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.

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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.

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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

The New World of Notebook Publishing

Wolfram Notebooks on the Web

We’ve been working towards it for many years, but now it’s finally here: an incredibly smooth workflow for publishing Wolfram Notebooks to the web—that makes possible a new level of interactive publishing and computation-enabled communication.

You create a Wolfram Notebook—using all the power of the Wolfram Language and the Wolfram Notebook system—on the desktop or in the cloud. Then you just press a button to publish it to the Wolfram Cloud—and immediately anyone anywhere can both read and interact with it on the web.

The new world of notebook publishing

It’s an unprecedentedly easy way to get rich, interactive, computational content onto the web. And—together with the power of the Wolfram Language as a computational language—it promises to usher in a new era of computational communication, and to be a crucial driver for the development of “computational X” fields. Continue reading

Just Published: Adventures of a Computational Explorer

Today my latest book is published: Adventures of a Computational Explorer.

Just Published: Adventures of a Computational Explorer

From the preface:

“You work so hard… but what do you do for fun?” people will ask me. Well, the fact is that I’ve tried to set up my life so that the things I work on are things I find fun. Most of those things are aligned with big initiatives of mine, and with products and companies and scientific theories that I’ve built over decades. But sometimes I work on things that just come up, and that for one reason or another I find interesting and fun.

This book is a collection of pieces I’ve written over the past dozen years on some of these things, and the adventures I’ve had around them. Most of the pieces I wrote in response to some particular situation or event. Their topics are diverse. But it’s remarkable how connected they end up being. And at some level all of them reflect the paradigm for thinking that has defined much of my life.

It all centers around the idea of computation, and the generality of abstraction to which it leads. Whether I’m thinking about science, or technology, or philosophy, or art, the computational paradigm provides both an overall framework and specific facts that inform my thinking. And in a sense this book reflects the breadth of applicability of this computational paradigm. Continue reading

Announcing the Rule 30 Prizes

Announcing the Rule 30 Prizes

The Story of Rule 30

How can something that simple produce something that complex? It’s been nearly 40 years since I first saw rule 30—but it still amazes me. Long ago it became my personal all-time favorite science discovery, and over the years it’s changed my whole worldview and led me to all sorts of science, technology, philosophy and more.

But even after all these years, there are still many basic things we don’t know about rule 30. And I’ve decided that it’s now time to do what I can to stimulate the process of finding more of them out. So as of today, I am offering $30,000 in prizes for the answers to three basic questions about rule 30. Continue reading