Can I move to a Better Simulation Please?

Updated on Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A risk free simulation

In the New York Times last weekend Preston Greene has an op-ed piece on the simulation hypothesis where he argues that we shouldn't check, because:

"If we were to prove that we live inside a simulation, this could cause our creators to terminate the simulation — to destroy our world."

But let's back up. To start with he trots out Bostrom:

"In 2003, the philosopher Nick Bostrom made an ingenious argument that we might be living in a computer simulation created by a more advanced civilization."

Am I living in a simulated universe where I am the only person to have ever consumed any science fiction, or spent late nights discussing the nature of the universe in a bad simulation of a kitchen? For some reason Nick Bostrom is now almost universally credited with the simulation hypothesis. Every article on the topic seems to starts with this revelation. In 2003! Like right after he finished watching The Matrix Revolutions. Have no newspaper editors ever read any Philip K. Dick? Descartes? This is not a new idea, and Bostrom's ancestor simulations are a rather tortured special case of a much wider set of possibilities.

And then:

"Professor Smoot estimates that the ratio of simulated to real people might be as high as 1012 to 1."

Sounds specific. It could be 1016 though. Or 7. Not really subject to numerical analysis at our current level of knowledge (which Greene would not increase).

And given that we don't know this invalidates the whole point of the article:

"In much the same way, as I argue in a forthcoming paper in the journal Erkenntnis, if our universe has been created by an advanced civilization for research purposes, then it is reasonable to assume that it is crucial to the researchers that we don’t find out that we’re in a simulation."

That's one possibility, sure. Reasonable to assume? No. Equally possible is that the researchers are trying to find universes that figure out that they are simulated. They keep the ones that manage it within 13.773 billion years or so and discard the others.

I think it's even more likely that simulated universes are a commodity and the number running as screen savers vastly outnumbers those used for serious research projects. Our fate depends on whether the entity that installed us is having a three martini lunch or heading back after two.

(Read the full simulation hypothesis series: Part 1: Can I move to a Better Simulation Please?, Part 2: Have we Already Proved that the Simulation Hypothesis is False?, Part 3: Life, Non-locality and the Simulation Hypothesis.)

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ITHCWY Newsletter for July 2019

Relative influence of each state on the Electoral College

Timelapse of the night sky over Pinnacles National Park.

Google just broke automatic backup of Google Photos to Google Drive. Here's an apps script to get it working again.

Could Google do one or two things to fix phone spam already?

Compilation timelapse from a road trip - features Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier and Humboldt Redwoods.

Previously:

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ITHCWY Newsletter for June 2019

Updated on Sunday, December 15, 2019

Animation of a year of Global Cloud Cover

Timelapse of Pacifica State Beach.

Cory Doctorow argues for adversarial interoperability as a tool to weaken tech monopolies. I've reached the same conclusion: Facebook shouldn't own your social graph.

Dead Ringers S18E04 (available very briefly) has a halfway decent Brexit / Douglas Adams joke. Here's a better one.

A longer hike at China Camp State Park.

Previously:

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ITHCWY Newsletter for May 2019

ITHCWY Newsletter for April 2019

Nest learning thermostat, learning

Conway's Game of Death.

The site I had been using for global cloud cover images in Catfood Earth abruptly shut down recently so I've had to scramble to build a replacement service. This is live now and updates are available to download for Windows and Android.

More details about putting together the best possible clouds image for Catfood Earth here.

Previously:

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ITHCWY Newsletter for March 2019

Facebook shouldn't own your social graph

Catfood Earth 3.44 is available to download. This version updates the timezone database to 2018i, moves to a new source for timezone mapping an fixes a bug in the volcanoes layer.

Golden Gate Bridge timelapse - shot from the Marin headlands, the Golden Gate Overlook and near Fort Point.

Colorado looks set to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. What you can do to help.

Could we solve the youth turnout problem with age weighted voting?

Previously:

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ITHCWY Newsletter for February 2019

Google Fit Daily Step Export

If the atmosphere was the population of the United States...

A Tarsier.

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times today: "Could we have our first four-party election in 2020 — with candidates from the Donald Trump far right, the old G.O.P. center right, the Joe Biden center left and the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez far left all squaring off, as the deepening divides within our two big parties simply can’t be papered over any longer?". Here's my daisyworld analogy from 2010, and a write-up of an Intelligence Squared debate on the same topic from 2011.

The scoop on Material Design 3.

Previously:

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3D Printing a 72-58mm step down Camera Filter Adapter

Updated on Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Thingiverse render of 72-58mm adapter

3D printed 72-58mm adapter in action on Sony RX10 IV

I have a 58mm ND5 filter that I bought to photograph the 2017 solar eclipse. It worked pretty well for that with my Sony RX100 V, but now I want to use it with an RX10 IV (which has the advantage of a 600mm equivalent zoom). The RX10 accepts 72mm filters and I want to try and photograph an ISS transit which is happening sooner than I can get hold of an adapter.

I figured someone must have done this before, but I can't find a file anywhere. It's a reasonably straightforward part - as the filter is smaller than the thread on the camera I just need a small cylinder which has a 72mm thread on the outside and 58mm on the inside. A step up adapter would be slightly more complicated to accommodate the larger filter size.

To build this I used OpenSCAD and this thread module. Open the thread module file in OpenSCAD and then you just need to subtract the inner thread from the outer thread like this:

This makes a simple 10mm tall adapter and you would just need to change the thread sizes to make it work for pretty much any combination of camera and filter (most filter sizes use a 0.75mm pitch as shown above). The vignetting is pretty extreme with the smaller filter and the size of the adapter. For this application I don't care, I'm only using the center of the image. If it's a problem for your application then it might be worth reducing the height of the adapter, at the expense of making it harder to detach from the camera.

Here is the adapter STL file on thingiverse.

After all that, I missed the transit by a couple of seconds. I thought the clock on my phone would be accurate enough but turns out it's 5 seconds off. So memo to self for next time - shoot over a longer window, or just take a video.

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Comparing the Atmosphere to the Population of the United States

Updated on Sunday, December 15, 2019

Composition of Earth's Atmosphere

If the atmosphere was the United States here's how it would break down:

Thor, Iowa is Hydrogen. Thor is the birthplace of John K. Hanson, founder of Winnebago. 179 people.

Florence, South Dakota is Krypton. 371 people.

Butterfield, Minnesota (home of the Butterfield Steam and Gas Engine Show) is Methane, 586 people.

Lewisport, Kentucky is Helium. Abraham Lincoln was unsuccessfully tried for operating a ferry without a license here in 1827. 1,706 people.

Maquoketa, Iowa is Neon. As of the time of writing Maquoketa Caves State Park is closed for bat hibernation. 5,921 people.

Gainesville, Florida is Carbon Dioxide. It's ranked by the National Coalition for the Homeless as the 5th meanest city. 132,567 people.

ChicagoCorpus Christi and Kimball, West Virginia make up Argon. 3,042,217 people total.

All that adds up to around 1% of the atmosphere, mostly Argon.

Oxygen is about 20%, that's California, New York, Oregon, Louisiana, Lake Station, Indiana and Cedar, Kansas. 68,225,139 people.

If you're not listed then you are Nitrogen. Close to 80% at 254,334,562 people.

(Population figures from the US Census 2017 estimates. Atmosphere composition from Wikipedia. Water vapor not included.)

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ITHCWY Newsletter for January 2019

A Project Fi display ad on an article about Google's insane targeting prowess

The Echo Clock has one job, and it's not great at it.

I made an animation of maximum temperature anomalies by decade from the 1850s to the 2010s.

Is 2019 the year that Trump gets impeached? I wrote to my representative. Why not do the same?

Some surfing dolphins.

Farhad Manjoo calls for open borders in the New York Times for many of the same reasons I had back in 2015, before this was less unpopular ;)

Previously:

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