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Size of the universe and human brain

  1. Jul 29, 2010 #1
    Another possibly unusual question from me, may also enter in the realms of philosophy or math, but I do not think that physics is a wrong place for it.

    It is possible to find information about size of the universe and number of atoms in it and such. We as humans can imagine numbers of unlimited size, much greater of the "size of the universe" as we see it and we can also make calculations with them. Does this imply our ability for abstract thinking is larger than the universe itself (hence we are larger in a way than the universe)? Or that our understanding of the universe is wrong? Of course noone knows for certain if the latter is right or wrong, but I am just thinking whether there is a fundamental limit on it all.

    When thinking about this problem one could replace universe with human brain, but if I go there I am afraid not to go off topic for this forum so please excuse me if I do. (I am new) Assuming one day human race can completely understand it's own brain which may mean it could create a better one. This opens up a kind of a perpetum mobile which should be forbidden by the laws of physics? Does this mean it is fundamentally not possible?
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  3. Jul 29, 2010 #2
    No one knows the size of the universe.....we know the volume enclosed within our own event horizon and can calculate the approximate number of atoms within our own little piece of the universe. But every observer, even beyond our horizon, can "see" just as far as we can....but we might not be able to see them nor they us.

    Creating a brain faster and better than our own has nothing to do with perpetual motion because such a brain or computer would involve the consumption of power not producing power "free of charge"....
  4. Jul 29, 2010 #3
    But we still can "handle" numbers greater than this number. I was entertaining the idea that this fact means either we are bigger than the universe, or universe is indeed infinite. Otherwise it would not make sense for us to be able to grasp it. Whatever you can fully understand is by definition lesser than you, no?

    It was a clumsy analogy. I did not think of perpetual motion directly. What I meant was if we can fully understand our brain and are then able to create a better one this process can continue to infinity. Hence we would be heading to some unknown destination (not physical destination, more like future, converging point). Does this sound like something which is possible, or if not, does it mean it is fundamentally impossible to fully understand our brains (or maybe better say minds)?
  5. Jul 29, 2010 #4


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    I wrote a short story called "Stack Overflow" wherein a hapless programmer managed to cause a general fault in the universe by imagining a number (not simply the number, but the set of entities that that number counted) so large that the universe was unable to handle storing it, and crashed.
  6. Jul 30, 2010 #5
    Good to hear I am not the only one with this idea. Not that it means it is less crazy this way but still. :) I sense this question has not been taken seriously, possibly because I reached into something philosophical to which physics does not have an answer, making it also a bit off topic. Hopefully you can excuse a layman newcomer. I was just interested whether those were valid questions and what the field of physics has to say about them.
  7. Jul 30, 2010 #6


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    It was a whimsical fantastic story. :wink: The universe does not really store events in itself like memory banks.
  8. Oct 3, 2010 #7
    Information in "beliving that we understand" can be less than the information stored in the whole Universe, this is not so special. Our model about the Universe on large scale can be described with small amount of numbers.
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