A Flat Packed Universe

So the other day in class, the poetry of astrophysics was brought up.

This is a little like that, but mostly nothing like that.

Nested (“a simulation of everything”)by Orteil is a universe ripe for the exploring via drop down menu nested within drop down menu nested within drop down menu.

I’m fairly certain the menus are actually infinite.

Here, you deserve an example.

Now, that’s only as much information as I could fit in a single screenshot, showing you a drop down progression from the very first “universe” option.

Following down these menus, you can look into the structural components of any substance you come in contact with, down to the qwubble, and the universes that in turn contains (as best I can tell, qwubbles and their component universes are completely fictional).

That first drop down list from the main universe will contain some number of galactic superclusters, in this case there were twelve. Depending on which of these you select there will be a number of galaxies to choose from, which will contain a galactic center and several arms to chose from (apparently all galaxies in Nested are spiral galaxies) , the arms will contain many star systems (which will hold a star and some configuration of planets, or other stellar bodies ), the galactic center will also contain star systems, as well as a black hole. If you choose to follow down that path, it’ll end up looking something like this.

The only point where no further menus are offered occurs when you look into the thoughts or memories of a humanoid.

There are a surprising number of humanoids in the universe. Also a surprising number with the surname “Miller”.

Any telluric planet  may or may not hold life, and that life may or may not be humanoid (compare the first and third images; there are also more Earth-like fauna that pop up from planet to planet that has thoughts of their own). Those with humanoids will contain named continents, most with names that seem vaguely familiar, but not exactly.

The occasional “America” or “Africa” that pops up in the midst of your otherworldly continents provides some interesting clues about the programing behind Nested. The universe you are exploring is not static. As a matter of fact, the moments you are exploring it are probably the only moments in which it will ever exist.  Refresh the page and it is gone.  Where there were once twelve galactic superclusters for your exploration there are now sixteen, the galaxies contain star systems containing planets that weren’t there before.  The occasional recognizable name clues the reader in that these were not individually created beforehand, these are computer generated with each page visit, taking components made available and applying them according to a set pattern. If you visit a library (this is a thing you can do) and listen into enough patrons’ thoughts, they’ll repeat themselves, continents on inhabited telluric planets in entirely different star systems will have the same names. You will find “Millers” across galaxies, within universes contained within a qwubble contained within the helium of a star.

These properties are randomly assigned and infinite, not only within the endless options of the single first universe a page view offers, but in the further expansion with each separate page view, calling an entirely new universe into examination. However, across all this infinity, the base components remain the same- the elements, the atoms, the thoughts, and the pieces of words that form names of places and people and alien species alike. Even the fictitious (qwubble- I’m looking at you) becomes a comprehensible component, common to all substances, knowable through interaction.

The universe you explore may not be our universe, it may be a universe no one else ever sees again, but it is always made up of the same stuff.  It is at once bogglingly expansive, but intimately familiar in its parts, extrapolating the infinite from the known.

And fine, I’ll come clean.  I’m still waiting to find a star system with a telluric planet containing a continent called America containing a country called the United States containing a south-east green region containing a town containing a library containing a patron named Lee McIntyre whose thoughts say something along the lines of, “Oh god what am I doing with my life.”

NOTE: Editable universes are currently in development. I have a feeling this will be getting even more interesting in the near future.

  6 comments for “A Flat Packed Universe

  1. May 2, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    This is fascinating — where did you come across it? It seems to be recursive, so that would probably make it theoretically infinite. (Is that an argument for string theory?)

    It kind of looks like it’s generated procedurally or randomly, so I’d be curious to see that algorithm.

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