The table with the big computer at the elementary school’s science expo is relatively empty. The grad students running it are sitting there feeling slightly awkward. They thought this was going to be for high schoolers.
They’ve created a computer simulation of the universe. Not the real universe of course, but a 3+1 dimensional universe with quantum fields instead of super quantum physics. It’s a little beyond the cognitive abilities of second graders.
They’ve tried to put the thing in terms the kids will understand. “Here, look. See this loop? In our ten dimensions, it can’t form a knot, but because it’s confined to just three dimensions it can never come undone.” The kids aren’t biting.
A kindergartener lingers by the table. He’s enchanted by the bright colors of the three dimensional screen wriggling and expanding in 4 dimensional space.
“Do you want to destroy the universe?” asks the male grad student. “Click here.” He places the mouse pointer on a black hole, and points the kid toward the mouse.
The kid looks terrified. “Destroy the universe? For real?”
“No, not for real. Only pretend,” says the female grad student.
She considers her words. Philosophically, is this simulation a universe? Perhaps something lifelike could exist within the up spins and down spins of the quantum computation. Maybe there’s even something there resembling consciousness? But then, what worth does a consciousness have if it’s only aware of an artificial world? She smirks at the thought of the sad half-existence of a hypothetical three dimensional being.
She amends her statement. “Well, only in the computer.”
The kid is mollified. He clicks.