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March 12th, 2013 (11:18 PM).
It's "I Come Anon"
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Northern Virginia
Very intriguing start, Daydream. It's refreshing to see a protagonist who's so morally questionable yet sympathetic right from the get-go. I'm wondering what kind of training career will follow.
So I've had a faint idea brewing in my head for several years about a very science-y Digimon fic, in contrast to my current Digimon fic, which is more spiritual and adventurous. It wouldn't be about a group of kids who get sent to the Digital World to save the day, but rather about the nature of the Digital World itself and of the Digimon themselves. The tentative title is
What follows isn't necessarily the beginning of the story, and mostly I'm wondering if the computer science jargon makes the thing unapproachable, so please let me know if you're lost/bored:
Jana was scrawling some barely-legible numbers and symbols on her tablet. These were being projected onto a screen, and fifteen undergraduates were staring at and pretending to comprehend them. Jana knew they were faking, but she didn’t care. Any one of them could have asked for clarification at any time, but they never did. They were apparently learning as much as they wanted to, and she was getting paid, so everyone was happy.
When she was finished writing, Jana said “And that’s the basic proof for solving the Travelling Salesman Problem in exponential quantum-CPU-time and polynomial real-time. Any questions?” She was almost certain that no one would ask anything, and then the students would be the professor’s problem until next week’s recitation and she could go back to her actual work in the lab.
One of them actually raised his hand. For the life of her, Jana couldn’t remember this *sshole’s name, so she pointed at him and said “You,” letting some of her annoyance slip into her tone.
The student asked somewhat sheepishly, “Do you think the universe is digital or analog?”
The rest of the class laughed, and Jana again found herself annoyed. She was annoyed at the one student for wasting her time by trying to start an irrelevant discussion, and she was annoyed at the others for not having the intellectual curiosity to honestly want any kind of discussion. The contradiction was lost on her, but mid-semester TA evaluations were coming up, so she decided to answer the question as well as she could.
“No one’s entirely sure about that. There’s lots of evidence for both sides of the argument.”
Some other *sshole interjected, “So there’s lots of evidence that we’re in the Matrix?”
There was more laughter, and Jana seethed. She couldn’t stand the types who tried to dilute scientific debate by throwing out pedestrian references to first-generation film. Pompous asses. “That’s not what the question is referring to. Of course we could always be in a simulation; the question is whether or not everything in the universe can be expressed as discrete values.”
More students started to pay attention. Perhaps there was some hope for the future. “Consider a wave for example: An analog wave is continuous, like this,”—she picked up her tablet and drew a simple sound wave—“Whereas a digital representation of a wave is composed of straight lines, which can be perfectly conveyed through integer values.” She drew a square wave overtop the original.
“Part of the question is whether actual waves in nature—which appear to be continuous—are in fact discrete, or potentially digital.”
The student who posed the question spoke up again. “Like Planck’s Constant?”
“Sort of. But remember, just because energy can be broken down and counted by quanta doesn’t mean that everything can.”
Another student raised her hand. “What difference would it make, being in a digital world as opposed to an analog one?”
Despite herself, Jana was getting invested. “For regular physics, practically none. However, if we ever plan to get humans to a star system farther than Alpha Centauri in one lifetime, we’ll need a general and implementable solution to the Hyperspace Problem, which is utterly infeasible in an analog universe.”
She had most of the students’ attention now. “How infeasible is it?” asked the one girl student again.
“The algorithm with the best run-time we have for it now is tetrational—not two-to-the-
complexity, but two-to-the-two-to-the-two
times. And even that algorithm has some fundamental flaws and could never accurately guide a ship larger than a closet.”
This raised some eyebrows. Some of them understood what unimaginably large numbers she was talking about by tetration. “However, if we were certain that the ultimate positions of atoms in space were limited to a set of discrete locations, i.e. in a way where we could perfectly represent them with integers, the problem’s complexity could be reduced to merely exponential. Exponential as in a large number to-the-
rather than two-to-the-
, albeit, but not beyond the capabilities of a powerful quantum machine.”
The clock struck 3:20, so most of the students grabbed their bags and headed for the door. Thus ended the illusion of Jana’s having students who cared about learning. “If the topic interests you,” said Jana to mostly deaf ears, “You can look into Hyperspatial Optimization Studies for after graduation.” Not that her program would accept any these deadbeats, thought Jana.
The last handful of students got up, and Jana shoved her tablet into her satchel, wondering why she even bothered. She was grabbing her notebook when she glanced up and noticed that the student who started the discussion was standing in front of her.
“Right.” Jana hoped she wouldn’t start to actually remember names now. “Can I help you?”
“I had a few more questions about digital universes.”
Five years ago, Jana would have dropped almost anything to talk more about the subject, but now she just wanted to review the lab findings for the day and then go home. Still, TA course evaluations were coming up, and she needed the money. “Make it quick.”
“I uh…I was wondering what your thoughts are on the feasibility of simulating digital universes. Small scale, of course. Say just the size of Texas.”
“Impossible,” said Jana, which she meant as a dismissive way of saying ‘highly impractical.’
Sensing some dejection in his voice, Jana decided to elaborate. “At least, it’d be infeasible to simulate anything of near-reality precision any faster than one second per year.”
“What about a universe that isn’t so much like ours: one where the physics are simpler and the minimum distance between particles is much larger?”
Jana shook her head. “It’s a fine thought experiment, but if you’re talking about actual research and programming that’s just not where the money is. It takes serious quantum computing power to do things like that, and we need to devote all those resources to stuff like the Hyperspace Problem.”
“I understand,” said Carson. He bit his lip and glanced at the clock. “Sorry to bother you.”
Carson wasted no more time in walking off. Jana stared at her satchel for a while longer. She hated having conversations like this. They brought up memories of old dreams that had done nothing but set her up for bitter disappointment.
My chapter fics:
Kanto: The Disputed Frontier
- 14 chapters, indefinite hiatus.
Gary Stu's Unpredictable Adventure
- 8 chapters, completed.
- 7 chapters, ongoing
There's Always Tomorrow
A Matter of Stubbornness
Left by the Roadside
(SWC 2011 1st place),
Giovanni Destroys the World and Everything in It
By What Right?
(SWC 2013 1st place),
Back in the Day
(SWC 2014 1st place)
Family (kind of?):
Strange person who calls me strange names
If the pen is mightier than the sword, the keyboard is mightier than the ICBM.
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