(This is a question of information theory, data compression and entropy, so I believe it fits CS forum)

Does the fact that the computer itself is a part of the universe make it logically impossible for the computer to contain the information of the whole universe?

I want to know if it's possible to simulate the whole universe on a computer. This question is motivated by the hypothesis that we live in a simulation. If the answer to the question is negative, it means that a simulated universe inside another universe necessarily contains less information, so it's a smaller or less detailed universe.


By the "information of the whole universe" I mean the position and state of all the elementary particles in the universe.

By the "contained in a computer" I mean the information of the whole universe must be retrievable from the computer by a human (or a transcendent form of conscious mind).

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Does one actually need to simulate the entire universe to simulate the entire universe? In other words, what if you simulated just what the "observers" of this universe would see (like we do with video games)? And, problems with consistency can be papered over in various ways, in the worst case simply fooling the observers into thinking things are consistent if they forced an inconsistency. $\endgroup$
    – Realz Slaw
    Feb 22, 2018 at 1:19
  • $\begingroup$ As @RealzSlaw mentioned, this depends crucially on what you consider 'infromation of the whole universe' and 'contained in a computer'. If you want to ask a question about logic or information theory, you must formally and precisely define what you're talking about. In fact, I think this is the main problem with your question. In current form, this question isn't much more than an ill-phrased metaphysical statement. $\endgroup$
    – Discrete lizard
    Feb 22, 2018 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ So, my question is, are you prepared to either ask for someone to construct a precise model of your question or do it yourself? If not, I don't think this question is a good fit here. If so and you do it yourselves, good! If you're unable to do it by yourselves, it would certainly require a bit more back and forth with you to find a model that satisfies your question, but I think that might work. $\endgroup$
    – Discrete lizard
    Feb 22, 2018 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Discretelizard, I added some description in my question. Is it better now? $\endgroup$
    – asmani
    Feb 22, 2018 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Asmani It is better, but not clear enough, I think. First, I think you should restrict "information of the whole universe" to the observable universe. Second, your definition of "contained in a computer" is too vague, what does 'retrieve' precisely mean? Try to list all specific operations you want to do on this 'data' of your universe, as precisely as you can. (If we are not interested in operations, then why would we call this hypothetical machine a computer? We might as well write it all on a big slab of stone (okay, that probably won't work, but I hope you get what I'm saying)) $\endgroup$
    – Discrete lizard
    Feb 22, 2018 at 15:30


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