0505: "A Bunch of Rocks"

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Green9090 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:40 am UTC

Felltir wrote:
Ivan227 wrote:oh god what is this i don't even


One hell of a post.

His FIRST post, no less! :lol:
Belial wrote:A man with more arms than the entire hindu pantheon and thirty goddamn dicks has no time for logic! He must consume ever more bacon to fuel his incalculable manhood!

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby shagie » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:42 am UTC

WhitePanther wrote:I'm not surprised that there are many people here saying that they were thinking of the same thing recently. I think nearly everyone who seriously studies Computer Science eventually has a similar realization/fantasy.


The Tao of Programming wrote:Grand Master Turing once dreamed that he was a machine. When he awoke he exclaimed:

``I don't know whether I am Turing dreaming that I am a machine, or a machine dreaming that I am Turing!''

And now I realize why the weekend is only two days long...
Thus spake the master programmer:

``After three days without programming, life becomes meaningless.''

A new truth is found with each reading.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Nimnio » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:47 am UTC

GusPatsy wrote:And for those of you who say you were just thinking about this, you're a bunch of liars. I too was pondering the idea of a universal computer today, as I often do, and even the idea that there would be no difference between myself and simulated computer beings, but there's nothing depressing about that idea. It's completely different when everything is just rocks.

The difference, as I see it, is that computing today is aiming toward using the fundamental particles of the universe for faster, better processing. In order to build an accurate simulation of a universe in this model, a perfectly accurate simulation in which truly intelligent beings could evolve, you would have to use those fundamental particles to represent themselves. Your computer would have to be as large and complex as the universe it's simulating. In other words, it wouldn't be a simulation but an actual universe.


I don't see the difference. We already don't see the universe "as it really is": the electromagnetic spectrum alone is proof of that. Sure, we use tools and theories to see the universe in different ways, e.g. radio telescopes, theory of relativity, bunch of rocks, etc., but even if any of those viewpoints turned out to be the "one true" viewpoint, it wouldn't affect the validity of the other perspectives (not excluding the possibility of outright scientific refutation, e.g. heliocentrism replaces geocentrism). 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.

Gracenotes wrote:Interestingly, if the comic depicted the universe, then the entire universe can be described as {0,1}* (either a stone is in a given place or it isn't) which has a bijection on the real numbers, so therefore the entire universe at a point in time could be described by one number between 0 and 1.


Well, yes. There are infinite numbers and infinite universe states, therefore any state could be uniquely identified by a single number. Kind of useless, really. Oh, and by the way, the current state of the universe is 84892891.569945. Record that for posterity.
Last edited by Nimnio on Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:51 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Wehpudicabok » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:48 am UTC

In my humble noobish opinion, I think this is probably the best comic ever. Of any strip, not just xkcd.

I mean, wow, Randall. Just wow.

And funny too! The joke at the end was brilliant!

We're all in this program together, folks. It's nice to see there are people out there who can see that.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Heuristics » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:16 am UTC

Nice comic. As a Computer Science student with a small interest in cellular automata I have contemplated something similar in the past, though for me it was an infinitely large abacus-like machine controlled by a human and not stones in the desert but the two ideas are effectivly the same.
The problem I came to that made me give up the idea though was that the human could always be considdered as a local hidden variable in the system and modern physics has rules against that (Bell's theorem), the system could therefore not simulate the radioactive decay of an unstable atom so I could never quite get it to work out, but the stick figure in the comic might have found a new kind of science that could make that a reality?

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby yaPete » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:22 am UTC

doogly wrote:To simulate the universe in real time you'd need a quantum computer. Then again, desert guy seems a lot smarter than I.


He's not simulating it in real time. Each interaction of fundamental particles takes a "blur" of aeons, so he's operating unimaginably more slowly. But he has infinite time, so so what?

Pete

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby phlip » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:32 am UTC

Nimnio wrote:There are infinite numbers and infinite universe states, therefore any state could be uniquely identified by a single number.

Infinities do not work that way.

But that is a discussion for another thread (indeed... several other threads, so far).

Code: Select all

enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
[he/him/his]

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Gracenotes » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:34 am UTC

Nimnio wrote:
Gracenotes wrote:Interestingly, if the comic depicted the universe, then the entire universe can be described as {0,1}* (either a stone is in a given place or it isn't) which has a bijection on the real numbers, so therefore the entire universe at a point in time could be described by one number between 0 and 1.


Well, yes. There are infinite numbers and infinite universe states, therefore any state could be uniquely identified by a single number. Kind of useless, really. Oh, and by the way, the current state of the universe is 84892891.569945. Record that for posterity.

My thinking was more that the number directly described the state of the universe, such that you could take the number and generate a universe from it. So, 84892891.569945 would be a rather limited universe in that view. I thought it was somewhat interesting because this wouldn't be true if the states were itself made up of an infinite number of real numbers, instead of an infinite number of 0's and 1's. That is, if our universe at can't be described by a sequence of 0's and 1's, then the whole thing *couldn't* be described by a number.

Basically, the idea of applying computability theory to a universe tickles my fancy, although perhaps my example isn't the most rousing.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby SolkaTruesilver » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:34 am UTC

just think of the magnitude. Every fraction of second in an itteration, and each particules has it places. How large is each itteration?!?!?

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby ron_mega » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:35 am UTC

Although this has already been said at least one time in this thread: Beautiful. One of my favourites in a long time.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Prometheus II » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:35 am UTC

I think I spotted an exploitable security flaw in that code.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby janezd » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:37 am UTC

Nice, but not very original. I remember reading the same story some twenty years ago, about somebody stuck in nothingness, who began thinking and thinking ... and when he had everything planned, he said "let there be light". The computation part is covered by W. Daniel Hillis, whose book related to this comic not only describes alternative implementations of computers, but is coincidentally titled "The Pattern on the Stone". The idea of the whole universe being just a simulation is, of course, an old one; perhaps the best known classic fiction story on that topic is one of the stories in Stanislaw Lem's "The Star Diaries".

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby phlip » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:41 am UTC

Trivial point: the cellular automaton being used is Wolfram's Rule 110. Rule 34 probably would've been funnier, given the alt text, but then it isn't nearly as pretty or complicated-looking, so I can understand why it wouldn't be used.

Code: Select all

enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby rockym93 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:47 am UTC

HenryS wrote:The Swiss patent office reference implies that desert guy is Einstein.

Not necessarily. It's just implying that Einstein had an office full of awfully interesting patents to deal with as well as creating modern physics, whereas this guy just has some sand and some rocks... no distractions = better theories.

janezd wrote:Nice, but not very original. I remember reading the same story some twenty years ago, about somebody stuck in nothingness, who began thinking and thinking ... and when he had everything planned, he said "let there be light".

Could similar simulations be run in say, a story? It's essentially the same thing (a simulation of a universe with certain parameters), just at a higher level of abstraction (ie, your brain does the low level stuff for you, you just write the story... or comic...). If this is the case then the rock man does in fact exist, within the simulated universe of Randall's imagination, and we should pray that the Black Hat Guy never finds a way to escape his simulated prison...

Hi, by the way.
"It's kinda fun to do the impossible" - Walt Disney

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Feste » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:57 am UTC

After reading through the replies so far, I am both impressed by the discussions, entertained by the various theories put forth...and surprised that only one person has so far detailed a way in which to make it porn. This is the internet people! Why are you thinking?

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Nemphael » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:00 am UTC

I finally have a reason to say the renowned "Randall, get out of my head!". Yay. ^^ I think about this kind of stuff every now and then. It helps keeping me awake at night.

I wonder whether the post we make in this thread, that is letters/binary code, could escalate to a universe.

So far I'm disappointed by my post. I drank ice coffee, go dam nit. D=

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Angua » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:14 am UTC

Wow, I don't know what I would do if I was in that desert.

Loved the comic, it was amazing :)
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby JohnJimJoeBob » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:20 am UTC

janezd wrote:Nice, but not very original. I remember reading the same story some twenty years ago, about somebody stuck in nothingness, who began thinking and thinking ... and when he had everything planned, he said "let there be light". The computation part is covered by W. Daniel Hillis, whose book related to this comic not only describes alternative implementations of computers, but is coincidentally titled "The Pattern on the Stone". The idea of the whole universe being just a simulation is, of course, an old one; perhaps the best known classic fiction story on that topic is one of the stories in Stanislaw Lem's "The Star Diaries".


I believe the first story you're referring to is "The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov, although it's hardly the same story as this one.

I've believed for some time in a deterministic universe, considering all interactions follow a strict set of physical laws. Chance and choice are a myth, or at least misunderstood. Obviously one can be presented with multiple options, but the choice between them has been predetermined by the laws of physics.

First post. I've been reading this comic for far too long to not join this forum. Wootz.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby grythyttan » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:22 am UTC

Did anyone else expect it to end in a really bad pun?
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby luff » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:43 am UTC

It's great to see that this idea is spreading. Imagine having an infinite, but empty HDD. What would you do with it? Start filling it of course, would be a waste otherwise. Fill it with what? Calculating PI or prime numbers get boring after a while. It would be nice to be surprised, but there isn't much beauty in pure chaos either. Since we have all this space there is no need to worry about efficiency. Time is of lesser importance too, since we have all the time in the world(heh). Fractals are pretty, but a little too predictable. Maybe add a bunch of other rules to it to make it more random, while not slipping away to chaos. I wonder how a good program for generating new information would look like...

Don't worry about what's real or simulated. Is a song fake? Is a computer game fake? A picture? An experience? No, all these are a forms of information. Information is the source of all value. The more and the more unique/new, the better.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby TjOeNeR » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:17 am UTC

Hehe, this was a comic I really enjoyed.

Keep up the good work.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby hamaryns » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:19 am UTC

phlip wrote:Trivial point: the cellular automaton being used is Wolfram's Rule 110. Rule 34 probably would've been funnier, given the alt text, but then it isn't nearly as pretty or complicated-looking, so I can understand why it wouldn't be used.


Hm, I rather think it is a typo, and he meant Rule 30. Does Randall ever comment on his comics?
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better than beethoven

Postby dragon and tiger » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:20 am UTC

This strip is the ninth symphony of webcomics, and it's also one of the most xcdian strip. I'm glad to have been there when it was published.

(by the way tmy own webcomic is dragon and tiger.blogspot.com, i hope this note doesn't break any rules, i haven't read them because the link jack saladin put is dead)m

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby luketheduke » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:30 am UTC

Poor lonely guy :(
I hope he has the courage to start communicating with his creation.
As long as I know how to love / I know I'll stay alive /
'cause I've got all my life to live / and I've got all my love to give / and I'll survive /
I will survive

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Lackey » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:45 am UTC

luketheduke wrote:Poor lonely guy :(
I hope he has the courage to start communicating with his creation.


Out of all of the replies so far in this post, this is by far the sweetest :)

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Aaron Haynes » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:58 am UTC

You are suspiciously good at illustrating my daydreams. I've had a lot of different variations on this one.

In one, a group of people exist on an infinite plane near one endless wall that distributes a single pill for each of them once a day. The pills give them the nutrients they need to stay alive. They can't share them or break them in half or stockpile them. Every day, the slots that appear to distribute the pills are spaced slightly further apart on the wall. As time goes on, the people in the group will inevitably be spread too far out to walk the increasing distance to visit each other, until they'll just have a solitary existence.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby luketheduke » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:05 am UTC

Lackey wrote:
luketheduke wrote:Poor lonely guy :(
I hope he has the courage to start communicating with his creation.


Out of all of the replies so far in this post, this is by far the sweetest :)


Hehe.
The only problem is: If he screws it up, his world will end up with Ultraconservative Christians again (you know, the whole talking-through-burning-bushes and offer-me-your-children thing. SO prehistoric ages.).
As long as I know how to love / I know I'll stay alive /
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby TheStranger » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:26 am UTC

Ever now and then there is an XKCD comic that makes me stop and go "wow".... this definitely goes pretty high on that list.
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" (little nitpick with the rollover text)

Postby handofpwn » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:30 am UTC


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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby BorisTheBrave » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:41 am UTC

Noo, I thought people here were meant to good at physics. Doesn't Bell's theorem imply that it's impossible to simulate the universe with a deterministic computer, such as cellular automata. There is no way to just "work out the kinks", unless you mean overruling some of our present, experimentally verified, understanding (i.e. locality) by thought experiments in the desert.

Also, his computer cannot handle real numbers, which our universe has in abundance. Just to type in a single real number into his computer would require an infinite amount of rocks, so he'd never finish to get onto the next step. Not insurmountable, by using arbitrary precision rationals, but the fact that his computer has a countable number of states he can put it in, while we usually presume our universe has an uncountable number of states, has some interesting implications.

Yes, I had to sign up to the forum just to make this point. I've come close before though, on some other strips with boners in them.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby m.r.stone » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:46 am UTC

janezd wrote:Nice, but not very original. I remember reading the same story some twenty years ago, about somebody stuck in nothingness, who began thinking and thinking ... and when he had everything planned, he said "let there be light". The computation part is covered by W. Daniel Hillis, whose book related to this comic not only describes alternative implementations of computers, but is coincidentally titled "The Pattern on the Stone". The idea of the whole universe being just a simulation is, of course, an old one; perhaps the best known classic fiction story on that topic is one of the stories in Stanislaw Lem's "The Star Diaries".

JohnJimJoeBob wrote:I believe the first story you're referring to is "The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov, although it's hardly the same story as this one.


It is indeed "The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov. http://filer.case.edu/dts8/thelastq.htm If you're an Asimov fan like myself you'll probably love it, and even if you're not you should enjoy it. It was one of his personal favorites, ranking up with "Nightfall."

Anyways, I'm currently pulling an all-nighter to write a paper for a crap philosophy class at my college, and I much prefer Randall's perspective on the universe in this strip. Just throwing that out there. His makes more sense than my prof's, who enjoys using the concept of a round square in his arguments about the existence of god, over my protests that such a concept is fundamentally wrong and violates actual mathematical definitions. I'll refrain from ranting about it in my first post, but I just want to give Randall mad props for such an amazing existential strip.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Akdor 1154 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:50 am UTC

This model seems to imply there is a non-deterministic point, somewhere; which somewhat bothers me. Yes, our rock-verse is all nice and predictable, but it was created from a non-deterministic God - he just woke up somewhere for no reason. Or he's in another deterministic universe and [it] was created by some random event, etc etc. Somewhere or other this model requires an undeterministic starting point, else (intuition suggests) the universe would be a big fat 0.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Wareya » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:57 am UTC

"God".

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Alfonzo227 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:58 am UTC

Get. out. of. my. head!


I love you, randall.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Titanium Dragon » Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:15 pm UTC

This isn't particularly profound, and I'm not sure why people are oohing so much over this comic. Maybe they want to sound deep, but...

The reality is that this is a very ancient idea. The means of simulation has changed, but the idea has not. This is a very depression mode of it, though - laying out stones in a desert for that long would be awfully boring. There's probably better things you could do with your time anyway, even though you do have an infinite amount of it.

The fictional story linked to, about the quantum simulations, is purely fiction. The reality is that we cannot construct such a device in our own universe, and as such, its not a particularly realistic portrayl of such. Indeed, it would take another universe worth to simulate our universe, which means the universe above must have immensely more resources than we do (though Planck Time COULD be an indication of being a simulation).

It would be fairly easy to figure out if you're inside a simulation though - send a pulse down the line. For each pulse you receive, there's one universe above yours. Thus you could know whether you're the 1,548,857th. Interestingly, as long as some universe above you noticed you doing this, you could thus transmit information upwards as well, until you reach the point at which no one is paying attention or no one is willing to do so.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby tanvach » Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:17 pm UTC

Strangely beautiful. Thank you.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Akdor 1154 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:23 pm UTC

Me wrote:which somewhat bothers me

Illustration: sorry!
oh shi.png
oh shi.png (37.46 KiB) Viewed 7543 times


EDIT: Or does rock-man occupy that handy-looking space? Is my inability to visualize a world with different/no mathematics an indication that maths is all-pervasive, or a limitation of this simulation?
Last edited by Akdor 1154 on Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:27 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Dezign » Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:25 pm UTC

One of the wonderful things about art is its capacity to identify and exemplify thoughts common to many people, who otherwise wouldn't be able to express those thoughts succinctly... As if the artist is speaking a clearer kind of language.

Or maybe that's one of the wonderful things about Randall.

In either case, it is now clear this capacity is so powerful, we must isolate what gives rise to it and extract it for the good of humanity. :twisted:

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby makaveli » Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:40 pm UTC

Think that's a stretch? Try army's basic training. Everything is framed into minutes and seconds, time is no longer a continuous flow, all is subjected to the sergeant's will.

Anyway, at least I know what happened to all those missing socks.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Alpha Omicron » Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:44 pm UTC

As a cellular automata freak, I thoroughly love this comic.
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