505: A Bunch of Rocks
|A Bunch of Rocks|
Title text: I call Rule 34 on Wolfram's Rule 34.
| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: What is the diagram to the right of the Epitaph of Stevinus? Nobody counts the panels, what is "panel 13"? Too may parentheses here, many items are not well explained. Language is still a major issue. This is a candidate for the "Incomplete explanation of the day."|
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
Next, armed with infinite time and space (and rocks), Cueball uses the rocks to build a cellular automaton, a computational model based on simple rules to advance from one state to the next. Certain cellular automata are Turing-complete, which means that they can be used to represent any computer program (given finite-but-possibly-extremely-large time and space). He specifically seems to be running Wolfram's Rule 110, which is indeed capable of universal computation. Cueball then uses his enormous, hand-powered computer to simulate a universe.
When using Rule 110 for universal computation, one builds a background pattern, which can be seen in the comic (especially the "I was able to build a computer..." panel and the "The rows blur past..." panel) as the nigh-universal pattern of smaller triangles, and then performs computation by sending out "rockets" (the patterns of larger triangles seen in the "The rows blur past..." panel) to collide and interact with each other (for example, the triangular outlines in the "Sure, it's rocks instead of electricity..." panel).
The last panel then implies that the universe Cueball is simulating is, in fact, our universe. In the "I'm sorry, I must have missed a rock..." panel, Cueball mentions he must have made a mistake in the last "billions of billions of millenia." A millennium is a thousand years, which implies that the time needed to run this computer through a single step of computation is trillions of years. This means he spends much more time on a single step of computation than our universe has spent existing, and this single step of computation simulates an extremely short span of time (a Planck time most probably); to put this massive difference into perspective, our universe is around 13.772 billion years old, which corresponds to roughly 8,060,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years of Cueball's computation. (Give or take a few duodecillion years.) Suffice to say, this is a very long time.
The diagrams in the "Physics, too. I worked out the kinks..." panel are, from left to right: A Gaussian function (probably the Normal distribution); the Epitaph of Stevinus; a weird diagram with lines in it (something to do with thermodynamic cycles?).
Rule 34 is a humorous rule of the Internet which states "If you can imagine it, there is porn of it. No exceptions." Wolfram's Rule 34 is a cellular automaton. Randall is suggesting that someone should make pornography featuring the cellular automaton in question. This might prove to be quite challenging, as Wolfram's Rule 34 quickly devolves into a bunch of diagonal lines given almost any input.
- [Cueball is walking alone in a desert, narrating his own situation.]
- So I'm stuck in this desert for eternity.
- I don't know why. I just woke up here one day.
- I never feel hungry or thirsty.
- I just walk.
- Sand and rocks
- stretch to infinity.
- As best as I can tell.
- [Cueball is sitting in the desert, in a contemplative position.]
- There's plenty of time for thinking out here.
- An eternity really.
- [Cueball is sketching stuff in the sand.]
- I've rederived modern math in the sand
- and then some.
- [Different graph types are depicted.]
- Physics too. I worked out the kinks in quantum mechanics and relativity.
- Took a lot of thinking, but this place has fewer distractions than a Swiss patent office.
- [Cueball is walking along the desert, laying out rocks.]
- One day I started laying down rows of rocks.
- [Cueball continues to deploy rocks.]
- Each new row followed from the last in a simple pattern.
- [Image continues to zoom out showing laid out rocks.]
- With the right set of rules and enough space,
- I was able to build a computer.
- Each new row of stones is the next iteration of the computation.
- Sure it's rocks instead of electricity, but it's the same* thing.
- Just slower.
- [Cueball in contemplative pose.]
- After a while, I programmed it to be a physics simulator.
- [A particle labeled by binary strings.]
- Every piece of information about a particle was encoded as a string of bits written in the stones.
- [A Feynman diagram showing two particles interacting.]
- With enough time and space, I could fully simulate two particles interacting.
- [Cueball standing before the vastness of the desert.]
- But I have infinite time and space.
- [Depiction of various galaxies and other systems.]
- So I decided to simulate a universe.
- [Cueball is walking about his rocks, moving them around.]
- The eons blur past as I walk down a single row.
- [Zoom out of the rows of rocks.]
- The rows blur past to compute a single step.
- [Shows placement of two particles.]
- And in the simulation...
- [The two particles have moved; an after-image of their previous placement is present.]
- ...another instant ticks by.
- [A person observes a mote of dust vanish.]
- So if you see a mote of dust vanish from your vision in a little flash or something
- [Cueball is holding two rocks, rearranging them.]
- I'm sorry. I must have misplaced a rock
- sometime in the last few billions and billions of millennia.
- [Cueball in front of the vastness of his infinite desert.]
- Oh and...
- [Cueball in a classroom setting with head in hands, girl and professor are present; there are apparently less than five minutes left in the class.]
- If you think the minutes in your morning lecture are taking a long time to pass for you...