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Supersymmetry and the controversial error correcting codes

James Gates (John S. Toll Professor & Director of Center for String & Particle Theory, UMD) at string theory debate on march 7th, claims to have found “error correcting codes” within string theory. this is the first announcement of this ‘discovery’. Gates, who has spent most of his life working in physics and, more specifically, supersymmetry, says his recent findings indicate that, yes, traces of computer code do exist in many of our equations.

We may very well be living within a simulated universe.

“Hidden inside of these equations, there are computer codes,” says Gates, “They’re the kind of computer codes that make browsers work…that’s just kind of weird.”

Sylvester James Gates Jr., a Perimeter Institute Distinguished Visiting Research Chair, Professor at the University of Maryland, and a member of the US President’s scientific advisory council, explains his early work in supersymmetry, and some of the surprising discoveries it has enabled.

'a special kind of computer code'

Gates is not finding just any kind of code. It’s a “special kind of computer code” that was invented in the 1940s by computer scientist Claude Shannon.

During the 2011 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, Gates elaborated on this strange new research: “We say they’re computer codes first of all because the structure of the equations is such that they dictate that there are certain things that are actually strings of ones and zeros. That’s just digital data. But it’s not just random ones and zeros…”

Instead, it’s something called error correcting codes.

“Most of us sit at our computer screens and we type on the keyboards and…if we’re using a browser, we’re sending strings of ones and zeros elsewhere. But…in the transmission process, there’s always some fluctuation.

So a zero you type here, because of static in the line, might be read as a one at the other end, and vice versa. And so, in fact, when you sit and type on a keyboard, your computer is doing something behind your back.

Namely, it throws in a bunch of extra ones and zeros — and these things are called error-correcting codes — so that the computer on the other end can…figure out if there were bits that were being flipped back and forth. And that’s how you get accurate transmission of digital data.

Among the codes that are used for this purpose are a special class of codes that are called block-linear self-dual error-correcting codes…These are the codes that we find buried in the equations.”

What Gates is proposing is, of course, at the very distant edge of theoretical physics. Almost, perhaps, entering the fringe of science. But that doesn’t make it any stranger than the already proven, seemingly bizarre theories of our universe.

Stranger Dimensions

What Exactly Are Error Correcting Codes?

In computing and coding theory, an error correction code, sometimes error correcting codes, (ECC) is used for controlling errors in data over unreliable or noisy communication channels. The central idea is the sender encodes the message with redundant information in the form of error correcting codes. The redundancy allows the receiver to detect a limited number of errors that may occur anywhere in the message, and often to correct these errors without retransmission. 

Error correcting codes contrasts with error detection in that errors that are encountered can be corrected, not simply detected. The advantage is that a system using Error correcting codes does not require a reverse channel to request retransmission of data when an error occurs. The downside is that there is a fixed overhead that is added to the message, thereby requiring a higher forward-channel bandwidth. Error correcting codes is therefore applied in situations where retransmissions are costly or impossible, such as one-way communication links and when transmitting to multiple receivers in multicast. Long-latency connections also benefit; in the case of a satellite orbiting around Uranus, retransmission due to errors can create a delay of five hours. Error correcting codes information is usually added to mass storage devices to enable recovery of corrupted data, is widely used in modems, and is used on systems where the primary memory is error correcting codes memory.


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