The frame rate of the universe

Posted by Martin Vilcans on 16 January 2009

I stumbled upon this article which presents the hypothesis that the universe is a 3D projection of a 2D surface, like a giant hologram. I like to read about modern physics. It is so weird and I can't say I really understand very much of it. But the descriptions provoke strange and fascinating images and thoughts in my head. Like this one:

The article mentions the Planck length, which as I understand it is the smallest distance there is. It's extremely small: 1.6 × 10-35 meters, which makes it billions and billions of times smaller than an atom (or even a proton). I'm used to thinking about computer graphics, so I imagine the Planck length as the size of one "pixel" of the universe. Nothing can be smaller than a pixel. (The pixels of the universe are small, I calculate the resolution to correspond to 2.19 × 1033 DPI.) The radius of the observable universe is 4.4 × 1026 meters. If we want to fit the universe into a box, its sides would have to be twice that size. That is 5.4 × 1061 Planck lengths. So that's the width, height and depth of the universe in pixels. Quite a good resolution. (Actually since they are 3D cubes instead of 2D squares, I should call them voxels instead of pixels. All 1.61 × 10185 of them.)

There is also the Planck time which is the time it takes for light to travel one Planck length. As light is fast and the Planck length is tiny (tiniest there is!), you can image that it's a very short period of time. Certainly. The Planck time is 5.39 × 10-44 seconds. No measurable time can be shorter than that according to quantum physics. Thinking about graphics again, this is like a limit on the frame rate of the universe. Inverting the Planck time, I get 1.855 × 1043. So by my surely incorrect logic, we get the value of the universe's frame rate:

One thousand eight hundred and fifty-five billion billion billion billion frames per second.

I'll say that again:

18.55 septillion FPS!

Video cameras won't be perfect until they can record at that speed.

I hope I got the calculations right, but I'm pretty sure my interpretation of the quantum physics behind this are way off. It's still fascinating to think of the universe as a computer simulation. Modern physics make it seem more like a video game than ever.

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