Archive for June, 2011

“The World is Either Algorithmic or Mostly Random” awarded a 3rd Place Prize in this year’s FQXi contest

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Based on the combined ratings of the contest community and the panel of expert reviewers appointed by the FXQi, which included the members of the institute, I was awarded a 3rd Place Prize for my work The World is Either Algorithmic or Mostly Random in this year’s FQXi contest on the topic Is Reality Digital or Analog? sponsored by the Foundational Questions Institute. The winners were announced at this year’s World Science Festival in New York City.

My work can be summarized in one line as an explanation of the complexification process of the world, the process whereby we have evolved from a more primitive (random) state to the current organized state of the universe.

The essay is a summary of the philosophical branch of my current scientific research on finite algorithmic information theory. This philosophical branch is concerned with the exploration of the possible connections between algorithmic complexity and the physical world (or what happens in it). I propose the notion that the universe is likely digital, not as a claim about what the universe is ultimately made of but rather about the way it unfolds. Central to the argument are concepts of symmetry breaking and algorithmic probability, which are used as tools to compare the way patterns are distributed in our world to the way patterns are distributed in a simulated digital one. These concepts provide a framework for a discussion of the informational nature of reality. I argue that if the universe were analog, then the world would likely look more random, making it largely incomprehensible. The digital model has, however, an inherent beauty in its imposition of an upper limit and in the convergence in computational power to a maximal level of sophistication. Even if deterministic, that the world is digital doesn’t necessarily mean that the world is trivial or predictable, but rather that it is built up from operations that at the lowest scale are simple but that at a higher scale look complex and even random–though in appearance only.

How have we come from the early state of the universe (left) to the structures we find today (right)?

The arguments supporting my views are partially based on the findings of my research, epitomized by our most recent paper Numerical Evaluation of Algorithmic Complexity for Short Strings: A Glance into the Innermost Structure of Randomness available in ArXiv in which my co-author and I describe a method that combines several theoretical and experimental results to numerically approximate the algorithmic (Kolmogorov-Chaitin) complexity of bitstrings by using the concept of algorithmic probability, which is connected to algorithmic complexity by way of the (Levin-Chaitin) coding theorem.

An extended (and detailed) version of The World is Either Algorithmic or Mostly Random is forthcoming and will be eventually posted.

New book: “Lo que cabe en el espacio” on Philosophy of Space and Geometry

Friday, June 10th, 2011

I am excited to announce the publication of my new book written in Spanish Lo que cabe en el espacio on the philosophy of space in connection to our reality, and what we can or cannot do with it and in it. The book, under the title “Lo que cabe en el espacio: La geometría como pretexto para explorar nuestra realidad física y matemática”, approaches the basic notions of geometry in the context of their original formulations, that is, the formulations of the mathematicians in their particular times and places. By so doing it attempts to understand the motivations behind these original formulations and build a modern view from the perspective of our time. Properties of space, such as dimension and curvature are discussed, as treated by mathematicians from Euclid to Legendre, from Descartes to Hilbert.

The book is available through CopIt Arxives UNAM, a peer reviewed publishing organization run by professors of the National University of Mexico (UNAM). Readers can download the PDF at no charge from CopIt Arxives and it will soon be available in physical form at for those wishing to own a paper copy. There is also a Kindle version of a previous incarnation of the book available from Amazon here, which despite issues around accent encodings, has been in the top 100 Kindle books in Spanish for several weeks/months. I should be updating the Kindle version fairly soon to the newest edition.

¿Cuánto cabe en nuestro espacio? ¿Por qué sólo pueden existir cinco poliedros regulares y no seis? ¿Qué figuras llenan el plano y el espacio? ¿Es el espacio una generalización trivial del plano? ¿Podemos notar si estamos en un plano curveado o si estamos sobre él? En lenguaje casi coloquial, despegaremos figuras del espacio para rotarlas en cuatro dimensiones, contaremos poliedros en dimensiones superiores y nos preguntaremos acerca de las propiedades fundamentales del espacio. En este libro se devela cómo una parte de las matemáticas describen las propiedades más fundamentales del espacio en que vivimos y por lo tanto de la realidad en la que estamos inmersos.