Mr Anastasi’s Big Day Out

Image above: A motion picture of the universe projected onto the planetarium roof, showing the general structure of galaxies in the universe.

While for many of us gardening or music is a nice way to spend a weekend, Mr Anastasi’s hobby is the cosmology of the very early universe. His main area of interest is why the universe happens to align with monumentally complicated rules and formulas. That is, not how the universe is, but why it is as it is.

During the July holidays, he attended the 2nd Information Universe Conference, in Gröningen, Netherlands. There he gave a talk to an international audience of cosmologists. The presentation, titled, ‘On the origin: how the universe computes,’ argued that if a certain very simple principle of equivalence is true, there can be only one way the universe can come to be (at all) and that the nature of the structure that is implied to come into existence happens to comply with a thing called the ‘Bekenstein-Hawking information bound’. While this sounds quite fancy, the B-H bound is a number that describes the maximum number of bits of information that makes up our universe, in the context that more and more physicists are wondering if the universe is in some way just a giant computer that computes within itself.

The opening slide from Mr Anastasi’s presentation.

Stephen Hawking once worked out that if you dropped the universe into a black hole (as one does) measure its surface area and divide by the smallest area that meaningfully exists in our universe, you get this number, 10122 bits, which is a 1 with 122 zeroes after it. Mr Anastasi tested his own model which starts from essentially nothing and found that the number of bits the universe should contain today is just under the B-H bound, which suggests the model is either right, or the coincidence is remarkable in the extreme.

The presentation was well received, and led to several useful contacts, for example, the Quantum Gravity Research Group in Los Angeles. Mr Anastasi hopes to further develop the model in the future.