I don’t have much time for hobbies these days, but occasionally I get to indulge a bit. A few days ago I did a videoconference talking about one of my favorite hobbies: hunting for the fundamental laws of physics.
Physics was my first field (in fact, I became
a card-carrying physicist when I was a teenager). And as it happens, the talk I just gave (for the European Network on Random Geometry
) was organized by one of my old physics collaborators
Physicists often like to think that they’re dealing with the most fundamental kinds of questions in science. But actually, what I realized back in 1981 or so is that there’s a whole layer underneath.
There’s not just our own physical universe to think about, but the whole universe of possible universes.
If one’s going to do theoretical science, one had better be dealing with some kind of definite rules. But the question is: what rules?
Nowadays we have a great way to parametrize possible rules: as possible computer programs. And I’ve built a whole science
out of studying the universe of possible programs---and have discovered that even very simple ones can generate all sorts of rich and complex behavior.
Well, that’s turned out to be relevant in modeling all sorts of systems in the physical and biological and social sciences, and in discovering interesting technology, and so on.
But here’s my big hobby question: what about our physical universe? Could it be operating according to one of these simple rules?