Are We Living in a Virtual Reality? A Novel Experiment

Fredericksburg, Virginia
Computer SciencePhysics
Raised of $8,324 Goal
Ended on 1/14/18
Campaign Ended
  • $614
  • 8%
  • Finished
    on 1/14/18

About This Project

A recently published, peer-reviewed paper by scientists from NASA/JPL and Cal Tech describes novel protocols to determine if the reality that we experience is information-based. We investigate this question based on the assumption that if the system performing the simulation is finite (i.e. has limited resources), then to achieve low computational complexity, such a system would (as in a video game) render reality only at the moment that information becomes available for observation.

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What is the context of this research?

This research is done in the context of the recent movement towards digital physics and information-based cosmology. In popular science, this movement has come to be known variously as 'the simulation theory' and 'the holographic model'. The basic idea, that our world may be a computer generated environment, is gaining support because it offers explanatory power in regards to issues in the standard model, such as the measurement problem, non-locality, and the anthropic principle.

2017 Paper that describes a method by which which-way information in single-photon interference my be erased to restore an interference pattern.

2016 Scientific American article in which Neil deGrasse Tyson says of the chances that our universe is a simulation: “I think the likelihood may be very high,”

What is the significance of this project?

If erasing recorded which-way information in the single-photon interference setup restores interference pattern formation, then the traditional QM explanation that the detectors themselves are causing decoherence will be eliminated. This would form a demonstration that wavefunction collapse is caused by information availability, and support the thesis that reality is rendered at the point when information becomes available for observation, and not at the moment of detection by a machine (which would be part of the simulation, and whose detection would also be part of the internal computation performed by the simulation's server.) Such a demonstration would be novel, and of immediate interest to the scientific community.

What are the goals of the project?

1. Acquisition, assembly and calibration of experimental apparatus.

2. Performance of selected procedures and collection of data. Specifically, to document the state of change in single-photon pattern formation depending on the on/off state of which-way information data recording. Most succinctly; does switching the data recorder off restore interference pattern formation?

A positive result would be the restoration of interference pattern formation when the which-way data recorder is switched off. A negative result would be persistent particle pattern formation, regardless of the on/off state of the data recorder. While a negative result would not necessarily invalidate the entire simulation hypothesis, it would require a fundamental re-think of the underlying assumptions.


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These are the minimum required components for the experimental set-up needed to perform the selected procedures as described in the paper, to determine if the single-photon pattern formation (particle or interference) is dependent on the on/off state of the which-way data recorder.

Endorsed by

The underlying basis for the experiment, that information availability in the cause of wavefunction collapse, is supported by prior research. What is novel here, is the simplicity of this procedure. It offers the promise of a system that any physics lab student can use to demonstrate the primacy of information. I've known Kent for a very long time, and trust in his ability to perform the experiment correctly, and report the results properly.

Flag iconProject Timeline

Feb, 2018 - Secure funding, begin equipment acquisition.

March, 2018 - Begin apparatus assembly/calibration.

April, 2018 - Begin experimental trials.

May, 2018 - Conclude experiments, begin analysis.

June, 2018 - Complete analysis, begin write-up.

July, 2018 - Submit findings for publication

Dec 15, 2017

Project Launched

Mar 01, 2018

All apparatus components received

Apr 20, 2018

Assembly and calibration complete

Apr 30, 2018

Begin Experimental Trials

May 25, 2018

Conclude experiments, begin analysis

Meet the Team

Kent Forbes, PhD
Kent Forbes, PhD


University of Maine
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Matthew Raspanti
Matthew Raspanti

Kent Forbes, PhD

Kent Forbes is an interdisciplinary scholar, researcher and filmmaker. As Writer/Director of "The Simulation Hypothesis", he has an interest in experimental protocols that can verify or invalidate information-based models of reality. Dr. Forbes has received the blessing of lead author and retired NASA physicist Tom Campbell to conduct this research.

Dr. Forbes' page

Link to documentary: The Simulation Hypothesis

Matthew Raspanti

Education: Doctorate in industrial engineering, University of Palermo (Italy), 1946;

M.E.E., Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, 1952

Experience: 35 years with Bell Labs, as a technical department head for the last 25 years; retired since 1990.

Long-time involvement with virtual reality:

In 1998, I self-published the book "The Virtual Universe - Philosophy, Physics and the Nature of Things" in which, after an overview of philosophy and physics, I presented my conjecture that 1) We live in a non-material virtual universe somewhat akin to the virtual reality of computer science, and 2) This virtual universe, which includes our bodies, but not our minds, is the creation of a Cosmic Mind, of which our individual minds are integral parts. I called this worldview "virtualism" and presented arguments from physics to support it. (I copyrighted a prior unpublished version of this book in 1993.)

In 2008, I self-published "Virtualism, Mind and Reality - An Approach to Untangle the Consciousness Problem."

Lab Notes

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Project Backers

  • 4Backers
  • 8%Funded
  • $614Total Donations
  • $153.50Average Donation
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