Parallel Universes

I am finally getting caught up on some magazine reading that I fell behind on during the school year. Today, I was reading a article called Parallel Universes by Max Tegmark in the May 2003 issue of Scientific American. I am not a physicist so some of this article is over my head but most of it was quite understandable. Reading that there are plausible arguments as to why parallel universes might exist was quite a surprise.

I found a couple of choice quotes that I think are worth sharing:

“But an entire ensemble is often much simpler than one of it’s members. This principle can be stated more formally using the notion of algorithmic information content. The algorithmic information content in a number is, roughly speaking, the length of the shortest computer program that will produce that number as output. For example, consider the set of all integers. Which is simpler, the whole set or just one number? Naively, you might think that a single number is simpler, but the entire set can be generated by quite a trivial computer program, whereas a single number can be hugely long. Therefore, the whole set is actually simpler.”

“The lesson is that complexity increases when we restrict out attention to one particular element in an ensemble, thereby losing the symmetry and simplicity that were inherent in the totality of all the elements taken together.”

These quotes jumped out at me because they touch on what I think is perhaps the most basic aspect of Computer Science and programming, finding the hidden simplicity. Often, there is a gorgeous, simple solution to the problem. It just takes time to get the complexity out of the way.

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