Public Star Night March 16, 2018 – John Ensworth – ” Is the world around you a computer simulation?”

Is the world around you a computer simulation?” An exploration of information, artificial intelligence, and the thoughts of Elon Musk and Nick Bostrom.

Our guest speaker for this public star night will be our own volunteer and board member John Ensworth.

With recent and rapid progress in photorealistic, 3D simulations (e.g. video games like the Climb, the Sims, or Arma 3, not to mention virtual reality (VR) systems), Elon Musk has repeatedly maintained that the ability for humans to realistically simulate reality is not far off. Assuming that everything in the physical world can be simulated, Musk posits that humans might decide to simulate themselves, once they realize the immutable limits of human and scientific progress (randomness).

There are three possibilities of human existence according to Nick Bostrom, philosopher, futurist, and author of the seminal paper Are You Living in a Computer Simulation:
1) humans go extinct before they develop this technology;
2) (post-) humans choose not to run many simulations for some reason; or
3) we are already living in a simulation that might be part of earlier simulations creating further simulations approaching infinity.

Even if we do not live in a simulation (making this reality the prime reality), the universe may ‘accidently’ work like a simulation based on information itself. The advent of artificial intelligence or simulated humans (“Sims”) may force the world to enter a simulated reality in the near future.

John Ensworth is currently the Principal Investigator of the NASA SMD Independent Education Product Review at the IGES, which is a non-profit organization formed, in part, to conduct independent reviews on all Earth and space science education products produced by or created for NASA ( His position is the one responsible for conducting these reviews and helping with NASA education and outreach efforts through the Web ( and at large education conferences (i.e. NSTA, NCTM, and the ASP) that introduce the products that are scientifically accurate and appropriate for the educational audience they are intended for. In the 90’s Mr. Ensworth was a masters’ student and a PhD candidate in meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. He earned undergraduate degrees in physics and astronomy, and geography and meteorology with an emphasis in math and computer science.

You can view a Webcam of his backyard observatory (Cherrywood Observatory) in Longmont by searching for weather in Longmont at  under Webcam links or at

Weather permitting after the presentation, visitors will be invited to look through our large telescope at various celestial objects. Our Public Star Nights are usually held the third Friday of each month, except July, when we are closed for annual maintenance.

If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793 or check the LTO web site at

Posted in LTO News