Our Mission and the Opportunity of Artifacts from the Future

In preparing my keynote at our 31st annual technology conference, I tried to collect some of my thoughts about our long-term mission and how I view the opportunities it is creating…

What I’ve Spent My Life On

I’ve been fortunate to live at a time in history when there’s a transformational intellectual development: the rise of computation and the computational paradigm. And I’ve devoted my adult life to doing what I can to make computation and the computational method achieve their potential, both intellectually and in the world at large. I’ve alternated (about five times so far) between doing this with basic science and with practical technology, each time building on what I’ve been able to do before.

The basic science has shown me the immense power and potential of what’s out there in the computational universe: the capability of even simple programs to generate behavior of immense complexity, including, I now believe, the fundamental physics of our whole universe. But how can we humans harness all that power and potential? How do we use the computational universe to achieve things we want: to take our human objectives and automate achieving them?

I’ve now spent four decades in an effort to build a bridge between what’s possible with computation, and what we humans care about and think about. It’s a story of technology, but it’s also a story of big and deep ideas. And the result has been the creation of the first and only full-scale computational language—that we now call the Wolfram Language. Continue reading

Faster than Light in Our Model of Physics: Some Preliminary Thoughts

When the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program asked me to keynote their annual conference I thought it would be a good excuse to spend some time on a question I’ve always wanted to explore…

Faster than Light in Our Model of Physics: Some Preliminary Thoughts

Can You Build a Warp Drive?

“So you think you have a fundamental theory of physics. Well, then tell us if warp drive is possible!” Despite the hopes and assumptions of science fiction, real physics has for at least a century almost universally assumed that no genuine effect can ever propagate through physical space any faster than light. But is this actually true? We’re now in a position to analyze this in the context of our model for fundamental physics. And I’ll say at the outset that it’s a subtle and complicated question, and I don’t know the full answer yet.

But I increasingly suspect that going faster than light is not a physical impossibility; instead, in a sense, doing it is “just” an engineering problem. But it may well be an irreducibly hard engineering problem. And one that can’t be solved with the computational resources available to us in our universe. But it’s also conceivable that there may be some clever “engineering solution”, as there have been to so many seemingly insuperable engineering problems in the past. And that in fact there is a way to “move through space” faster than light. Continue reading

The Empirical Metamathematics of Euclid and Beyond

The Empirical Metamathematics of Euclid and Beyond

Towards a Science of Metamathematics

One of the many surprising things about our Wolfram Physics Project is that it seems to have implications even beyond physics. In our effort to develop a fundamental theory of physics it seems as if the tower of ideas and formalism that we’ve ended up inventing are actually quite general, and potentially applicable to all sorts of areas.

One area about which I’ve been particularly excited of late is metamathematics—where it’s looking as if it may be possible to use our formalism to make what might be thought of as a “bulk theory of metamathematics”.

Mathematics itself is about what we establish about mathematical systems. Metamathematics is about the infrastructure of how we get there—the structure of proofs, the network of theorems, and so on. And what I’m hoping is that we’re going to be able to make an overall theory of how that has to work: a formal theory of the large-scale structure of metamathematics—that, among other things, can make statements about the general properties of “metamathematical space”. Continue reading

A Burst of Physics Progress at the 2020 Wolfram Summer School

A Burst of Physics Progress at the 2020 Wolfram Summer School

And We’re Off and Running…

We recently wrapped up the four weeks of our first-ever “Physics track” Wolfram Summer School—and the results were spectacular! More than 30 projects potentially destined to turn into academic papers—reporting all kinds of progress on the Wolfram Physics Project.

When we launched the Wolfram Physics Project just three months ago one of the things I was looking forward to was seeing other people begin to seriously contribute to the project. Well, it turns out I didn’t have to wait long! Because—despite the pandemic and everything—things are already very much off and running!

Six weeks ago we made a list of questions we thought we were ready to explore in the Wolfram Physics Project. And in the past five weeks I’m excited to say that through projects at the Summer School lots of these are already well on their way to being answered. If we ever wondered whether there was a way for physicists (and physics students) to get involved in the project, we can now give a resounding answer, “yes”. Continue reading

Exploring Rulial Space: The Case of Turing Machines

Wolfram Physics Bulletin

Informal updates and commentary on progress in the Wolfram Physics Project

Generalized Physics and the Theory of Computation

Let’s say we find a rule that reproduces physics. A big question would then be: “Why this rule, and not another?” I think there’s a very elegant potential answer to this question, that uses what we’re calling rule space relativity—and that essentially says that there isn’t just one rule: actually all possible rules are being used, but we’re basically picking a reference frame that makes us attribute what we see to some particular rule. In other words, our description of the universe is a sense of our making, and there can be many other—potentially utterly incoherent—descriptions, etc.

But so how does this work at a more formal level? This bulletin is going to explore one very simple case. And in doing so we’ll discover that what we’re exploring is potentially relevant not only for questions of “generalized physics”, but also for fundamental questions in the theory of computation. In essence, what we’ll be doing is to study the structure of spaces created by applying all possible rules, potentially, for example, allowing us to “geometrize” spaces of possible algorithms and their applications.

Continue Reading

Event Horizons, Singularities and Other Exotic Spacetime Phenomena

Wolfram Physics Bulletin

Informal updates and commentary on progress in the Wolfram Physics Project

The Structure and Pathologies of Spacetime

In our models, space emerges as the large-scale limit of our spatial hypergraph, while spacetime effectively emerges as the large-scale limit of the causal graph that represents causal relationships between updating events in the spatial hypergraph. An important result is that (subject to various assumptions) there is a continuum limit in which the emergent spacetime follows Einstein’s equations from general relativity.

And given this, it is natural to ask what happens in our models with some of the notable phenomena from general relativity, such as black holes, event horizons and spacetime singularities. I already discussed this to some extent in my technical introduction to our models. My purpose here is to go further, both in more completely understanding the correspondence with general relativity, and in seeing what additional or different phenomena arise in our models.

Continue Reading

The Wolfram Physics Project:
The First Two Weeks

First, Thank You!

We launched the Wolfram Physics Project two weeks ago, on April 14. And, in a word, wow! People might think that interest in fundamental science has waned. But the thousands of messages we’ve received tell a very different story. People really care! They’re excited. They’re enjoying understanding what we’ve figured out. They’re appreciating the elegance of it. They want to support the project. They want to get involved.

It’s tremendously encouraging—and motivating. I wanted this project to be something for the world—and something lots of people could participate in. And it’s working. Our livestreams—even very technical ones—have been exceptionally popular. We’ve had lots of physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists and others asking questions, making suggestions and offering help. We’ve had lots of students and others who tell us how eager they are to get into doing research on the project. And we’ve had lots of people who just want to tell us they appreciate what we’re doing. So, thank you!

The Wolfram Physics Project: The First Two Weeks Continue reading

Finally We May Have a Path to the Fundamental Theory of Physics…
and It’s Beautiful

Visual summary of the Wolfram Physics Project

I Never Expected This

It’s unexpected, surprising—and for me incredibly exciting. To be fair, at some level I’ve been working towards this for nearly 50 years. But it’s just in the last few months that it’s finally come together. And it’s much more wonderful, and beautiful, than I’d ever imagined.

In many ways it’s the ultimate question in natural science: How does our universe work? Is there a fundamental theory? An incredible amount has been figured out about physics over the past few hundred years. But even with everything that’s been done—and it’s very impressive—we still, after all this time, don’t have a truly fundamental theory of physics.

Back when I used do theoretical physics for a living, I must admit I didn’t think much about trying to find a fundamental theory; I was more concerned about what we could figure out based on the theories we had. And somehow I think I imagined that if there was a fundamental theory, it would inevitably be very complicated. Continue reading

How We Got Here: The Backstory of the Wolfram Physics Project

The Wolfram Physics Project

“Someday…”

I’ve been saying it for decades: “Someday I’m going to mount a serious effort to find the fundamental theory of physics.” Well, I’m thrilled that today “someday” has come, and we’re launching the Wolfram Physics Project. And getting ready to launch this project over the past few months might be the single most intellectually exciting time I’ve ever had. So many things I’d wondered about for so long getting solved. So many exciting moments of “Surely it can’t be that simple?” And the dawning realization, “Oh my gosh, it’s actually going to work!”

Physics was my first great intellectual passion. And I got started young, publishing my first paper when I was 15. I was lucky enough to be involved in physics in one of its golden ages, in the late 1970s. Not that I was trying to find a fundamental theory of physics back then. Like essentially all physicists, I spent my time on the hard work of figuring out the consequences of the theories we already had.

But doing that got me progressively more involved with computers. And then I realized: computation is its own paradigm. There’s a whole way of thinking about the world using the idea of computation. And it’s very powerful, and fundamental. Maybe even more fundamental than physics can ever be. And so it was that I left physics, and began to explore the computational universe: in a sense the universe of all possible universes. Continue reading

In Less Than a Year, So Much New: Launching Version 12.1 of Wolfram Language & Mathematica

We’re pleased that despite the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on so many people and businesses we’re still able to launch today as planned… (Thanks to our dedicated team and the fact that remote working has been part of our company for decades…)

The Biggest .1 Release Ever

It’s always an interesting time. We’re getting ready to wrap up a .1 version—to release the latest fruits of our research and development efforts. “Is it going to be a big release?”, I wonder. Of course, I know we’ve done a lot of work since we released Version 12.0 last April. All those design reviews (many livestreamed). All those new things we’ve built and figured out.

But then we start actually making the list for the new version. And—OMG—it goes on and on. Different teams are delivering on this or that project that started X years ago. A new function is being added for this. There’s some new innovation about that. Etc.

We started this journey a third of a century ago when we began the development of Version 1.0. And after all these years, it’s amazing how the energy of each new release seems to be ever greater.

And as we went on making the list for Version 12.1 we wondered, “Will it actually be our biggest .1 release ever?”. We finally got the answer: “Yes! And by a lot”.

Counting functions isn’t always the best measure, but it’s an indication. And in Version 12.1 there are a total of 182 completely new functions—as well as updates and enhancements to many hundreds more.

In Less Than a Year, So Much New: Launching Version 12.1 of Wolfram Language & Mathematica Continue reading