Satire on False Perspective. William Hogarth (1754).

Again, those properties

Coincidences like the licence plate number of Franz Ferdinand’s death car being a reference to the end date of World War I suggest that history is a script. Evidence of reincarnation indicates that memories can be storied outside the body. The universe may not be what is appears to be. The scientific approach is to ignore these phenomena as they can’t be reproduced in a laboratory. That doesn’t make these things go away. This universe might be a virtual reality created by an advanced civilisation. But perhaps there are other explanations for these phenomena. Most let go of time or the law of cause and effect.

Our usual way of perceiving events is that something happens on a certain place at a certain time. A place is seen as a constant as time passes. Events in the past have caused events in the present and events in the present cause events in the future. For example, the invasion of the Allies happened in Normandy on 6 June 1944. Normandy is still there but 6 June 1944 is history. The liberation of Western Europe from German occupation is seen as a consequence of D-Day. If D-Day hadn’t happened, history would have taken a different turn. We have time and cause and effect. That makes sense to us.

Some people claim that all points in time are connected in some other way than the past making the present possible and the present making the future possible. A psychiatrist named Karl Jung came up with the idea of a collective consciousness that connects all events via meaning. This could, for instance, explain the evidence of reincarnation. The collective consciousness can put the memories of a deceased person into someone else.

Others think of time as a dimension so that you travel to a time like you can travel to a place, even though nobody ever succeeded in doing that as far as we know. These ideas counter our notion of time as well as cause and effect but so does the theory of relativity. And the theory of relativity proved to be very useful so we consider it to be true.

A reference to the end date of World War I could end up on the licence plate of Franz Ferdinand’s death car because of some connection we do not yet know of. No plausible explanation is given as to what that connection that might be, but perhaps there is some property of the universe that is still unexplained. And maybe both are true. All points in time could be connected in some other way while the concept of causality also applies. Physicists have to work with queer phenomena that are hard to explain. For example, light behaves like particles but also like waves, but waves can’t be particles.

Alternatively, a time traveller could have gone back in time and put the number on the licence plate even though the theory of relativity doesn’t allow for that. Time travel to the future is possible but going back in time creates all kinds of logical problems. For instance, such an action would alter future events. Chaos theory suggests that even the slightest disturbance of the past can cause dramatic changes in the future so that the end date of World War I would change and perhaps the war wouldn’t even start.

So maybe we should let our imagination run free. Anything is possible if we can think of it and can corroborate it with experiments. That is the way science makes progress. A piece of fruit could be an apple as long as you look at it but turn into a banana as soon as you look the other way. And you can never be sure that an apple doesn’t become a banana when nobody watches. Scientists believe things like that if experiments confirm these beliefs. For instance, some particles turn into waves when you don’t observe them. And believing this can bring us energy or other things we desire.

An obvious explanation for the unexplained phenomena and peculiar coincidences like the licence plate number on Franz Ferdinand’s car is that this universe is a virtual reality created by an advanced civilisation. You don’t have to assume anything about the properties of our universe. You only have to believe that the technology to create virtual reality universes can be made cheap and that humans will use this technology once it becomes available. That makes more sense to the human mind than apples turning into bananas. But then again, it is dangerous to assume the obvious. If an apple really turns into a banana when you don’t watch then one plus one doesn’t have to equal two as long as you don’t solve the equation and this universe may be a virtual reality als long as you believe it.

Featured image: Satire on False Perspective. William Hogarth (1754). Public Domain.

Witbreuksweg dormitory

Meaningful coincidences

Is it possible to prove that this universe is a virtual reality created by an advanced civilisation? The properties of this universe can’t be used for that. There may be another way. If coincidences have meaning to us or if coincidences happen that are highly improbable, this may be because an intelligent force is directing events. Perhaps there is even a script. If there is a script then this universe may be created by an advanced civilisation. A script can generate meaningful and peculiar coincidences. And indeed, peculiar coincidences happen, for instance similar extremely rare events happening on the same day.

On 15 July 2011 two television towers in the Netherlands caught fire. One collapsed in a spectacular way. There never had been a fire in a television tower in the Netherlands before while those television towers had been there for more than fifty years. And there are only a few television towers, making such an incident even more improbable. There was some speculation about these incidents having common cause. This is unlikely as these towers are two individual masts in different areas.1

The following happened to me. In 1992 I was making a bike trip in Groningen where I lived back then. While I was on my way a car door suddenly opened just in front of me. I could barely avoid a collision. Some ten minutes later, while I was still on the same trip, it happened again with another car on another road. Remarkably, it never happened before or after this trip that a car door just opened in front of me, even though I made bike trips nearly every day.

Incidents like these might be mere random events. Bizarre accidents happen all the time by chance because so many things happen at the same time that some of them seem bizarre. There is no way of calculating the odds of an event like two television towers catching fire in one country in one day because these events are extremely rare. The probability of each of these events happening is extremely low, but the number of possible rare accidents is extremely high.

But how low and how high? That matters a lot. If there are a million of these events, and the odds of one of them happening on a certain day is one in a million, we shouldn’t be surprised to see such events happening. On average an event like that should happen every day. But if the odds are one in a trillion, and these events happen quite often, we may be on to something, because on average it should happen once in a million days.

We attribute meaning in many different ways and we are not inclined to think of randomness in the case of unusual events. The number of possible meaningful coincidences is close to infinite. It should not suprise us that meaningful coincidences happen. On the other hand, bizarre and meaningful coincidences are more likely to happen to someone but are less likely to happen to me. Several meaningful coincidences happening in one person’s life has more significance than a simple incident like two car doors opening in front of me on the same day.

There were plenty unusual incidents in my life. It seems there is something more. For instance, once I entered a do-it-yourself store. There was a couch near the entrance. The price tag was € 389. This caught my attention because as a student I lived in dormitory 389 on the campus of the University of Twente. Price tags often end with a nine so the incident wasn’t impressive. Then I realised that it would be far more curious to find a price tag of € 401 as I also had lived on domitory 401 and price tags rarely end with a 1.

A few seconds later I ran into a pile of bags of potting soil. These bags had 40l conspicuously printed on them, noting that they contained forty litres of potting soil. That was close enough to 401 to be intriguing. Even more so because dormitory 401 is the place from which I had been evicted by a certain lady who later appeared to be God. And peculiar coincidences referring to her had been happening over the years. There weren’t any other bags to be seen. Potting soil comes in bags of 10, 20, 25, 40 and 50 litres, and bags of 40 litres come with markings like 40L and 40 litres, so the marking 40l is peculiar.

And more was to come. Two years later I came back to the same store. Bags of potting soil with the 40l marking were situated outside near the entrance. This reminded me of the previous incident. There was no couch near the entrance nor did I see a price tag of € 389 there. These things I was contemplating while I proceeded to fetch the item I was planning to buy. The price of this item turned out to be € 3.89.

This scheme is more intricate than two television towers catching fire or two car doors opening in front of you on the same day, most notably because there was a repeating pattern while these incidents also appear to be part of a larger scheme, in this case of a sequence of peculiar coincidences referring to a certain lady I once met when I lived in dormitory 401. The first coincidence was already remarkable. The second one was truly inconceivable if you come to think of it, or perhaps not if you are a sceptic.

Featured image: Number 381 dormitory. University Of Twente (2013). [copyright info]

1. Onderzoek: Hoe konden twee zendmasten vandaag in brand vliegen? Algemeen Dagblad (15-07-2011). [link]

Tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider

Properties of this universe

Either this universe always existed or emerged or it was created by an advanced civilisation. If this universe emerged without an intelligent force creating it, but also if it always existed, it is not created. The other option is that this universe is a virtual reality. In that case it is created. Sadly, it is not possible to do an experiment that will show which option is true. Some people nevertheless believe they can prove that this universe is a virtual reality by demonstrating that underlying properties are digital, meaning that the lowest level of reality is just numbers that can be represented in a computer memory.

How might that work? For instance, a television screen consists of more than a million tiny dots. Every dot has a number. Every dot has a colour. The colour is selected out of a list of colours. Every colour has a unique number too. So every dot has a number and every colour has a number. For example, dot 759,214 might have colour 124,117. From a distance you may see a person, but the lowest level of the television screen is just numbers. You can apply this idea to represent a universe.

The problem with this reasoning is that being digital is a property, not a cause of existence. Perhaps universes that are not created are digital too. The argument of using properties to prove that this universe is a virtual reality comes in different forms. For example, some people claim that in quantum physics reality is a sequence of states with nothing existing or happening between the states. This may signify that reality is generated by a computer. Only, there is no way of knowing whether or not this applies to universes that aren’t generated by a computer.

Other people claim that it is unlikely that this universe emerged by chance. For instance, there is an argument stating that this universe is designed for life because the laws of physics and the values of physical constants seem just right for life to exist. Even if that were true, there may be an unlimited number of universes with different physical laws and constants, and this universe may just be one of them that accidentally is just right.

It seems likely that there are extraterrestrial civilisations in our universe but there is no evidence for the existence of these aliens. This is the Fermi Paradox. “Where is everybody?” the physicist Fermi once asked. Perhaps humankind is the only advanced civilisation in the universe, which might indicate that we are living inside a simulation as there might be no point in simulating others. But that is not the only possible explanation. Perhaps civilisations tend to die out before they become advanced. Or maybe we just overestimate the probability of advanced civilisations contacting us.

Quantum entanglement means that particles interact directly with each other regardless of the distance between them. If one particle is at one end of the universe, while the other is at the other end, they can still interact directly as if there is no distance between them. This mocks our idea of distance. It can also raise questions about the age of the universe as these estimates are based on the size of our universe.

The observer effect is often seen as evidence of this universe being a virtual reality. The argument is that several types of small particles normally don’t exist and only come into being when someone observes them. If this universe is a virtual reality it would be a waste of memory and processing power to represent them all the time. If this universe isn’t a virtual reality, these particles might, or even should, always exist even when no-one is watching. This might be a misconception about these particles. They do not really disappear when they are not observed. They become waves instead. And there is no way of knowing whether the observer effect only exists in virtual reality universes.

Featured image: Tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Julian Herzog (2008). Wikimedia Commons.