The effect of gravitational lensing around a normal galaxy focuses the light coming from a very distant galaxy merger to created a distorted but brighter view. (ESA/ESO/M. Kornmesser)

Herewith some mind-bending questions:

Are we living in a computer simulation, as in "The Matrix"?

Why is there something rather than nothing? That is, why does the universe exist at all?

Are there multiple, parallel universes that comprise a "multiverse"?

How do we reconcile modern cosmology with traditional religious faith?

What is time? Is there such a thing in physics as "the present"?

This morning we talked with Jim Gates, a theoretical physicist at the University of Maryland (and someone you may have seen on television lately in TurboTax ads). Gates, who has been at the university since 1984, is one of the pioneers of the theory of supersymmetry, and he explained that concept, as well as the hunt for new particles and "new physics," during our free-ranging conversation.

For background, you might want to read his article in Physics World, titled "Symbols of Power: Adinkras and the Nature of Reality."

Gates told us that he doesn't think we're living in the Matrix. But he has perceived something akin to "code" in the equations of physics, the kind that you would expect to find if this universe were a computer simulation. We asked if the computer scientists (if they exist) would have inserted the code for future intelligent beings to discover that reality is simulated. He said no -- since they'd have no choice but to use it to construct the simulation. So have fun with that!

Are we living in a matrix?

We could create an alternate universe with a computer simulation, according to theoretical physicist Dr. Jim Gates. What do you want to know about the theories of the universe?

Posted by Washington Post on Thursday, August 25, 2016