0505: "A Bunch of Rocks"

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coreyjkelly
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby coreyjkelly » Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:56 am UTC

This is beautiful... one of my favourites!

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby JonMW » Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:57 am UTC

One wonders if he had to tackle with some equivalent of the Y2K bug.

*edit*

Also: What would YOU do if you were in his position?

I think I'd carve rocks and draw in the sand. And write.
Maybe try to make a musical instrument.
Last edited by JonMW on Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:59 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby SolkaTruesilver » Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:59 am UTC

My God.. that was nearly spiritual.

So... Can we say Randall effectively put God in his comic?

An analogic God, off course. But still the Creator. Or the Programmer, I'm not sure.

Or just.. the Man. Yes. I think this is it.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby darkyoshiwar » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:00 am UTC

I thought of this when I saw desert.
http://img407.imageshack.us/img407/4791 ... ipsva5.jpg

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Felgraf » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:04 am UTC

Man, the whole 'infinite desert' concept has me thinking about the Discworld now. Damnit, where is my copy of Small Gods?

/You have to walk a lonesome desert...

doogly wrote:
Catdrake wrote:So, is this a simulation of the universe minute by minute or is it just meant to run a simulation if the stones were read?

And can he ever, really, be done?


To simulate the universe in real time you'd need a quantum computer. Then again, desert guy seems a lot smarter than I.

The real problem with simulating a universe is...

If you can simulate an entire universe, how sure can you be that you yourself are not within a simulated universe?
"What can the harvest hope for, but for the care of the reaper man?" -Death, from Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby sunghail » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:06 am UTC

This put me into existentialism wondering if someone arranging rocks could cause the world to exsist. As well as what would happen should a segfault occur. Very well done.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby bungadunga » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:08 am UTC

Awesome comic.

Computer built out of cellular automata:
http://www.quinapalus.com/wi-index.html

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby felltir » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:11 am UTC

Really liked this one. :)
Spoiler:
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby shagie » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:13 am UTC

Somewhere... can't remember which book it was in (I want to say a book on post singularity science fiction short stories)... there was a story about an exploration of another planet where the only thing that existed on it was a large algae mat. This mat was such that it was a once dimensional cellular automata that was turing complete. When the explorers decoded the 'program' they found that it contained intelligences.

Neat story, just can't remember which one it is, by who, or what collection it is in.

If anyone does happen to know which story this is, I'd love to know and re-read it. I also suspect that others would enjoy finding it and reading it with another take on the cellular automata universe simulator.

I also have to say, this is one of my favorite xkcds - it makes you think more deeply than the normal one (which is quite a bit).

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Bulvox » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:18 am UTC

I wish that I was the desert dude. It would solve so many of my problems. And I already think way too much, although I highly doubt that I would be able to design a computer of rocks. But I would make a bitchin' fort.
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby 314 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:20 am UTC

loved it.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Psi » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:21 am UTC

Fucking sublime.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby '; DROP DATABASE;-- » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:27 am UTC

Excellent comic. Also, I have work in the morning, college in the afternoon, so nevermind morning lectures dragging on... <_< This also explains why time seems to go faster at certain times of the day. He's moving faster. :P

I think there's a semicolon missing though. (OH SHI-) "Physics too; I worked out the kinks"
JonMW wrote:One wonders if he had to tackle with some equivalent of the Y2K bug.

*edit*

Also: What would YOU do if you were in his position?

I think I'd carve rocks and draw in the sand. And write.
Maybe try to make a musical instrument.
Assuming I life for all eternity in an infinite space, I guess I would do everything physically possible an infinite number of times. Statistics are funny like that.
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby The_Duck » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:30 am UTC

This is the awesome-est xkcd in quite a while.
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Lackey » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:33 am UTC

I still don't understand cellular automata [try as I might to learn] but regardless I still get the idea behind this comic and love it. Very thought provoking...

Though one thought that has occurred to me [and seemingly no-one else] what would a virus be in this case? =/

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Cassidi3 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:41 am UTC

wow.
i must say, the comics have been quite amazing lately.
wow.
bravo, randall!
*bows*

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby GusPatsy » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:46 am UTC

I don't know why everyone's so please by this. It's fucking depressing. Sure, at first I was charmed by the cleverness of the idea, but... shit.

And for those of you who say you were just thinking about this, you're a bunch of liars. I too was pondering the idea of a universal computer today, as I often do, and even the idea that there would be no difference between myself and simulated computer beings, but there's nothing depressing about that idea. It's completely different when everything is just rocks.

The difference, as I see it, is that computing today is aiming toward using the fundamental particles of the universe for faster, better processing. In order to build an accurate simulation of a universe in this model, a perfectly accurate simulation in which truly intelligent beings could evolve, you would have to use those fundamental particles to represent themselves. Your computer would have to be as large and complex as the universe it's simulating. In other words, it wouldn't be a simulation but an actual universe.

That was my Layman's consideration anyway. However, I hadn't really thought about a creator being existing in infinite space/time. I could be nothing but a bunch of fucking rocks, or the mindless tapping of one of those Shakespeare monkeys at a typewriter for that matter. That's depressing.
Last edited by GusPatsy on Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:47 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby torritorri » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:47 am UTC

I apologise for my lack of technological knowledge, but how exactly could you make a computer out of stones? and i love how randall can delve into huge philosphical issues with stick figures.
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby torritorri » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:49 am UTC

Felgraf wrote:The real problem with simulating a universe is...

If you can simulate an entire universe, how sure can you be that you yourself are not within a simulated universe?


You mean, something like this?
AndreGiant wrote:Alien vs. Predator vs. Transformers vs. Jason Bourne vs. Terminator vs. half the cast of 300 vs. Agent Smith, on a plane, in space.


Jesster wrote:Jason Bourne would win in seven and a half minutes.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Artificer » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:51 am UTC

shagie wrote:Somewhere... can't remember which book it was in (I want to say a book on post singularity science fiction short stories)... there was a story about an exploration of another planet where the only thing that existed on it was a large algae mat. This mat was such that it was a once dimensional cellular automata that was turing complete. When the explorers decoded the 'program' they found that it contained intelligences.

Neat story, just can't remember which one it is, by who, or what collection it is in.

If anyone does happen to know which story this is, I'd love to know and re-read it. I also suspect that others would enjoy finding it and reading it with another take on the cellular automata universe simulator.


I believe you're thinking of the novel "Diaspora" by Greg Egan. Apparently the story you mention was originally published as a short story called "Wang's Carpets" in a collection he edited called "New Legends" (good old Wikipedia :-) ), so that could be it too.

Also, comics like this are the reason I read xkcd - it even inspired me to finally register on the forum! Totally awesome :-D

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby jadthomas » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:53 am UTC

torritorri wrote:I apologise for my lack of technological knowledge, but how exactly could you make a computer out of stones? and i love how randall can delve into huge philosphical issues with stick figures.

A computer is just a physical logic device. They take math and represent it physically - such as with semiconductors in the computer you're reading this on, but also in other ways. This reality is used to great effect in Neal Stephenson's "the Diamond Age" wherein one of the characters builds a computer out of lengths of chain. Maybe this wikipedia article can help?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_machine

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Nasaniaru » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:56 am UTC

I found this comic to be almost enlightening. If I was in a desert of infinite length, for an infinite amount of time, I probably wouldn't even begin to think of this! That stick figure must be the smartest stick figure in history. Great job Randall!

EDIT:
torritorri wrote:
Felgraf wrote:The real problem with simulating a universe is...

If you can simulate an entire universe, how sure can you be that you yourself are not within a simulated universe?


You mean, something like this?


That story scares the hell out of me.
Last edited by Nasaniaru on Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:07 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Eugo » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:58 am UTC

doogly wrote:
Catdrake wrote:So, is this a simulation of the universe minute by minute or is it just meant to run a simulation if the stones were read?

And can he ever, really, be done?


To simulate the universe in real time you'd need a quantum computer. Then again, desert guy seems a lot smarter than I.

1 quantum = 1 stone. Q.E.D.
My God.. that was nearly spiritual. So... Can we say Randall effectively put God in his comic?


Please, don't. You've inserted religion into every nook and cranny of the so-called real life. Can't you just imagine, for a moment, that spirituality is possible without religion? And while you're at it, leave us alone? You own only the rest of the world.
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby arbivark » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:07 am UTC

Scornic's first post in this thread is missing a link.
Oh, it's [his] third post so [he's] not allowed to link yet.

The computation by stones reminded me a bit of anathem where they do computation by choirs of monks. (I had forgotten the diamond age chain thingy.)

anonymousislegion, that's a pretty good first post, welcome.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby HenryS » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:11 am UTC

The Swiss patent office reference implies that desert guy is Einstein.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby hotaru » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:15 am UTC

Eugo wrote:
My God.. that was nearly spiritual. So... Can we say Randall effectively put God in his comic?


Please, don't. You've inserted religion into every nook and cranny of the so-called real life. Can't you just imagine, for a moment, that spirituality is possible without religion? And while you're at it, leave us alone? You own only the rest of the world.

you're the one that brought up religion. i guess you can't imagine that spirituality is possible without religion...

Code: Select all

factorial product enumFromTo 1
isPrime n 
factorial (1) `mod== 1

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby SolkaTruesilver » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:16 am UTC

Eugo wrote:
My God.. that was nearly spiritual. So... Can we say Randall effectively put God in his comic?


Please, don't. You've inserted religion into every nook and cranny of the so-called real life. Can't you just imagine, for a moment, that spirituality is possible without religion? And while you're at it, leave us alone? You own only the rest of the world.


When I said "put God", it's wasn't about making XKCD religious. It was simply about depicting him as a character.

When you think about it, try to put "God" on our level of existence. He is alone, no breathing, no eating, no drinking. For an eternity. In an infinite time.

Well, he decided to create an universe just to pass time.

It's that the story of the Man of the Desert?
Wouldn't it be God's perspective of things?

If you are a programmer, and you somewhat create a world simulator. The things inside your program have free will, off course. What are you going to tell them if they start worshipping their Creator? Do you tell them "Hi there, please act good toward each others" or you just leave them alone? Will you feel bad for your pixelised creation if you decided to throw a hurricane at them?

I know it's silly, and I usually don't consider myself that much of a religious person. But I like considering alien perspective (Me and my friend actually talked about recently how it would be like to represent a 5th dimenson, and how they would see us, we wouldn't see them. Clue: start with a 1d world seen from a 2d perspective, and work your way up. Off course, time is always a dimension). This XKCD gave me a glimpse of what it would be like if you were God, if He actually exists.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Green9090 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:18 am UTC

Stunning comic. Wow.
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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Fishy » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:19 am UTC

There was a time when religion was used to explain what science could not.

I bring you the religion of "Non relativistic cosmic computeism", presented for the first time to the world of the internet:
The universe is a simulation by some computational device (such as the stones).
It is not purely homogeneous. There is a special place. This defies relativity (or at least what I take from it, as there is something to be relative to) so its non relativistic. Relativity still applies, tho the meaning is a tad different.

The universe has a clipping sphere closing in through space at the speed of light. This can never be seen, nor can it effect anything inside the sphere. Thus from inside, the sphere appears infinite, and without warning, the yon may clip you.
Relativity exists to allow this clipping plane exist without effecting the universe.
The universe has accelerating expansion to make the sphere of existence not collapse to nothing.
Quantum physics exist the way they are to limit the needed precision.
The universe had a start (big ban, great init, what ever)
The universe ends when the sphere of existence no longer contains changing information (like when its empty, or entropy is dominate)

Thus, there is a limited amount of information and computation required to model the universe over its entire life time. It can be completely simulated. This makes logical sense, while justifying why a universal programmer would implement the bizarre physical laws we have such as relativity, and expanding universe, and quantum physics.

Superb comic that goes well with my made up religion.

Remember, if you ever need an excuse for doing something, you can claim that as a follower of non relativistic cosmic computeism your action may attract the interest of the program observers to center you, potentially saving the entire earth from deletion!

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Felgraf » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:20 am UTC

GusPatsy wrote:That was my Layman's consideration anyway. However, I hadn't really thought about a creator being existing in infinite space/time. I could be nothing but a bunch of fucking rocks, or the mindless tapping of one of those Shakespeare monkeys at a typewriter for that matter. That's depressing.


I don't really find it all that depressing, because: Why does it matter?

Yes, maybe we're all just programs in a machine. Maybe we're just butterflies dreaming we're Chinese philosophers dreaming we're us. Maybe ALL of you are just hallucinations, and I'm in a looney bin somewhere, and none of this is real. Hell, maybe I'm so crazy that my 'real' form isn't even anything remotely humanoid, but some 5-dimensional being with tendrilous pseudopods and 12 mouths.

But does it matter? Our world is what we make of it. Even if our universe is just a simulation, it is still our universe . This world is still our world, even if it is not exactly how we perceive it. We still feel pain and joy, happiness and sorrow! It is still *our* reality!

But if for some reason you feel it still matters, take solace in this: if we live in a simulated universe, it is probable that the universe our simulator resides in is also simulated. If it too is just a program, than perhaps you might yet find a way for your program to modify it. And perhaps all universes simulate other universes, in some bizarre causality loop that hurts my brain just *thinking* about. (Turtles, all the way down!)

In that sense, our universe may still be as 'real' as any other.

/And now, I really need to get some sleep.
"What can the harvest hope for, but for the care of the reaper man?" -Death, from Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Gracenotes » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:21 am UTC

To anyone who enjoyed this comic, I strongly suggest reading Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. The basic theme of the book that the most helpful and intriguing purpose of AI research, and analyzing intelligence and logic in general, is that it enables us to better understand ourselves.

Interestingly, if the comic depicted the universe, then the entire universe can be described as {0,1}* (either a stone is in a given place or it isn't) which has a bijection on the real numbers, so therefore the entire universe at a point in time could be described by one number between 0 and 1.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby shagie » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:21 am UTC

Artificer wrote:
shagie wrote:Somewhere... can't remember which book it was in (I want to say a book on post singularity science fiction short stories)... there was a story about an exploration of another planet where the only thing that existed on it was a large algae mat. This mat was such that it was a once dimensional cellular automata that was turing complete. When the explorers decoded the 'program' they found that it contained intelligences.

Neat story, just can't remember which one it is, by who, or what collection it is in.
I believe you're thinking of the novel "Diaspora" by Greg Egan. Apparently the story you mention was originally published as a short story called "Wang's Carpets" in a collection he edited called "New Legends" (good old Wikipedia :-) ), so that could be it too.

That would be it... Thank you muchly. I didn't know it became a full novel... another book to buy.... and bought. The joys of used book stores being online.

For any wondering, it is based on the wang title - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_tile . That you can change any turning machine into a set of tiles is a bit mind blowing. Makes me wonder if I ever tile a kitchen or bathroom floor, should I go for Penrose or Wang tiles?
Last edited by shagie on Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:22 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Felderburg » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:22 am UTC

gflive wrote:You won't believe me, but I was playing with this exact idea yesterday, while on a 5 hour bus ride. Although I didn't think of using rocks as a computer.


I believe you.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Plustax » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:22 am UTC

Great comic.

Got me chuckling and thinking.

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Felgraf » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:23 am UTC

HenryS wrote:The Swiss patent office reference implies that desert guy is Einstein.

I think Feynman or Tesla would be my choices for Masters of Reality, but Einstein works too.

... Oh, man, phrasing it like that caused some sort of bizarre He-Man/Physicist mashup to start being birthed within my brain.

"BY THE POWER OF QUANTUM MECHANICS, I HAVE THE POWER!" *Krkow, Krkow*

... Okay, right. I *really* need sleep now.
"What can the harvest hope for, but for the care of the reaper man?" -Death, from Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Ivan227 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:27 am UTC

oh god what is this i don't even

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby Felgraf » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:28 am UTC

torritorri wrote:
Felgraf wrote:The real problem with simulating a universe is...

If you can simulate an entire universe, how sure can you be that you yourself are not within a simulated universe?


You mean, something like this?


That... that was an interesting thing to read right before bed.

/Okay, really going to bed now!
"What can the harvest hope for, but for the care of the reaper man?" -Death, from Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby felltir » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:31 am UTC

Ivan227 wrote:oh god what is this i don't even


One hell of a post.
Spoiler:
RoadieRich wrote:He's a super flexible furry martial artist from London. She is a Rabbit breeding mad scientist from Michigan. They fight crime!
The Great Hippo wrote:I THINK THE SOLAR SYSTEM MIGHT BE AN ATOM OF OXYGEN.


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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby WhitePanther » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:34 am UTC

I'm not surprised that there are many people here saying that they were thinking of the same thing recently. I think nearly everyone who seriously studies Computer Science eventually has a similar realization/fantasy.

Fredkin's the first guy I thought of when I saw this comic:

"There is nothing as 'concrete' in the world as a (computer) bit -- it's more concrete than a photon or electron. It's not a 'simulation' of reality; it's not something that 'pretends' to be reality. It is reality."


(from here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2002/07/01/MN108224.DTL)

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Re: "A Bunch of Rocks" Discussion

Postby dsutton » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:36 am UTC

No, it makes sense. I've sometimes wondered if the Planck time might be the time step in the while(1) loop of the universe.


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