View Full Version : Our World May Be a Giant Hologram

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009, 02:38 PM
DRIVING through the countryside south of Hanover, it would be easy to miss the GEO600 experiment. From the outside, it doesn't look much: in the corner of a field stands an assortment of boxy temporary buildings, from which two long trenches emerge, at a right angle to each other, covered with corrugated iron. Underneath the metal sheets, however, lies a detector that stretches for 600 metres.

For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves - ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.

For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.

If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

The idea that we live in a hologram probably sounds absurd, but it is a natural extension of our best understanding of black holes, and something with a pretty firm theoretical footing. It has also been surprisingly helpful for physicists wrestling with theories of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.

The holograms you find on credit cards and banknotes are etched on two-dimensional plastic films. When light bounces off them, it recreates the appearance of a 3D image. In the 1990s physicists Leonard Susskind and Nobel prizewinner Gerard 't Hooft suggested that the same principle might apply to the universe as a whole. Our everyday experience might itself be a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface.

The "holographic principle" challenges our sensibilities. It seems hard to believe that you woke up, brushed your teeth and are reading this article because of something happening on the boundary of the universe. No one knows what it would mean for us if we really do live in a hologram, yet theorists have good reasons to believe that many aspects of the holographic principle are true.


Gorm the Old
Sunday, January 25th, 2009, 01:41 AM
In a hologram, the entire image exists in any part of it. Does not, then, the holographic model of our world imply that any part of it, e.g. our galaxy, contain the image of the entire cosmos ? Does it ? What, in this model, is analogous to the light which gives rise to a 3-dimensional image from the 2-dimensional hologram ?

Regarding the postulated granularity of space-time, if the "grains" be isolated self-contained monads, is it not necessary to postulate a "hyperspace-time" in which they exist ? If hyperspace-time exist, is it continuous, or, itself, granular ? If granular, in what do the "grains" exist ? It seems to me that this leads to an infinite regress.

Sunday, January 25th, 2009, 04:04 AM
So Ptolemy was right after all. Earth is not really a globe, it's a disk of sorts. :D

Albeit a continuous one, of course, if the holographic principles is true, then the world is clearly flat, and like I've said semi-humorously for the past X years - "For all we know, the world could just be a disk which is bent/curved in itself, much like Einstein said this was true of the universe at large." Now, if the holographic principle *does* have some truth, it's astonishing and shocking how close to the truth it means that I've been all along, as a layman with a bit of interest in general knowledge and a bit of common sense. :-O