- By James Plafke on December 16, 2013 at 8:31 am/Extremetech
Entertainment media has been exploring this concept for quite a while, with movies like The Matrix and Vanilla Sky becoming so prevalent in modern-day culture. The Men in Black trilogy features short segments — acting as quick, but thought-provoking jokes — that show some universe (ours or another) as being part of a much larger one. The end of the first movie, for instance, shows that our universe is the size of and held within a marble, kept in an alien’s bag with other universe marbles. If we’re living within a hologram and made to think it’s just our normal universe, there isn’t much of a way we’d know if that’s how it was designed. A disturbing thought, so naturally, some very scientists are trying to figure out if we live in the universe as we know it — or not.
Back in 1997, the theory of a holographic universe was first introduced by physicist Juan Maldacena, who theorized that gravity arises from thin, vibrating strings that exist in nine dimensions of space and another of time, whereas real life exists in a universe without gravity. The comparison to the hologram is frequently made because of the way a hologram is created; it’s a three-dimensional image coded onto a two-dimensional surface. The theory suggests that the universe is built in a similar fashion, the higher dimensional part coded onto a flatter, lower dimensional part. So, on a hologram, only one part is tangible — the lower dimensional surface onto which the hologram is coded. The holographic image, though, merely looks three-dimensional. You can’t, for example, touch it with your fingers. Now, pretend that’s the structure of the universe.
Yes, it’s wacky.
The theory has been discussed for a while now, and a quick Google search will yield many results over the past few years covering the topic — mainly more tiny drops of evidence in a big, mostly empty pool. However, with each drop, that pool fills up just a little more. Two new drops, papers published on the ArXiv preprint , involve black holes, gravity, and string theory. One paper examines the energy of a black hole, the position of its event horizon, and its entropy. The other paper calculates the internal energy of the corresponding lower dimensional cosmos — the one without gravity. The calculations from both papers matched, and while it isn’t definitive proof, the scientists feel it’s compelling evidence.
Basically, if true, this means that the universe as we know it may be the result of processes happening on some other surface or plane.
Maldacena himself took a look at the computations, and confirmed that they appear to be correct, but did note that the two universe models used in the computations do not resemble our own. However, the computations do prove that a universe could be the result of processes happening in a lower dimension, and thus our universe could indeed be formed in this manner. The computations in the two papers have created a model, and we’d just need to figure out our universe’s appropriate to plug in.
Thankfully, even though strides have been made, it appears as though scientists will be working to confirm whether or not the universe is a hologram for some time. Ideally, they never figure it out, because the question that comes next — what exactly are we, then — is much more terrifying.
Now read: Humanity’s infinitesimally tiny influence on the universe, or why we haven’t met any aliens yet
Research paper: arXiv:1311.7526 – “Quantum Near Horizon Geometry of Black 0-Brane” & arXiv:1311.5607 - ”Holographic description of quantum black hole on a computer”