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The Universe as Code - Dave Kerr


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The Universe as Code - What Programming Can Teach us about Maths, Science and Philosophy.

The topic for ‘DevOpsDays’ is ‘Everything as code’. You can’t get more ‘everything’ than the universe! In this presentation I’m going to step away from containers, orchestration and servers to talk about what programming can teach us about maths, science and philosophy. This presentation probably isn’t going to help you build or manage systems, but it should excite and interest those who are curious about the big questions!

Published in: Technology
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The Universe as Code - Dave Kerr

  1. 1. The Universe as Code What Programming Can Teach us about Maths, Science and Philosophy @dwmkerr Dave Kerr Senior Expert, McKinsey & Company
  2. 2. Who am I? @dwmkerr
  3. 3. I am a technology consultant. @dwmkerr
  4. 4. Which is closer to this… @dwmkerr
  5. 5. I’m not going to talk about devops… @dwmkerr …sorry!
  6. 6. “Everything as code” @dwmkerr The CFP for devops days is:
  7. 7. The Universe as Code @dwmkerr …and the theory of everything
  8. 8. The Theory of Everything? @dwmkerr Just what is
  9. 9. General Relativity Quantum Field Theory
  10. 10. General Relativity Quantum Field Theory Gravity The very large and very heavy Electromagnetism Strong Nuclear Force Weak Nuclear Force The very small and very light Theory of Everything? String Theory? M-Theory? ?
  11. 11. The Theory of Everything? What if we had
  12. 12. Langton’s Ant @dwmkerr
  13. 13. @dwmkerr Christopher Langton Academic involved in ‘cellular automata’. Coined the term ‘artificial life’ in the late 80s. Created ‘Langton’s Ant’ in 1986. Comes with a Theory of Everything! By Cary Herz - Santa Fe Institute, CC BY-SA 3.0,
  14. 14. @dwmkerr The Theory of Everything 1. The universe is an infinite plain of white tiles 2. An ant sits on a tile in the center of the universe 3. If the tile is white, the ant flips it to black, turns 90° right and moves forwards 4. If the tile is black, the ant flips it to white, turns 90° left and moves forwards
  15. 15. @dwmkerr
  16. 16. @dwmkerr
  17. 17. Demo 1 @dwmkerr
  18. 18. Symmetry – simple right? @dwmkerr Demo 1
  19. 19. Demo 2 @dwmkerr
  20. 20. Symmetry, chaos, order @dwmkerr Demo 2
  21. 21. Where was this in our theory?
  22. 22. Chaos Theory @dwmkerr The Universe as Code
  23. 23. Chaos Theory Chaotic systems are systems which are very sensitive to their initial configuration. Even though they are deterministic, their behaviour is incredibly hard to predict. A famous example is ‘The Butterfly Effect’.
  24. 24. Is our universe chaotic?
  25. 25. Very Much So Weather Systems Social Networks Fluids, The Internet, Traffic…
  26. 26. Is Langton’s Ant chaotic?
  27. 27. Demo 3 @dwmkerr
  28. 28. Langton’s Ant is Chaotic @dwmkerr Demo 3
  29. 29. Even seemingly very simple systems can be very chaotic @dwmkerr
  30. 30. Determinism @dwmkerr The Universe as Code
  31. 31. A deterministic system always behaves in the same way. @dwmkerr
  32. 32. Demo 4 @dwmkerr
  33. 33. Langton’s Ant is Deterministic @dwmkerr Demo 4
  34. 34. @dwmkerr A non-deterministic system has randomness – we cannot predict how it will behave.
  35. 35. Demo 5 @dwmkerr
  36. 36. Rangton’s Ant is Non-Deterministic @dwmkerr Demo 5
  37. 37. Is our universe deterministic?
  38. 38. @dwmkerr We don’t know. And it might be impossible to know.
  39. 39. @dwmkerr Classical Physics is Deterministic
  40. 40. @dwmkerr Quantum Mechanics is Non-Deterministic By Felix Kling - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
  41. 41. Quantum mechanics has randomness built in.
  42. 42. @dwmkerr “As I have said so many times, God doesn't play dice with the world.”
  43. 43. By Retro-Computing Society of Rhode Island - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Can you write a function to produce a random number?
  44. 44. The Universe as Code @dwmkerr …and the theory of everything
  45. 45. What can the universe as code teach us? @dwmkerr Chaos Theory • Our Universe is a chaotic system • Very simple systems can have behaviour which is extraordinarily complicated to predict Determinism & Non-Determinism • Non-deterministic systems are inherently unpredictable • It is entirely possible that our universe is non-deterministic The Theory of Everything • The holy grail of physics, a ‘Grand Unified Theory’ • Might not tell us as much as we hope!
  46. 46. Thanks! A lot of this stuff is on my blog and GitHub. @dwmkerr Interested in the topics? Try any of the above!
  47. 47. Appendix @dwmkerr
  48. 48. Images - Stellar Nursery in the Eagle Nebula, - The formation of a Higgs Boson at the LHC, - Christopher Langton, By Cary Herz - Santa Fe Institute, CC BY-SA 3.0,