Is the universe a hologram?

Paul Raven @ 25-10-2010

Wrap your head around this on a Monday morning, if you can: what we think of as the three dimensional universe we inhabit may in fact just be a holographic projection, and Craig Hogan is trying to prove it [via BigThink and Ian Sales].

The idea that spacetime may not be entirely smooth – like a digital image that becomes increasingly pixelated as you zoom in – had been previously proposed by Stephen Hawking and others. Possible evidence for this model appeared last year in the unaccountable “noise” plaguing the GEO600 experiment in Germany, which searches for gravitational waves from black holes. To Hogan, the jitteriness suggested that the experiment had stumbled upon the lower limit of the spacetime pixels’ resolution.

Black hole physics, in which space and time become compressed, provides a basis for math showing that the third dimension may not exist at all. In this two-dimensional cartoon of a universe, what we perceive as a third dimension would actually be a projection of time intertwined with depth. If this is true, the illusion can only be maintained until equipment becomes sensitive enough to find its limits.

“You can’t perceive it because nothing ever travels faster than light,” says Hogan. “This holographic view is how the universe would look if you sat on a photon.”

Coming soon to a Greg Egan short story collection near you…

I just never get tired of these existential cosmology ideas. As I’ve said before, this is the sort of stuff that makes me wish I’d actually paid attention at university and gone on to study hardcore physics… though given how much I sucked at calculus, it’s probably best that I didn’t.

Fractal levels of simulated reality, forsooth!

Paul Raven @ 13-10-2010

I’m sure I ran a story similar to this a while back, but I’m damned if I can find it in the Futurismic archives, so I’m gonna mention it anyway: it’s the one about the folk building logic-based processors within the virtual spaces of computer games, the latest example being the insanely popular (and rather lucrative) Minecraft. Find blocks of material with the right in-game properties, chain ’em together, and hey presto, you’ve got a simulated arithmetic processor made of non-existent lumps of an entirely fictional substance. Whole lotta meta, right there.

I think the reason I love these stories is because of the extrapolatory end-point: the implication is that given simulated spaces of sufficient size and complexity (and sufficient player-hours, or clever macros to obviate the need for such), one could build a computing device within that simulation which was itself capable of running a simulation within which another computing device could be simulated. Sort of like Nick Bostrom rewriting Lavie Tidhar’s “In Pacmandu”… it’s simulated turtles all the way down! Now, where’s the door back to my origin reality, please?

Beginner’s guide to atom-smashing

Paul Raven @ 30-03-2010

Today’s ubiquitous topic in the geek-o-sphere is surely the successful test of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN… so if you were wondering exactly how it is that particle accelerators are supposed to discover hypothetical sub-atomic thingybobs with funny names, Ars Technica is running a series of articles that should fill you in on the basics. Start with Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Particle Smashers, and proceed from there.