Ask Ethan: Could Our Universe Be A Hologram? (Synopsis)

"It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond, or the lie I should say, for which we kill. We are nothing without our image. Without our projection. Without the spiritual hologram of who we perceive ourselves to be or rather to become, in the future. When you are lonely, I will be lonely too. And this is the fame." -Lady Gaga

One of the more remarkable discoveries in human technology is the hologram. Instead of mapping a snapshot of our three-dimensional world from a single perspective onto a two-dimensional surface, we can create a light map of the entire three-dimensional space that gets projected onto a two-dimensional surface. Even though we lose a dimension, the two projections -- the 3D volume and the 2D surface -- contain the same amount of information.

Image credit: laboratory setup of the creation of a hologram, via Epzcaw of Wikimedia Commons, under a c.c.a.-3.0 unported license. Image credit: laboratory setup of the creation of a hologram, via Epzcaw of Wikimedia Commons, under a c.c.a.-3.0 unported license.

Is it possible, then, that our 3D Universe is simply the surface or boundary of a higher-dimensional "volume" that represents the fuller extent of our Universe? According to the holographic principle, it just might be. Inspired by string theory and supported by a number of mathematical curiosities, it's entirely plausible that there really are extra dimensions to our Universe, and we might even be able to learn about them through the data available in our 3D space.

Image credit: Alex Dunkel (Maky) and Polytope24 of wikimedia commons, under a c.c.a.-by-s.a.-3.0, of the AdS/CFT correspondence between the interior volume and the boundary of the surface enclosing it. Image credit: Alex Dunkel (Maky) and Polytope24 of wikimedia commons, under a c.c.a.-by-s.a.-3.0, of the AdS/CFT correspondence between the interior volume and the boundary of the surface enclosing it.

Go find out more about the curious case of whether our Universe is a hologram on this week's Ask Ethan!

Tags

More like this

“Public discourse has been polluted now for decades by corporate-funded disinformation - not just with climate change but with a host of health, environmental and societal threats. The implications for the planet are grim.” -Michael E. Mann What a couple of weeks it's been, both at Starts With A…
"Dimension regulated the general scale of the work, so that the parts may all tell and be effective." -Vitruvius In a four-dimensional Universe (3 space and 1 time), it’s easy to get lost. If you take a random walk, the chances of you coming back to your original starting point in a finite number…
"Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself." -Carl Jung If you divide the matter we know into progressively smaller and smaller components, you’d find that atomic nuclei, made of protons and neutrons, compose…
What's the application? Holograms are images of objects that appear three-dimensional-- if you move your head as you look at a hologram, you will see the usual parallax effects, unlike a normal photograph, which is fixed. So, if your hologram includes one object that is partly behind another object…

I imagine it would take a long time to refresh the 'universe' image at C.

PJ #1, I’ll ask you, and I’ll ask Ethan…

Is THIS science?
“Now, our Universe as we actually perceive it has three spatial dimensions accessible to us. But what if there are fundamentally more than that? Just like a common hologram is a two-dimensional surface that encodes the full suite of information about our three-dimensional Universe, could our three-dimensional Universe encode information about a fundamentally four-or-higher-dimensional reality that we’re embedded in? It could, and … The idea that our Universe might be a hologram came out of the conception of String Theory.” !

By See Noevo (not verified) on 12 Mar 2016 #permalink

The science is in the research of the available data (information) to be able to come to a testable solution. Yes, it is science. The topic is researchable; the solution may not be what is desired, therefore, learn & move on to another approach.

To PJ #3:

How would the scientists test whether you’re for real?

Also, can a hologram know that it’s a hologram?

By See Noevo (not verified) on 12 Mar 2016 #permalink

"How would the scientists test whether you’re for real?"

Why would they have to?

"Also, can a hologram know that it’s a hologram?"

If you're a hologram and you know you're a hologram, then yes. If you're not a hologram and you know you're a hologram, then undefined. If you're not a hologram and you know you're not a hologram then undefined. If you're a hologram and you know you're not a hologram, then no.

What was illuminated by this other than your idiocy?

Can someone indoctrinated in a cult ever know or accept they've been indoctrinated in a cult?

@SN #4
A hologram contains data, but does not operate as a memory store which can be manipulated by itself, or gather information of itself or its environment. It is essentially hard wired until the user changes the structure; ie, erase & rewrite the data.

@PJ

hologram can be used as memory storage, can't be manipulated by itself (need's lasers).. but every memory storage needs some "outside" mean to manipulate it (be it magnetic or optical)

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 13 Mar 2016 #permalink

What's missing is that this isn't a hologram as you are thinking.

It's an analogy.

Nothing more.

A surface is not and never has been a two dimensional plane or object, a surface requires three dimensions to exist, so I'm not sure how a hologram really proves anything about the universe being anything but three dimensional. Optics and light have never operated in two dimensions except euphemistically in diagrams. No one has ever 'seen' a plane except as an abstraction depicting a cross section of a volume. If you have seen something, you have either perceived a light source or something the light has reflected off of, both require three dimensions not to mention the eyeball that detects them, the eye can not function in a plane in any mechanical way. Planes also have a zero cross section for their z axis, there is nothing there a photon can even bounce off of, much less be emitted from.

Why is the hologram nonsense getting traction at all? It has nothing to do with science or physics or actual cosmology.

How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg. Abraham Lincoln

A surface only needs three dimensions to exist in a three dimensional reality. However, it quite happily resides in 2 dimensions 100% accurately and with comfort.

"so I’m not sure how a hologram really proves anything about the universe being anything but three dimensional. "

It doesn't. The hologram is to our world as our world is to "the holographic universe".

"No one has ever ‘seen’ a plane except as an abstraction depicting a cross section of a volume"

Because we exist in three dimensions, therefore we have to see in three dimensions. Though technically, we "see" in two. We abstract out a three dimensional object from our vision, but it isn't SEEN as three dimensions.

The holographic universe is more than a bit dumb IMO, but there are valid complaints. Not understanding it and complaining about the misapprehension is not correct.

Wow,
The hologram exists three dimensionally, the universe that contains it exists three dimensionally, there is no analogy between two things in the same set, AND two things which are not even in the same set. Three dimensions aren't two, even if you say so, or wave your hands a lot.There is no meaningful analogy because in one case you are comparing two three dimensional objects (the hologram, the universe), and in dreadful analogy you are eliding from a three dimensional object (the universe) to a poorly defined imaginary abstraction ('the holographic universe').

A two dimensional abstract 'object' is within a plane, if you curve/dimple/twist it even in the abstract, it is no longer contained within a plane because it can not be described without a third dimension to carry the curvature/dimple/torsion. If I can rotate an abstract object and always see a cross section, it is no longer within a plane. A surface does not reside in two dimensions, namely because you can look at it to tell it is a surface. If light is bouncing off something, it is either emitting light, or reflecting it, which abstract planes can not do mechanically since they do not exist outside of the abstraction or depiction of the abstraction, and actual light can not reflect off of something that isn't there. Being that we do not exist in abstraction, the only place two dimensional objects 'exist' as such, is in your imagination. Nothing in this universe is perfectly smooth or flat, and nothing that has flat like attributes is truly a plane. Check out electron microscope images of glass or paper, reality is not 2D. If you are speaking of purely two dimensional representational abstractions, like a graph or chart, diagram, etc., even these are not truly two dimensional as you are still looking down at them euphemistically, we have to pretend they are 2D, since if they were actually 2D you would have no way to observe them or use them to depict information.
But please, prove me wrong if you like, give an example (evidence) of an actual surface that is two dimensional (i.e. not an imaginary construct). I'd also chime in there are no perfect spheres, cubes, or lines you can actually point to as examples either.

Because I reject a bad analogy proposed by expert groupthink does not mean I don't understand what was intended. It merely means I am not persuaded by a bad analogy being passed off as coherent thought.

Once again,
"How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg.
Abraham Lincoln

@CFT: You have clearly and repeatedly demonstrated your mathematical (not arithmetic) ignorance. An argument from incredulity is no less fallacious (i.e., wrong) just because you repeat it.

Since you don't understand dimensional reduction or what the term "holographic principle" means technically, your unsupported opinion is nothing more than that.

By Michael Kelsey (not verified) on 14 Mar 2016 #permalink

I find it a little surprising how so many space scientists spend so much time on spacey unobservable hypotheticals (e.g. a “hologram” universe; multiverses) when there are so many spacey observables which haven’t been explained.

Just one of countless examples:
“For such a tiny planet, Mercury is a pretty big puzzle for researchers. NASA’s MESSENGER probe already has revealed that the planet is surprisingly rich in elements that easily evaporate from the surface, such as sulphur, chlorine, sodium and potassium. This is incredibly odd as these kind of substances most likely would disappear during a hot or violent birth – exactly the type of birth a planet so close to the sun, such as Mercury, would have had.

Scientists are also struggling to understand why Mercury is so dark and what its earliest planetary crust, created as the newly-formed planet cooled down, was made of. Research has now started to throw up answers – but these are raising a lot of new questions.”

https://theconversation.com/the-more-we-learn-about-mercury-the-weirder…

Maybe if less time was spent on untestable “what-might-be”s, we’d know more about what IS.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 14 Mar 2016 #permalink

@See Noknowledge #14: You know very little about the field if you think actual "space scientists" spend much time at all on theoretical cosmology. That's what theoretical cosmologists spend their time on.

Unfortunately, specualtive "big ideas" (especially the ones with little evidence and less hope of getting any in the short term) are the ones that tend to get press, precisely because non-experts think they can have "informed" opinions about them.

There are an amazing number of actual observational puzzles which are big areas of research. You mentioned Mercury, which has a whole platter of puzzles. There are comets, exoplanets, cosmic rays, the interestellar medium, and on and on and on. All of these have lots of "space scientists" (some people call them astrophysicists) studying them, and more.

"Maybe if less time was spent on untestable what-might-be's"? Be careful what you wish for...

By Michael Kelsey (not verified) on 14 Mar 2016 #permalink

"Wow,
The hologram exists three dimensionally,"

"The hologram"? You don't even know what we're talking about, moron. A hologram that we can create and call a hologram is necessarily in three dimensions because we live in a world of three dimensions that we can perceive. That doesn't mean that the hologram they're talking about here isn't one you create by interference patterns in a reactive crystalline solid.

Your ignorance is your problem, please stop making it science's problem.

"when there are so many spacey observables which haven’t been explained."

Well, you see humans are capable of working on different things independently. Of course whatever hive mind alien concourse you hail from will find this completely incomprehensible, each of your creche members having to obey the wishes of the hive mind and having no independent thought or action of your own.

"Once again,
“How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg."

Once again, who the fuck other than you is whining about dogs legs???

The title photo is eerily similar to Astronomy Picture of the Day image from 3/16/2016 - A Phoenix Aurora over Iceland. It's really cool, though I don't think it proves we live in a hologram...