might just get lucky, one day, and find ourselves stepping through the veil that hides the numerous dimensions of our own universe from this one, and do it without experiencing Death, as well. In the movie, the character Douglas Hall stopped at the border between his reality and the end of the simulation.

I truly believe I'd gladly step right through. And what a grand adventure that journey would be, don't you think?