0505: "A Bunch of Rocks"

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dennisw
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby dennisw » Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:52 pm UTC

Eugo wrote:Can they [electrons] move continuously, or do they teleport in the "erase me here, draw me there" manner?


No.
Try the Printifier for xkcd. You can now scale the comic between 50 and 150%.

I find these very useful: Common Errors in English Usage (web site) and Eats, Shoots & Leaves (book). You may, too.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby dennisw » Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:54 pm UTC

moody7277 wrote:So basically, the uncertainty principle is just round-off error?


No, it's Sadistics.
Try the Printifier for xkcd. You can now scale the comic between 50 and 150%.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby DeadCatX2 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:58 pm UTC

There are some threads which are good reads in the context of this comic.

I started a thread in Serious Business some time ago regarding whether Planck length/time insinuated the existence of a discrete spacetime. I think it has some awesome responses.

Then I helped hijack another thread on Free Will. "Perfect knowledge" is knowing the true rules of physics and the position of every particle in the universe with infinite precision, much like our rock-laying computer scientist in the comic. God then attends to every particle, moving each one in accordance with true physics (much like the sixth-from-the-last panel), and when finished with that time increments one step, and then God proceeds to visit every particle again.

Omniscience is God with perfect knowledge. Omnipotence is true physics (not our imperfect approximation of "human physics") affecting everything everywhere all the time. Observations are made by something even in the absence of a sentient being to perform measurements; Schrödinger's Cat would never be dead and alive at the same time, because God is always making an observation. You may have been given free will but God knows what you're going to do with it because something has to know the configuration of the particles in your brain or you would cease to exist. Unless your brain is made of neurons that do not implement true physics, that something will know the end result of any neural calculation you could ever make.

I don't wish to impart the connotation of Christianity or other major religions into this discussion. I personally believe God is everything, the data representing the current state (and every previous state), the rules, the emergent behavior of particles working together to make atoms and molecules and cells and organisms and social behaviors. Take out any one piece of it and you have something less than God, and it is only the combined existence of every particle that God exists. God is benevolent when a door is held open for the person behind another and God is wicked when one gets cut off in traffic, even if these things happen at the same time in different places.


dsutton wrote:No, it makes sense. I've sometimes wondered if the Planck time might be the time step in the while(1) loop of the universe.

Code: Select all

while(1) {
  State = RulesOfPhsyics(State); // Move every particle everywhere according to Physics
  time += Planck_time;           // Increment time
}



GusPatsy wrote:I could be nothing but a bunch of fucking rocks, or the mindless tapping of one of those Shakespeare monkeys at a typewriter for that matter. That's depressing.

I doubt you're the result of a Shakespeare monkey. I have not yet seen you exhibit any symptoms of schizophrenia.


Mazzula wrote:That is, a computer program doesn't know what its current state is, it only knows the state as a function of some index, but it has no way of knowing what the value of the index actually is. The whole idea of a particular state being current is a function of human awareness--we distinguish a particular state of the universe as being "now" and whatever state the program is in during that overall state of the universe we think of as the current state.

A Mealy Machine is a finite state machine (= computer program) that chooses its output based on its current state and its input.

Further, memory is based on the very principle of a computer knowing its current state. Without such a feedback loop coming from the output of a NOR/NAND gate to one of its inputs, you couldn't make a flip flop. No CPU registers, no L1/L2/L3 cache, no DRAM.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Yla » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:02 pm UTC

This comic is great. I am in awe by this picture of an old-yet-always-fascinating concept. The last gag made me laugh, but in my opinion, it isn't necessary. The comic would have worked for me without the last two panels, simply leaving the implications for the meaning of time for this guy/God. But I don't complain. Everyone can use a good laugh.

dschuetz wrote:"The man in the black hat fled across the desert, and the rock-slinger followed."
ROFL.
Time is a face on the water.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby cheezitman2001 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:04 pm UTC

Easily one of my favorite comics ever. The thought that we exist simply because God had nothing better to do is certainly an interesting one.

dschuetz wrote:"The man in the black hat fled across the desert, and the rock-slinger followed."


Also, I feel obligated to point out that this is the best post in the entire thread. To anyone who's never read The Dark Tower series, this is an incredible read.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby agoodleach » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:05 pm UTC

Do you think Randall meant for his code to be the Sierpenski fractal set -- or that it just happened? :shock:

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Baza210 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:15 pm UTC

Since when is Randall going to lectures nowadays?
Here I'm allowed everything all of the time

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby someone1980 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:32 pm UTC

Thank you. This is your best comic yet.

Is it possible to get a poster of this?

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby rhitglassmaker » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:36 pm UTC

Joby wrote:I, For one, Welcome our new stone moving overloads.


Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby KyrieEleison » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:42 pm UTC

BorisTheBrave wrote:Noo, I thought people here were meant to good at physics.


Not necessarily. There is a group of us - I don't know how big - that are more into the Humanities, yet like xkcd no matter how much the math/programming language makes our heads hurt.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby DeadCatX2 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:52 pm UTC

rhitglassmaker wrote:
Joby wrote:I, For one, Welcome our new stone moving overloads.

Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.

I voted for Ba-rock Obama to be President of the United Simulation of America.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby rtconner » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:11 pm UTC

Well that was dumb of him, if you are going to use rocks as data storage then you could at least do multi-state storage since you are no longer limited by voltage. Gee, for having all the time in the world to think things over, this guy is not very smart.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Ans: 42 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:17 pm UTC

Did anyone esle feel like shedding a tear?

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Hal » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:32 pm UTC

Could we prett, pretty please have this as a poster of some sort? That would be awesome.

All kinds of awesome.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Critical Component » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:41 pm UTC

I did my best to read all of the posts, but this may have already been brought up. The assumption was that a Swiss patent office is not busy, and that the desert is even less busy then that. I took a different meaning to it, that the Swiss patent office is in fact very busy, and what could Einstein have thought of if he did not have the distractions of his job?

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby GusPatsy » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:48 pm UTC

Nimnio wrote:The whole point of the comic, I think, is that there wouldn't be a difference between the universe as we experience it and the underlying mechanisms that make it so. So no, not depressing. A nice creative take on an old idea, sure, but not depressing.


The reason I find it depressing (admittedly, much less so now, in the light of day) is that there wouldn't be a difference. Not only am I simply a product, and indeed a slave, of simple cause and effect I might simply be a bunch of rocks. Of course it's purely academic, I don't for a second think there's an actual chance of that being the case, it's just the fact that things wouldn't be any different. My life and experiences are no fuller or more real than if I was a conglomeration of binary rocks.

DeadCatX2 wrote:I doubt you're the result of a Shakespeare monkey. I have not yet seen you exhibit any symptoms of schizophrenia.


The whole point about shakespeare monkeys is that they'd do everything. Due to the nature of infinity, they would create, along with an infinite amount of the disorderly stuff that you'd expect, an infinite amount of perfectly ordered stuff.
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GusPatsy wrote:I would like a title that references something I don't get, and would take hours to figure out, eventually leaving me disappointed.


"Sex"

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Chfan » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:52 pm UTC

In my opinion, this deserves to go along with some of the older ones as one of the greatest xkcd comics of all time. I just loved the mood, concept, and execution. Bravo, Randall.
Just FYI, the guy isn't avatar isn't me. But he seems pretty cool.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Tarquinius » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:00 pm UTC

I have to say that this is possible my favourite xkcd so far.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Zachariah » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:09 pm UTC

To glfive and everyone who said they were thinking this same thing, add me. I was pondering some bizarre Heath Robinson-style contraption that is constantly whirring and buzzing away, shuffling the eggs and marbles that represent our particles.

Specifically, I was wondering how exactly you or I, as a collection of data points in a simulation, could ever discover this fact or somehow alter it.

Long story short - you couldn't. Sims can only do what the maker of the simulation allows them to do. Let's say that our Master Programmer decides to arrange a bunch of galaxies in the sky to spell out "Hey, you're all in my universe! What do you think of your free will now, assholes?" What are we going to do about it? In one sense it could be depressing, but it's also a profound call to live your life to the fullest, because it doesn't matter either way.

If you liked that tiny short about the quantum simulator, you'll love this.

Also something worth thinking about is that humans have a tendency to perceive the universe as a construct. We started with religious ones, which lasted quite a while, then for a short time it looked like the universe might be clockwork, and now that our dominant paradigm is the computer, we're all convinced we're in one. Just wait for the next big thing to be discovered, and all this will seem as quaint as arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Master Gunner » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:19 pm UTC

I read the comic, found it poetic and philosophical, then read the alt-text, and burst out laughing. Well done, Randell!

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby straight » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:28 pm UTC

There's probably better things you could do with your time anyway, even though you do have an infinite amount of it.


Yes, and given the infinite time available, we can presume that the character did all of them, every single thing that was a better use of his time, before starting in on this project.

Folks have mentioned that this is similar to the idea in Greg Egan's story "Wang's Carpet" which also appears as a chapter in in the novel Diaspora, but no one has yet noted that Egan's book Permutation City contains a version of this story more like it than any of the other novels / stories anyone has mentioned.

Permutation City also deals with Mazzula's objection that you don't actually need to put the rocks in the sand, since the mathematical patterns represented by the rocks exist whether you notate them with rocks or not. Which is to say that if it's possible for a universe to "exist" because it's being simulated on a computer, then all possible universes already exist in that way.

Imagine that, instead of using rocks, the character in the story painted individual grains of sand black or white without disturbing them. Next imagine that instead of actually painting them black or white, he just walks by and thinks about painting each grain either black or white as appropriate. Next imagine that he stares at the sand in front of him and thinks for a moment about the rules by which he would designate a given grain of sand as "black" or "white" but doesn't actually go though and assign a state to each grain. Which of these scenarios would cause the simulated universe to exist (or to perceive itself to exist as we perceive ourselves to exist) and why?

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby xx3nvyxx » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:50 pm UTC

Direct off /b/, rule 34 of Wolfram's rule 34.

/dead image :(

Enjoy
Last edited by xx3nvyxx on Wed Sep 19, 2012 6:56 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Siguy » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:58 pm UTC

I loved this comic. I am quite existential (though not religious) and I found the god analog quite fascinating. Really mind boggling possibilities.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Penguino » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:17 pm UTC

'; DROP DATABASE;-- wrote:Excellent comic. Also, I have work in the morning, college in the afternoon, so nevermind morning lectures dragging on... <_< This also explains why time seems to go faster at certain times of the day. He's moving faster. :P

I think there's a semicolon missing though. (OH SHI-) "Physics too; I worked out the kinks"
JonMW wrote:One wonders if he had to tackle with some equivalent of the Y2K bug.

*edit*

Also: What would YOU do if you were in his position?

I think I'd carve rocks and draw in the sand. And write.
Maybe try to make a musical instrument.
Assuming I life for all eternity in an infinite space, I guess I would do everything physically possible an infinite number of times. Statistics are funny like that.

Emphasis mine. I think I disagree with you here. Suppose we can represent time by the half open interval [imath][0, \infty[[/imath] (I'm not sure if this is a good representation, I'm not a physicist. However, the following argument can be easily generalized if this assumption doesn't hold.)
The argument is by contradiction, so suppose you will do everything physically possible. Now, the activity "Thinking about a subset A of the reals and not thinking about any other subset of the reals." is of course physically possible. So for every subset A of the reals, this gives a time [imath]t(A)>=0[/imath] at which you will think about this subset, and of no subset but A. But this is an injection (because we think of at most one subset a time) from the powerset of the reals into the reals itself, which is impossible because the powerset has a larger cardinality. Contradiction.
For the generalisation we (hopefully) can suppose that time can be representated by some set T, and we consider the same activity but now A is a subset of T instead. Again, performing all these activities is impossible! So you will not be able to do everything physically possible once, let alone infinitily often.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Zachariah » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:23 pm UTC

Sounds like some people's infinities are shorter than others...

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Ptolom » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:24 pm UTC

I read about CAs for the first time a few days ago. Good thing I did or I wouldn't appreciate the brilliance of this comic.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Mr. Beck » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:29 pm UTC

This was one of the rare comics that had me jumping out of my chair and running through the house laughing. I want the poster.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Kaiyas » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:00 pm UTC

Now that's real programming.
Image
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Mazzula » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:02 pm UTC

DeadCatX2 wrote:Further, memory is based on the very principle of a computer knowing its current state. Without such a feedback loop coming from the output of a NOR/NAND gate to one of its inputs, you couldn't make a flip flop. No CPU registers, no L1/L2/L3 cache, no DRAM.

I don't think your objection hits the mark. You can make all of those things simply by knowing what the output should be when the inputs are in a given state, there is know need to know if that state is the current state.

To put it another way. The things you described show that it is important to know what is the case at some time, t, but do not show that it is necessary to know if that time t is the time we call "now".

To put it yet another way, clearly I know that flip-flops work, so clearly your objection couldn't have been addressing my comment.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby daphreak » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:06 pm UTC

Rule 34?

Image

I think it had to be done.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby 10nitro » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:28 pm UTC

Feste wrote:This is the internet people! Why are you thinking?

Leave. /b/tards aren't welcome here. lol.

When I was 8 I began to wonder if this is truly reality, or if I'm a brain in a jar, a computer program, or just a dream? I explored this concept through a series of though experiments. Now I didn't know any of the related math or physics, but I came to a near-full understating of the infiniteness of this set of ideas.* Now, I say "near-full" because every now and then, a small minor epiphany would happen, but this didn't change the basis of my understanding. As my knowledge grows, interesting realizations or thoughts may be had, such as plank time being an iteration of a while() loop.** However, there are infinitely many scenarios may be presented, and are fundamentally understood, and they thus offer infinitely many interesting implications, so it must be understood and expected that I would never encounter them all. This was part of my understanding. Much (infinite, actually) interesting conversation may spawn from these thoughts. This being said, many people's arguments in these scenarios seem frustrating and idiotic, they fail to grasp some of these concepts of infinity, loops, or sheer abstractness.

But this happened when I was like 8, is that bad?

* Nor did Einstein know much of the math for relativity, he arrived at the idea through thought experiments, the math was done by someone else (-12 nerd points (on the Wier scale) for not knowing who off the top of my head).

** Why does everyone insist on using "while" the "default" loop? I much prefer for() loops.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby RanCorp » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:39 pm UTC

dennisw wrote:
Eugo wrote:Can they [electrons] move continuously, or do they teleport in the "erase me here, draw me there" manner?

No.

I'm not sure we know enough to answer that so definitively. For all we know, space is quantized at the Planck scale and that means that in essence there is effectively an integer coordinate system to space (whose geometry is still that of Einsteinan GR). (Giving new meaning to being on or off the grid...)

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby tricky77puzzle » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:57 pm UTC

The classroom lecture listener is God.

They never take that long to pass for me... but then again,l I'm only in Grade 10. I'll have to wait another few years in order to know what he's talking about.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Jere » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:07 pm UTC

Thank you Randall, great comic!
Last edited by Jere on Mon Jan 17, 2011 1:47 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby DeadCatX2 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:20 pm UTC

Mazzula wrote:
DeadCatX2 wrote:Further, memory is based on the very principle of a computer knowing its current state. Without such a feedback loop coming from the output of a NOR/NAND gate to one of its inputs, you couldn't make a flip flop. No CPU registers, no L1/L2/L3 cache, no DRAM.

I don't think your objection hits the mark. You can make all of those things simply by knowing what the output should be when the inputs are in a given state, there is know need to know if that state is the current state.

To put it another way. The things you described show that it is important to know what is the case at some time, t, but do not show that it is necessary to know if that time t is the time we call "now".

To put it yet another way, clearly I know that flip-flops work, so clearly your objection couldn't have been addressing my comment.

I'm not sure where the discrepancy in our separate definitions arises. "Clearly" flip flops work, because their output (i.e. current state, Q, whatever) is fed back to their input so that they can maintain that state. Once the state changes, it is lost forever so that the FF may remember the new state. The only thing a flip flop is ever aware of are its input and the current output; the only time, t, that it cares about is right now.

I suggest looking further into Mealy Finite State Machines. By definition, they need to know their current state right "now".

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Diadem » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:23 pm UTC

RanCorp wrote:
dennisw wrote:
Eugo wrote:Can they [electrons] move continuously, or do they teleport in the "erase me here, draw me there" manner?

No.

I'm not sure we know enough to answer that so definitively. For all we know, space is quantized at the Planck scale and that means that in essence there is effectively an integer coordinate system to space (whose geometry is still that of Einsteinan GR). (Giving new meaning to being on or off the grid...)

RanCorp


Indeed.

I'd even go as far as to say that quantized time and space are philosophically more appealing than continuous time and space. And for the time being, philosophy is the domain where this question belongs. Maybe in the future we'll be able to test it.
It's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I have an independent mind, you are an eccentric, he is round the twist
- Bernard Woolley in Yes, Prime Minister

almightysapling
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby almightysapling » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:31 pm UTC

anonymousislegion wrote:I have a truly marvelous rule 34 of this proposition which this post is too narrow to contain.

(also, it's nsfw.)


love the reference to fermat btw...

i can't help but wonder... what is the driving force of this computer??? he said it uses rocks instead of electricity, but i don't understand what causes it to RUN. any ideas?

Esc7
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Esc7 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:32 pm UTC

Does anybody know what the triangle with dots surrounding it represents or is called? I've been seeing it everywhere lately and I can't figure out what it is. Wish there was some way to search with an image as input on the web.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby almightysapling » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:40 pm UTC

DeadCatX2 wrote:

Code: Select all

while(1) {
  State = RulesOfPhsyics(State); // Move every particle everywhere according to Physics
  time += Planck_time;           // Increment time
}


i don't agree with this code...

if the universe WERE a running program i don't think that time would be a measured variable... it'd be more analogous to the ticks of a computer.

no, it'd be perfectly analogous to the ticks of a computer.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby wbcraid » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:53 pm UTC

Alt Text:I call Rule 34 on Wolfram's Rule 34.


Image


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