Given all of the recent coverage on the radical idea that the universe is one massive hologram, we thought we would take a few minutes to delve into what that really means for us. Basically, the holographic universe principle suggests that we’re living in a simulated reality (different from the hypothesis that states we live in a computer simulation), where our physical world is nothing more than a detailed illusion. This illusion is actually projected by our brains, as energy fields are being decoded into the seemingly 3 dimensional universe we see around us. In a more speculative sense, the theory suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a two-dimensional information structure, which is “painted” on the cosmological horizon, such that the three dimensions (four, if you include time) we observe are only an effective description at macroscopic scales and at low energies.
“Our brain mathematically constructs objective reality by interpreting frequencies that are ultimately from another dimension, a deeper order of existence that is beyond both space and time” says David Bohm, who is the primary voice behind the holographic universe principle. (He certainly is not the only scientist that consider it a viable hypothesis. Brian Greene, author of “The Elegant Universe” is one of them.) Bohm was dissatisfied with standard cosmological theories that couldn’t explain diverse phenomena predicted by quantum mechanics. He was also very interested in understanding how they relate to the neuropathology of the brain.
So, in 1982, an experiment was conducted by a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect at the Institute of Theoretical And Applied Optics, in Paris. It was discovered that under certain conditions, subatomic particles (such as electrons) are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating them. It doesn’t matter whether they are 10 feet or 10 billion miles apart. Somehow the particles always seem to know what the other is doing. We now call this “quantum entanglement, and it’s one of the more baffling aspects of particle physics, mostly because the underlying theme appears to contradict Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which says NOTHING can travel faster than the speed of light. (including information)
Overall, the experiment demonstrated that the web of subatomic particles that compose our physical universe – the so-called “fabric of reality itself” – possess what appears to be an undeniable “holographic” property. If true, the holographic principle would comprehensively include reality as we know it, but also previously unexplained phenomena, such as the paranormal, along with “out-of-body experiences,” telepathy, lucid dreaming and near-death experiences (among other things).
Before we get ahead of ourselves with why this theory is unlikely, lets talk a bit about the properties that would give this hypothesis some credence:
First, we know that dense celestial objects, like black holes, neutron stars and pulsars, have immense gravitational fields that should give way to gravitational waves — one of the most sought after aspects of quantum physics. One particular German team that is searching for evidence of gravitational waves, the GEO600 team, were met with some kind of unexplainable eerie noise, which disrupted the GEO 600 detector from doing its job properly. One researcher from the Fermilab in Batavia, Craig Hogan, has proposed an interesting solution to the mystery (formally known as “quantum noise“): He thinks that there must be a fundamental limit of space/time, where the smoothness of the space/time continuum begins to break down into “grains,” similar to pixels that comprise images on a computer screen.
In his mind, this finding (the noise) suggests that the entirety of the universe is merely the 3D projection of information found on a 2 dimensional information structure (you can liken it to that of a CD). Said structure is located at the very “edge” of the universe and the projection occurs when light bounces off from it, causing the light to scatter throughout the universe. His conclusion is somewhat vindicated by some of the observations we’ve made about the manner in which black holes behave, along with the Hawking radiation that continues to leak from them over time.
Enter stage left, the “Black Hole Firewall Paradox,” which has been a highly debated subject amongst physicists far more intelligent than I am. So, I’ll let one of them explain this:
“Information encoded in an event horizon “is born from other well known interpretations of the cosmos, in particularly the black hole paradox. As something falls into a black hole, passing the event horizon, the quantum information held in the event horizon can be encoded to reveal information about the interior. Therefore, the information inside the black hole’s event horizon is not destroyed (note: for details on this, see the Thorne-Hawking-Preskill bet). If the information about the interior of a black hole is encoded in its event horizon, scientists have come forward to point out that perhaps the information inside our Universe is encoded in the Universe’s horizon.”
What does that mean? Well, If you’ve been an avid reader of this page, you may remember an article I wrote about what would hypothetically happen to you if you were to survive the descent into the event horizon of a super-duper massive black-hole. In this, I basically said that along with the time dilation associated with the curvature of space/time, you would (hypothetically) be able to observe the entire history of the black hole’s existence simultaneously. The holographic principle is the same on a larger scale. All of the information should be encoded in the event horizon of our universe in Planck Length bits of space/time, and everything within is a projection of the 2D inner shell.
Now, as for why this theory is unlikely:
The European Space Agency’s “Integral gamma-ray observatory” was initially opened in 2010. It’s capable of measuring gamma-radiation and its counterpart, gamma-ray bursts, which is one of the most powerful and destructive forces of nature. Depending on their highly unpredictable behavior, it’s possible for the observatory to be able to study these bursts to determine if space/time does indeed become “grainy” or pixilated at a quantum level. One particular burst traversed space for nearly 300 million light-years, before reaching our planet. Yet, no blurriness in the fabric of space/time was observed, at least not down to 10^48 meters — ten trillion times smaller than the fundamental unit of length in quantum physics, Planck length. Of which, physicists are unsure if it’s even possible for a unit of length that’s smaller than Planck length to exist. So, this is one pretty monumental strike against the holographic universe principle.
There is still one other explanation that can’t be ruled out though, on this train of thought; perhaps gamma-ray photons behave differently than expected via the holographic principle? We still have a lot more to understand about the fabric of space/time, the universe and rectifying quantum mechanics with other well established scientific theories. This one.. this one makes my head hurt.
To read more about the latest developments concerning the holographic universe principle, click here: