OO  OO        so, a few years back i had an idea. a great
  OO            idea, or so i thought. the best idea of my life
       O        - the best idea i'll ever have.
OOOO            like all good ideas, someone else had it first.
     O OOO      
     OOO        but i'm over that now. and since i still think
     OOOOO      it's a good idea, i ought to spread the word.
   O  OOOO      
 O OOOOO        i've discovered where the universe came from.
         O      obviously, if you're an atheist, this is an
  OO            important question. but even theists have a
  OO            problem here: if god created the universe, 
        OO      where did god come from?
OO   O  OO      
OO     OOO      it's a nasty problem. maybe it was St. Thomas
OO     O        Aquinas who first found it. but i've got a
OO    OOO       handle on it now.
OO    OO        
      OOOO      consider the number three. not the digit, nor
  OO   OOO      the symbol, but the number itself. the thing
   O   OOO      that comes after two.
OOOO OOO O      
OOOO     O      where did it come from? who made it?
OO O O OO       
 O   O OO       if you're like most people, you'll say "it
O  OOO  O       didn't come from anywhere - it doesn't really
O OOOO          exist. it's just a concept. maybe somebody
   O  OOOO      discovered it, but it wasn't really *made*."
    O   OO      mathematicians have a name for this:
OO  OOO         mathematical existence. unlike physical
    OOOO        existence, mathematical existence isn't *real*.
     OO         you can't slam your fist against the number
OOO             three. lots of things exist mathematically
OOOOOO  O       (strange multidimensional singularity fractals,
OOO   OO        or somesuch) but nobody expects that they really
OOOO  OOOO      exist.
 OO  OOOOO      
 O O OOOOO      so how about the number pi? that's the one that
OO OOOOOO       goes "3.141592..." on and on forever. it's
O    OOO        another number. it has fantastic properties,
O        O      which is why mathematicians gave it such a good
OO   OO         name.
 OO  O          but - who made it?
  OO            "nobody made it, because it doesn't really
  OO   OOO      exist."
 OO   OOO       
O OO   OO       right. in fact, whenever there's a new
OOOOO           mathematical discovery, that's what it's
OOO    O        called, a *discovery*. did Mandelbrot make the
    OO          Mandelbrot set? no - he discovered it.
  OOOO OOO      
 OOOOOOOOO      so - what about the people who live inside pi?
 OO OOOOOO      who made them?
   OOO  O       
   OOO  O       "excuse me?!"
     O  OO      
    OOOOOO      okay. maybe there aren't people living inside
    OO OOO      of pi. but there ARE numbers that have people
     OO OO      living inside of them - as you look down the
OOOO OO  O      row of digits, if you interpret them right, you
OOOOOO   O      see people's lives being played out. and i bet
OOOOO   OO      that people live in pi, too - but that's not
OOOOO   OO      important.
 O   OOO        what about them?
        OO      (okay. mathematicians are going to be pissy.
         O      "what numbers?" they say. consider the rules
OO       O      for John Conway's game of life. it's been shown
OOOO   O O      to be Turing complete - i.e. computation can be
     O O        performed in his worlds. create a Turing machine
         O      which executes a genetic algorithm - encode it
  OO            into a life world - and then encode it into a
OOOO            number. there.)
 O O  O         
 OOOOOOOOO      so, what about them?
  O  OOOOO      "they don't really exist. they exist
O O  OOOOO      mathematically, as you say - but they don't
      OOOO      exist physically."
OO  OOOOOO      
OO  OOOOOO      no - i think they do.
 OO    OO       
OOOO   OO       consider for a moment, the perspective of one
OOOO   O O      of these people living in one of these worlds. to
OO O   OOO      you, his world is intangible. but to him, his
 OOO   OOO      world is real. when he slams his fist against
 OO             his world, it hurts.
OOO    OO       
OOO   OOO       that is EXACTLY the same criteria that we use to
O      OO       judge our world as real.
OO     OOO      
OO       O      and consider that he can find a number that
OO  OOOOOO      contains our world. and he says, just like you
O   OOOOO       do, that our number-world doesn't really exist.
O  OOOOO        
O  OO O         "so, according to you, do we exist?"
     OOOO       no, that's just it. physical existence is an
      O         illusion. we exist mathematically. our universe
  OOOOOOO       is merely a definition - like the number three.
 OOOO O         
     O          granted - our world is quite big. but then, so
O               is pi.