Are We Living Inside A Giant Hologram?

Illustration for article titled Are We Living Inside A Giant Hologram?

The so-called "real" world isn't as real as you'd imagined. When scientists look into the fabric of space-time beyond a certain depth, it starts to lose resolution. Almost like it's made of... pixels.

At least, that's my interpretation of a new report from New Scientist. Researchers at the GEO600 facility were scanning for gravitational waves from super-dense objects like black holes and neutron stars, but they were puzzled by a kind of "noise" that kept disturbing their detector. But researcher Craig Hogan from the Fermilab in Batavia, IL has an explanation: the GEO600 has stumbled on "the fundamental limit of space-time," a point beyond which the theoretically "smooth" nature of the space time continuum breaks down into grains, like the dots you see if you stare at a newspaper photograph for too long.

Not only does that mean space-time has "microscopic convulsions," it also could mean we're living in what Hogan calls "a giant cosmic hologram." Dude!

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It sounds far-fetched, but it ties in with what researchers have discovered about black holes and the Hawking radiation that emits from them. Also, theoretically, the outer shell of the universe must contain the same amount of information as all the "bits" within the universe itself — which is impossible, unless the universe is a bit "blurry."

If we are inside a hologram, then is someone projecting it? Could we somehow manipulate the graininess of space-time to travel faster than light, or look further across the cosmos? Or at the very least, are we about to come much closer to understanding where space-time "comes from"? [New Scientist, via Bruce Sterling's Twitter feed]

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DISCUSSION

Do you know if this has anything to do with the Planck Length?

Planck Units are what you get when you start dealing with the universe in terms of units that make fundamental sense to the universe.

Most of them are pretty accessible if you know a bit of algebra a dash of calculus and have some basic quantum mechanical equations at your disposal. If you do some work you arrive at this notion that the smallest anything can be in the universe (or at least according to what you get when you run the numbers in the equations) is somewhere on the order of 10^-35 meters, and that anything below that ceases to be coherent in terms of what we know about reality.

I had a physics TA that helped me run through this stuff. I kept him for a couple of hours after class and he walked me through it, because I'd just read "A Brief History of Time" and had some questions.

And I don't know if this is new. Can anyone help me out on this one? I thought there was always some cosmic ambiguity built into space-time as it were because of the Heisenberg principle. Did they find a different limit or something?