One more thing I wanted to call out from the post on String Theory a couple of weeks ago was another upshot of the existence of Planck's Constant: the existence of a smallest measurable unit of time. This means if you are, say, tracking the path of a photon (which I myself was doing just the other day), the best you'll ever be able to do is take a series of "snapshots" of the movement of that photon (to say nothing of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which implies that you won't be able to get an accurate position without upsetting the velocity). I previously argued that for quantities theoretically smaller than those derived from Planck's constant, there is no reality--at least not as we understand it. If I were to look at the snapshots, I could try to infer to motion that was taking place "in between" each snapshot--I could see the particle in one place in one picture and in another place in the next. But the Heisenberg Principle implies that I'd never be able to know for sure, and the 20th century interpretation of this is that there simply isn't an answer. The particle may as well have teleported from one place to the next.
- Person: Make me a sandwich.
- Other Person: What? Make it yourself.
- Person: sudo Make me a sandwich.
- Other Person: Okay.
(L., who has not followed a single thing I have written so far, has just keyed in to the word "teleported." She is very interested in somebody inventing teleportation).
So does this mean that we're actually living in a universe constructed like an early-80's version of Flight Simulator? Are we experiencing a reality in which a few instants of processor time are taken to render each frame, with each frame only slightly different from the last? Is it only the (seemingly trivial!) fact that these instants go by about a billion-trillion-trillion times too quickly for us to detect that makes us believe that we're experiencing reality as a continuous stream of events rather than a series of pictures?
To further abuse the computer metaphor, the universe seems an awful lot like it has a maximum processor speed--it has an absolute upper limit (the speed of light) at which information can be delivered, and it seems to have an absolute lower limit on its resolution. I don't know if this is a particularly good metaphor, though, or if it is, what it might signify.
Next: Nobody understood the Flight Simulator reference, did they?