> Big picture (though) this is a (natural) philosophical question. In quantum
> physics the universe is discrete and thus digital. There is no analogue.
> Analogue exists only as an illusion, a series of discrete moments where
> every moment is itself binary.
Thanks for bringing up this Big (or Very Small) Picture, Simon. As much as we're accustomed to thinking of digital media (CDs) as an approximation of our continuous reality (LPs), what we imagine as continuous reality is more like an approximation of a discrete reality.
As a reformed former student of physics, however, I would caution against taking the universe's lack of continuity at very small scales to mean that it is digital, or even discrete in the usual sense. Such a pat conclusion would provide an early resolution to this month's question--"Digital wins!"--and leave me more time to chop wood and pay the bills. But it wouldn't take into account how wacky things get when you measure them with eensy-weensy rulers and clocks.
At scales small enough for both quantum mechanics and relativity to apply, you'll find neither points in space nor moments of time. To make matters worse, you won't even be able to tell whether a given region of space-time is occupied or is empty. This last result pretty much nixes the theory supported by Stephen Wolfram (among others) that the universe operates like a computer. According to Wolfram's theory, at its lowest level space-time is a computational lattice full of 1s and 0s. But such a lattice wouldn't be much use to a universal computer that couldn't tell which compartments had stuff (1s) and which didn't (0s).
For the curious, there are a slew of pop-science books that introduce these concepts by analogy to Asian philosophy or metaphors of "quantum foam." If you aren't satisfied by phrases like "the mathematics are beyond the scope of this book"--and aren't turned off by the sight of Greek letters and square roots, either--then this free textbook is a good introduction:
Chapter XI derives most of the "universe-is-neither-continuous-or-discrete" results from a couple basic equations from quantum mechanics and relativity. I'd venture that its conclusions are weirder than anything Lacan, Miller, or Badiou has to say, though I should probably wait for Sean's forthcoming article to be sure :)
Oh, and most of this cosmic inscrutability is already experimentally verified. Which is like dreaming that you lived in Wolfram Alpha but waking up to jodi.org.
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