January 17, 2009

Our holographic universe

This month's New Scientist features a cover article about the theoretic possibility that our universe may be a giant hologram. This revelation isn't anything new, but there now appears to be potential evidence in favor of the suggestion.

For a number of months, team-members working on the GEO600, a device that measures gravity waves, were confused about some inexplicable noise that was plaguing the giant detector. Researcher Craig Hogan offered an explanation: the 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.

"If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is," says Hogan, "then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram." The New Scientist article explains:
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.
Confirming the holographic principle would be a big help to researchers trying to unite quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of gravity. Hogan contends that if the holographic principle is confirmed, it rules out all approaches to quantum gravity that do not incorporate the holographic principle. Conversely, it would be a boost for those that do, like those derived from string theory and matrix theory. "Ultimately," says Hogan, "we may have our first indication of how space-time emerges out of quantum theory."

My favorite quote from the article comes from Hogan: "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time."

Mmmmm, microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time.

Okay, so you're a hologram. Carry on.

Photo Credit: Kenn Brown of Mondolithic Studios.

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