With news stories conjuring images of simulated realities, there has been a good amount of buzz about an article in Nature this week whose headline stated that “Simulations Back up theory that Universe is a hologram.”
A team of physicists has provided some of the clearest evidence yet that our Universe could be just one big projection.
So… there is no spoon?
Wisecracks aside, they’re referring to the Holographic principle, which allows a representation of a volume of space to be mathematically expressed or “encoded” on a boundary to the region, sort of like expressing multiple dimensions’ contents across fewer dimensions; a “flatter” surface. Thus disparate models could represent the same data. That’s what these research groups accomplished here:
In one paper, Hyakutake computes the internal energy of a black hole, the position of its event horizon (the boundary between the black hole and the rest of the Universe), its entropy and other properties based on the predictions of string theory as well as the effects of so-called virtual particles that continuously pop into and out of existence. In the other, he and his collaborators calculate the internal energy of the corresponding lower-dimensional cosmos with no gravity. The two computer calculations match.
So both models were mathematically consistent, despite one having its properties expressed in fewer dimensions than the other, or “flattened.” This is pretty cool, and they appear to have done some pretty good work, but what implication does it hold for this universe?
Neither of the model universes explored by the Japanese team resembles our own, Maldacena notes. The cosmos with a black hole has ten dimensions, with eight of them forming an eight-dimensional sphere. The lower-dimensional, gravity-free one has but a single dimension, and its menagerie of quantum particles resembles a group of idealized springs, or harmonic oscillators, attached to one another.
Okay, so it was a proof of concept for the modeling of some very specific example cases. It may not sound as exciting as the “living in a hologram” headlines, and the holograms to which they refer are not what the public might picture when they hear the word.
It’s this sort of result-hyping that leads to a disillusioned public.
- Is The Universe A Hologram? Physicists Say It’s Possible (Huffington Post)
- Physicists discover ‘clearest evidence yet’ that the Universe is a hologram (The Independent)
- Why the universe could be a hologram according to new research (The Telegraph)