back to article Boffins attempt to prove the universe is just a hologram

How can we tell from the inside of our Universe if it’s actually real or just a hologram? Boffins at Fermilab have set out to answer this thorny question with a new experiment in the National Accelerator Lab called the Holometer. A Fermilab scientist works on the laser beams at the heart of the Holometer experiment Lasers …

  1. TwistUrCapBack

    Interesting times

    Im inclined to believe this will eventually be proved true ...

    My personal educated guess is that our universe is similar to the interior of a black hole, with all the information spread out over the event horizon in 2 dimensions ..

    Interesting times indeed

    1. P0l0nium

      Re: Interesting times

      You are not alone !!

      After thinking about this for several years I have concluded that the universe is a projection.

      I try to imagine its "look and feel" while riding on a photon ! :-)

      1. Chemist

        Re: Interesting times

        "I try to imagine its "look and feel" while riding on a photon ! :-)"

        Sorry to upset you but it'd be beyond a blur as a photon transits instantaneously over any distance from its perspective. It's travelling at light speed so doesn't experience time at all AFAIK.

        (Of course hitching a ride on a photon will slow it down unless you too are massless so this isn't anything more than a thought experiment unless you've seriously been dieting )

        1. Gannon (J.) Dick
          Joke

          Re: Interesting times

          @Chemist

          "... so this isn't anything more than a thought experiment unless you've seriously been dieting"

          I suspect people cut down on thought experiment production by thinking less. I've tried everything, South Beach (thinking like a Blonde), Low Carbohydrate (thinking like a rock) ... if this diet works it will life-changing for millions.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Interesting times

          A photon doesn't have a perspective, but I digress.

          The whole idea of time either going slower or faster is from the observer's point of view, for whoever is inside the "event" where this timeshift happens it appears as if nothing has happened, for them. Except if they were able to observe the observers they would find their time is either moving slower or faster.

          Going from that I would think that if you were to travel on a photon and if said photon would travel instantaneously it would still appear from your point of view as if time would behave normally.

          I like theoretical physics, you can make up all kind of (bogus) thought experiements without the burden of proof. ;-)

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Chemist

            Re: Interesting times

            "as if time would behave normally."

            Indeed, but normal for a photon - photons don't experience time. You would still arrive at your destination instantly - your watch would not have ticked - that's normal for a photon. But, but you still can only do any of this if your rest mass is 0.

            Sounds weird I know but that's the universe for you. As an object approaches c its 'clock' runs slower and slower - at c it stops. This photon if it was sentient would experience its entire trip from emission to absorption as a single composite image

      2. Nym

        Re: Interesting times

        YOU ARE!! I had to say that. That was my first contribution to the theory at about 9 years old, and there are about an infinite number of arguments against it--and it was even covered prior to that (sometime in the 1940s I believe but don't ask me who)--but the thought still intrigues me.

    2. Brandon 2

      Re: Interesting times

      In science, you can't prove a theory to be true. You can only prove it false.

      1. sisk Silver badge

        Re: Interesting times

        In science, you can't prove a theory to be true. You can only prove it false.

        But you also can't prove a negative, so where does that leave us?

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: Interesting times

          "In science, you can't prove a theory to be true. You can only prove it false.

          But you also can't prove a negative, so where does that leave us?"

          Same place science has always been: Building on the work of previous researchers, trying to build a platform high enough to glimpse the far-off ocean of Truth.

          1. SleepyJohn

            Re: Interesting times

            "Building on the work of previous researchers, trying to build a platform high enough to glimpse the far-off ocean of Truth."

            Which is essentially a fancy way of saying that science is never right, only slightly less wrong than it was before. Explanations are not the same as truths.

        2. lys

          Re: "But you also can't prove a negative"

          From a logical point of view you CAN prove the negative of a general statement. It is enough to observe ONE instance that contradicts the general statement. On the contrary, in order to prove a general statement true, you should observe all possible instances of that statement (in natural science all occurrences of a phenomenon): in principle infinitely many.

          In natural science this is relevant given the additional assumption that we can, in principle, make the measurement error, on an specific quantity, as small as we like.

        3. eulampios

          counterexamples and experiments

          >>But you also can't prove a negative, so where does that leave us?

          What? It usually takes an experiment or counterexample, since a theory (a theorem) involves a certain scope of generalities.

      2. ColonelDare

        Re: Interesting times

        > In science, you can't prove a theory to be true. You can only prove it false.

        Yes, pointed to by the last sentence:

        A positive result will open a whole new avenue of questioning about how space works.

      3. Wilseus

        Re: Interesting times

        "In science, you can't prove a theory to be true. You can only prove it false."

        You can prove a theory to be true by showing that it being false would lead to a contradiction.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: Interesting times

          >>"You can prove a theory to be true by showing that it being false would lead to a contradiction."

          But you have to prove that the thing it would contradict is true first. It's theorems all the way down. ;)

        2. eulampios

          Re: Interesting times

          >>You can prove a theory to be true by showing that it being false would lead to a contradiction.

          Technically true (called either of the following ex adverso, reductio ad absurdum, by contradiction), however, might be quite problematic to build a whole theory with this method. It is certainly easier to prove a single theorem (statement) out of many the given theory consists of. In proving every theorem you of course can try arguing one at a time by contradiction. It concerns Physics, Math and other sciences.

          It usually works best/easiest when alternatives to a statement are few (like finite/infinite, unique/non-unique, rational/irrational). Say, the proof of the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic stating that prime numbers are infinitely many, a well-known proof, ascribed to Euclid comes to mind as one beautiful example. Or in proving that sqrt(2), sqrt(n) are irrational, with n being a not perfect square integer. Similarly many existence and uniqueness theorems are proven by contradiction for uniqueness, but not existence.

    3. The Man Who Fell To Earth
      Boffin

      Re: Interesting times

      Usually, when high energy physicists try to do optical measurements, it ends with erroneous results.

      1. William Towle
        Coat

        Re: Interesting times

        > Usually, when high energy physicists try to do optical measurements, it ends with erroneous results.

        Doesn't have to be high energy physicists. Or optical measurements.

        // "...if it doesn't work... etc etc" (and yes, I did study physics)

      2. khisanth

        Re: Interesting times

        Seems to be plenty of similar experiments like this either to detect the ether, gravitational waves etc and they all suffere from the fact the Earth is a bloody noisy place with vibrations coming from so many sources.

        this is an experiment that if proved true, does not actually help us with anything!

    4. creamsykle

      Re: Interesting times

      Maybe we are the result of a 4 dimensional star collapsing and it has a 3 dimension event horizon just like a 3 dimensional star collapsing ends with a 2 dimensional event horizon?

      1. Flyberius

        Re: Interesting times

        That's some straight up Greg Egan thinking right there and I like it!

      2. Len Goddard

        Re: Interesting times

        This was the subejct of a recent Scientific American (cover) article.

        But then where did the 4 dimensional star come from? The collapse of a 5 dimensional star with a 4 dimensional event horizon?

        Its turtles all the way down.

      3. jphb

        Re: Interesting times

        This was discussed in the August issue of Scientific American. I have a niggling feeling that in a universe with 4 extended spatial dimensions, attractive forces exerted by a "point" like object would fall off in accordance with an inverse cube law rather than the inverse square law in our universe. This would mean that bound structures such as electrons orbiting atomic nuclei and planets orbiting stars are not possible. Not sure about atomic nuclei and the strong and weak forces though.

        Unfortunately at this time in the morning my maths isn't up to exploring this further.

    5. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Interesting times

      Why 2 dimensions? Why not 1, or 3 or 5 or...

      There is no problem postulating the universe is made up of n dimensions or any number other than the normal 3 (or should that be 3 spatial + one time like?).

      Proving it one way or the other is the problem. :P

    6. PGTART

      Re: Interesting times

      Well a dutch scientist already made the the math to explain gravity just as a side effect of what you describe. On the other side it might be possible that true empty space has a different nature (it cann't be made due to quantum fluctuations). Dough i wonder if QM is just realy the end of measuring and certainty. I rather hope for a a nice mix perhaps something with fractals endless infinite patterns and strings / membranes. As to me inflation just doesnt sound right.

    7. jaime

      Re: Interesting times

      I guess you've seen the new COSMOS series with Neil deGrasse Tyson. He actually talks about this exact scenario in one of the episodes so I"m guessing it's becoming more mainstream now. When I first heard about it years it was all a bunch of pseudoscience LOL.

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Happy

    Sub-heads

    The El Reg sub-head writer is on form this week. Although I do detect a bias towards a certain popular music song

    1. PhilipN Silver badge

      Re: Sub-heads

      I am going to go out on a limb here and use these forums to say that Bohemian Rhapsody is the most over-rated, pretentious piece of drivel ever to reach the charts.

      But then I am also appalled that the non-riff from "Whole Lotta Love" should even be in contention for a "best in history" nod.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Sub-heads

        @PhilipN

        Bohemian Rhapsody... I like it, but if you don't rate it, fine.

        Dissing Led Zeppelin: Burn the heretic!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sub-heads

      El Reg was over Galileo like a fly on a carcass. And it smells wonderful.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sub-heads

        El Reg was over Galileo like a flyvulture on a carcass. And it smells wonderful.

        Fixed that for you.

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

          Re: Sub-heads

          I think we are beating references to Bohemian Rhapsody into the ground. How about Joe Walsh's "Living a Life of Illusion" for this story?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Sub-heads

      Landslide or not there's no escape from reality. Even if it's just a hologram.

  3. D@v3

    it'll all end in tears

    probably already has

    1. dotdavid
      Alien

      Re: it'll all end in tears

      ...followed by the universe being reset to an earlier save point.

      The simulation's "self-awareness" level is a tricky one to get through.

      1. John Tserkezis

        Re: it'll all end in tears

        "The simulation's "self-awareness" level is a tricky one to get through."

        No problem, the cheat codes are available on the holographic interweb.

        1. Tom 64

          Re: it'll all end in tears

          Given the theory that the uni/multiverse is infinite, this experiment has already been done an infinite number of times and been found to be both true and false.

          Interesting times indeed =)

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: probably already has

      And it probably will again.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: probably already has

        "And it probably will again."

        With something even more bizarre?

  4. Rich 2

    Excellent

    I first heard about this about 2 years ago on a Horizon program entitled "What is reality?". As the first poster indicates, the idea is that "reality" exists only on the surface/edge of the universe, and everything inside it is just a projection of that surface.

    If something as bonkers as this is proven true then (a) it would be very exciting and (b) it might explain other strange phenomena like odd socks being eaten by the washing machine.

    1. AbelSoul

      Re: Sock gnomes

      explain other strange phenomena like odd socks being eaten by the washing machine.

      1. Steal socks

      2. ?

      3. Profit!

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Sock gnomes

        Eater of Socks / Verruca gnome

        gling-glingle-glingle

        1. Kane Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Sock gnomes

          Dammit to Hell!

          glingleglingleglingle...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sock gnomes

            I saw a theory once that socks slip into an alternate universe. The premise was that each universe attracts one item into itself from all others. Ours is, of course, attuned to collect hangers.

            1. ian 22

              Re: Sock gnomes

              @Mycho: due to conservation of mass, the socks become hangers. No need for alternate universes. Occam's Razor shaves clean.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sock gnomes

        this missing sock conundrum was answered some time ago by Alexei Sayle. It's the Fish People. They steal the individual socks for some World Domination reason. I forget the details.

      3. CommanderGalaxian

        Re: Sock gnomes

        And, of course, there's the other phenomena of searching high and low for your car keys, then after a while discovering that they are in a place you have already searched.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sock gnomes

          > And, of course, there's the other phenomena of searching high and low for your car keys, then after a while discovering that they are in a place you have already searched.

          This of course also applies to cutlery in the cutlery drawer, most commonly the tongs and the can opener.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Sock gnomes

            Actually, behind the 2D surface universe lies a significant black hole which, though unobservable, channels all the teaspoons from all school staff rooms to a distant and spoon laden part of the universe.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Excellent

      it might explain other strange phenomena like odd socks being eaten by the washing machine

      This has already sufficiently been explained and got nothing to do with crazy universe models: it's the other pieces of clothing agreeing on sacrificing a sock to the Great God of Washing. Proof: put only one sock on its own through the washing cycle and it won't disappear - socks usually are not suicidal.

      1. firu toddo
        Coat

        Re: Excellent

        The gods have nothing to do with it. Stuff disappearing is down to mini wormholes that jump about in your house. They connect random places and normally go unnoticed.

        Until they suddenly open up! And it's not just socks, the car keys you put in the bowl by the door will end up down the sofa with your change and that little screwdriver you left in the garage. And that bottle opener you used on the sofa is now in the drawer underneath the cutlery. Your sock is now somewhere else, back in the washbasket or under the chair or in the garden.

        The mini wormholes open when there is sufficient mass of similar items. This explains why your shirt disappears from the hotel laundry but only socks from your washing machine, the more mass the bigger the item that can pass through the wormhole. So most of that change you got in the pub last night has vanished and is in the kid's pockets or the wife's purse or the change bottle thanks to the mini wormhole and the sheer mass of change. Also why my drill, lawnmower and spade is in the neighbours shed!

        Of course this is only a theory. I might be able to prove it if anyone fancies funding my beer habit research.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Excellent

          While I prefer my own theory when it comes to cutlery firu's would explain another cosmological mystery. Any rope, hosepipe or electrical lead wrapped up neatly and placed in a suitable dark place for more than two weeks will become a tangled mess that no amount of delierate human action could have achieved. Clearly mini wormholes are the only possible explanation for this.

          1. Vinyl-Junkie
            Alien

            Re: Excellent

            @Terry 6; you think they need a dark place? When I built a new computer desk for my gaming PC about three years ago I very carefully cable-tied all the leads for controllers, soundcards, external hard-drives, TrackIR etc. I used seperate cable ties for each device, When I came to move it last month what did I find? TANGLED CABLES!

            It has to be wormholes, it really does!

        2. Shades
          Thumb Up

          Re: Excellent

          Its gems like this that make the slog trawling through the El Reg comments totally worth it! Bravo Firu Toddo.

    3. Hero Protagonist

      Re: Excellent (quantum theory of socks)

      Quantum theory tells us that the sock is in a superposition of the states "missing" and "not missing" until an observation is made. So it's the very act of looking for it that makes it go missing. Simples.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Excellent (quantum theory of socks)

        Sounds like a certain cat...

        1. P. Lee

          Re: Excellent (quantum theory of socks)

          > Sounds like a certain cat...

          I've discovered a small-dog-shaped wormhole which redistributes socks (and indeed underwear) around the house and the garden. I've yet to fathom the "neat cables go into the bag, tangled ones come out" mystery.

          1. Alister Silver badge

            Re: Excellent (quantum theory of socks)

            I've yet to fathom the "neat cables go into the bag, tangled ones come out" mystery.

            It's due to Malignancy "The local hostility of things towards non- things" or, as we now call it, Quantum Entanglement...

            ;)

    4. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Boffin

      Einstein didn't wear socks

      so that proves it.

      Proves what? Well, whatever you want, really.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was thinking of another type of hologram

    You know, the "universe as a simulation" thing...

    This is also some interesting research.

    Also does this resolve the Achilles + Tortoise paradox?

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

      Only if either Achilles OR the tortoise are wearing the sock.

      Obviously they can't both be wearing it, or they'd be superimposed.

      1. Paul_Murphy

        Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

        Well there could be two differently lost socks or, potentially, the same sock at different points in it's existence (though the same point in ours) though of course that could be used to prove sock time travel, which would open up a whole new can of worms - or a whole new washing machine if using the sock-idiom.

        1. Elmer Phud

          Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

          There is only one sock.

          Quantum being what it is (or isn't), people do not lose a sock they are gaining one.

          When that sock ends up in the washing machine it immediately goes to another machine, every other machine, turns in to a pair as it meets itself in the machine it started from - etc.

          1. DropBear Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

            There is only one sock.

            Nononono...! There - is - no - sock.

            1. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

              Dropbear is right... there is only one sock because we all only have one leg and one foot. The other foot and leg are a hologram.

          2. onceuponatime

            Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

            Do not try and find the sock. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.

            What truth?

            There is no sock.

            There is no sock?

            Then you'll see, that it is not the sock that is missing, it is only yourself.

          3. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

            Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

            The sock is a lie!

            Or was that cake? I always get those two mixed up. Perhaps I shall have a lie down...

            1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

              Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

              You get socks and cake mixed up? I did wonder why that pudding of yours tasted odd...

              1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

                Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

                Why do we never end up with *extra* socks in the washing machine?

                1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

                  Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

                  Someone ate them for pudding, I'm guessing.

                2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

                  Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

                  @ Sir Runcible

                  50% of the time the odd sock is because there's an extra, 50% because there's one missing.

                  We just don't know which event is which.

                  1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
                    Facepalm

                    Re: I was thinking of another type of hologram

                    Doh! How could I have been so blind!! It was right there all along, right in front of me (well, in the utility room at any rate) - thanks Neil.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's just mathematical equivalency

    We need to remember that the universe doesn't really run on mathematical formulae - they are just models. Electrons don't do a quick calculation before deciding how much energy to emit as a photon when changing orbitals. It all "just happens" and we try to model it with equations that have predictive power.

    We already know our perception is just a simulation built inside our heads. For one thing, the bandwidth of our optical and auditory systems is not nearly enough to present a full video and audio recording of the perceived world, yet we have that illusion.

    So arguments about whether the universe is a "simulation" are nonsensical. The universe is what it is. What matters is whether it can be modelled more conveniently and more accurately with a different model, just as Newton's laws allowed planetary orbits to be calculated more simply and reliably than did epicycles. The general relativistic universe is just a better simulation than the Newtonian universe, and that's a much better simulation than the Copernican universe. But they are all simulations, and our perception of the world is another one.

    1. itzman
      Boffin

      Re: It's just mathematical equivalency

      Yes.

      Once you arrive at the conclusion that the 'real' world is still not 'what's really there' all sorts of problems disappear or transform into trivial ones.

      Many things you thought were in the 'real world' become mere artefacts of the way you assemble the perception machine.

      Yeah, god exists, but he's just a bit of crap human firmware..

    2. Toltec

      Re: It's just mathematical equivalency

      Makes me think of the Null A and Gridlinked books...

    3. ISYS

      Re: It's just mathematical equivalency

      My cat's breath smells of cat food

      1. David Pollard

        My cat's breath smells of cat food

        See, Quantum Transmogrification occurs everywhere.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: My cat's breath smells of cat food

          See, Quantum Transmogrification occurs everywhere.

          Cats? Transmoggiefication, surely?

      2. I_AM

        Re: It's just mathematical equivalency

        My dog ate your cat, ergo my dog's farts smell like cat food?

    4. David L Webb

      Re: It's just mathematical equivalency

      If it is a mathematical equivalency then both descriptions are equally valid but there may be some circumstances in which it easier to calculate something with one formulation than with the other. This contrasts with things like the difference between relativity and newtonian physics where the two theories predict different things.

      I'd imagine that for most things it would be easier to calculate things using the theory describing 3 dimensional space. The laws of motion etc on the holographic surface would probably be a lot more complicated. If this mathematical equivalence does exist then that is a new mystery. Why should a description of the universe have to support such an equivalence ?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. David L Webb

          Re: It's just mathematical equivalency

          @Arnaut the less

          This isn't Platonism which holds that mathematical/abstract objects exist in some non-physical form - see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/platonism/

          Instead we are considering the possible mathematical descriptions of the Universe. That is those mathematical structures which correspond to experiments and observations of the universe.

          It just seems unlikely that the form that a mathematical description of the Universe would take should require such a strange equivalence. It is like the fine tuning of physical constants in our current theories - it just doesn't seem likely unless you either invoke God or an infinity of Universes + the anthropic principle. But unless there is some particular reason why life depends upon such an equivalence I'm not sure that the anthropic principle can explain this particular requirement.

          The previous mathematical equivalency between different versions of string theory served to extract string theory from having too many versions of the theory of everything. This one though seems to add an extra rather odd constraint. It may turn out that there is some underlying symmetry which creates the requirement for this constraint but at the moment it just seems odd to me.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. David L Webb

              Re: It's just mathematical equivalency

              Arnaut,

              You wrote

              "

              As soon as you start asking questions about whether there is some sort of ultimate reality underlying mathematics, you're into Platonism. AFAIK, mathematicians are always discovering that "this" way of doing something is equivalent to "that" way of doing something, and the different routes are connected as some more fundamental level.

              "

              Platonism and "ultimate reality underlying mathematics" means Plato's ideal forms to me.

              Mathematics is the matching of patterns and hence it isn't surprising that the same pieces of mathematics can be reused in different areas where the same patterns turn up. Mathematical equivalence of two theories is somewhat different - in that case two apparently very different patterns turn out to really be the same. This is somewhat rarer.

              The alegory of the Cave like the parable of the blind men and the elephant points out that our perceptions are not reality. However they are all we have to try and discern reality.

              In a sense the holographic principle seems to be Plato's cave in reverse. The two dimensional shadows are supposedly creating the 3D world we see around us. Normal shadows cannot do this - the 2D images need to somehow encode the 3D images. We can do this with holography but only by starting with a real 3D object and using two laser beams to create a 2D interference pattern.

              This interference pattern then being later redisplayed as a 3D image when another laser beam is passed through it at the right angle. Having a physical arrangement where the surface of the Universe just happened to have a pattern on it which through some process equivalent to projecting a laser through it generated our 3D world would be impossibly unlikely. However a mathematical equivalence between a theory describing our 3D world and an equivalent theory on a 2D surface would be possible. Why a theory describing our 3D universe would have to have such an equivalence with a theory on a 2D surface seems to me a puzzling question but there could be some underlying reason why the Universe has to be that way - most likely resulting from some symmetry in the universe just like conservation of energy and momentum arise from underlying symmetries.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Joke

        Re: It's just mathematical equivalency

        Well can I expect the return of Nathan Brazil soon?

    5. Mike Bell

      Re: It's just mathematical equivalency

      Electrons don't do a quick calculation before deciding how much energy to emit as a photon when changing orbitals.

      You don't know that for sure. Some theorists believe that is exactly what happens. In particular, all the possible places that an electron could go contribute to the place that it does go. And in Many Worlds, it goes everywhere, splitting into different universes with each opportunity. I even heard a theory that there is actually (whatever actually means) only one electron in the entire universe, and we see its work all around us.

      I've long wrestled with the idea of whether or not the universe is simply its description. i.e. it's nothing but maths. My gut feeling says it's more than that. But who really knows. You and I are as likely to be simulations in a relatively dumb computing device. That would certainly account for much of the strangeness that goes on, as anything can be done in software.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's just mathematical equivalency - @Mike Bell

        The "one electron" idea was kicked around by Feynman and someone else (was it Wheeler? I forget) long ago. It doesn't work. It never reached theory status, it's a discarded hypothesis.

        "Many worlds" does not mean splitting into different universes for all the infinite numbers of possible paths.

        I am not aware of any theorist who has ever imputed consciousness or calculating power to electrons.

        And finally, "we are simulations in a computer" is just an updated rewrite of the "God did it". Where did the computer come from? It implies an infinite regress - computers all the way down - just as the question "OK, where did God come from" results in gods all fhe way down. Bill Ockham pointed out the absurdity of this position around 700 years ago, but news travels slowly in some parts. Even now somewhere in the US a Creationist is putting forward the "7 proofs of the existence of God" while an exam question in the theology department of a proper university might be to take one of them and explain why it doesn't work.

        As a very approachable book about all this, could I suggest Genius, the book about the life and work of Richard Feynman which goes into some depths on these topics as it explains how his thinking developed? The stuff you are referencing is mainly from his period.

        1. Mike Bell

          Re: It's just mathematical equivalency - @Mike Bell

          IIRC it was Feynman's supervisor who came up with the idea that there's just a single electron. I'm not saying it's a valid description of reality, but is an indication that there are many seemingly odd theories bandied around.

          There are different interpretations of Many Worlds. I'm giving you one now: Everything that could be, ever has been, and ever will be simply is. 'Splitting into different universes' is a succinct and decidedly human description of events that I've heard used many times. Given that neither you nor I really know what's going on, I wouldn't get too hung up on metaphysical descriptions of reality.

          As to us being simulations in a computer, did I say it was a particular type of computer? With a creator? Or that it exists in any real sense that you would understand? No. I am suggesting that any physical rules - even the particular weird ones we see around us - could be invoked in a simulation. The 'design' of such a 'computer' could be far simpler than the reality - or multiple realities - that it generates Something that William of Ockham might have appreciated.

        2. Roj Blake Silver badge

          Re: It's just mathematical equivalency - @Mike Bell

          "And finally, "we are simulations in a computer" is just an updated rewrite of the "God did it". Where did the computer come from? It implies an infinite regress - computers all the way down - just as the question "OK, where did God come from" results in gods all fhe way down. Bill Ockham pointed out the absurdity of this position around 700 years ago, but news travels slowly in some parts. Even now somewhere in the US a Creationist is putting forward the "7 proofs of the existence of God" while an exam question in the theology department of a proper university might be to take one of them and explain why it doesn't work."

          If it is possible to create a simulation that's indistinguishable from reality, then it stands to reason that many such simulations will exist throughout space and time.

          Therefore, the likelihood is that what we experience is in fact a simulation.

    6. Schultz

      Re: It's just mathematical equivalency

      You got it. and with all the matter in the universe, we can never build a computer large enough to simulate all the matter in the universe, so we can't answer the ultimate questions of 'where did it all come from' or 'is there a free will or is the Universe simply evolving from one particular starting point'. We can speculate and disprove a lot of wrong hypotheses, that's about it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, yes, but are there sharks involved?

    1. itzman

      are there sharks involved?

      Only if you think there are.

    2. Peter Storm

      and only the ones that are lucky enough to have frickin lasers on their heads

  8. nematoad Silver badge
    Happy

    What?

    Holograms! Holograms! We're all holograms?

    God I hope that means that we are really not all like Rimmer!

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: What?

      Or the annoying Emergency Medical Hologram from Voyager. The third most annoying person on a ship full of really annoying people.

  9. RainForestGuppy

    Reminds me of ...

    “Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful (as the babel fish) could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

    The argument goes something like this: "I refuse to prove that I exist,'" says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

    "But," says Man, "The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED."

    "Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

    "Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.”

    1. Blacklight

      Re: Reminds me of ...

      ...or Muad-dib?

      We're about to "try to look inside that place you cannot look"....

      1. Grikath

        Re: Reminds me of ...

        or a certain Glass Clock...

        Now where did I stash my procrastinator...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Reminds me of ...

        ...or Muad-dib?

        We're about to "try to look inside that place you cannot look"....

        I'm impressed that you found a way to get a Dune reference in here :)

  10. Andy 73

    Gotta love physicists

    To paraphrase: "A positive result will mean we come out of this experiment knowing less than we started!"

    Working out we're holograms from within the hologram is cool. When it gets interesting is when we work out a way to do something about it.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Gotta love physicists

      If we're all holograms, are we still there when it's dark?

      For that matter, is that why we're afraid of the dark at an instinctual level?

  11. David L Webb

    The TV bit is rubbish

    Sorry the TV bit is rubbish. The 2D TVs we have just utilise perspective the same as in paintings. The 3D TVs work by sending slightly different images to our two eyes.

    The way holographic images work is by creating an interference pattern by illuminating an object with two laser beams. The image is then reconstructed by projecting a laser beam identical to one of those used in the recording through the interference pattern which is then diffracted and reproduces an image of the original object.

    In the case of the Holographic universe we have to be talking about something other than laser light but if it follows the same principles you would still need something to reconstruct the 3D effect and it would have to be projected into a 3rd dimension. If space-time are part of the holography itself then what is this third dimension made of ? Unlike in the article I don't see why beings who are themselves within the holgraphic images would be expected to see this projection. I suppose it might be possible if the image was projected out into a 3rd dimension and then bounced back towards the holgraphic surface by a mirror but I'm not even sure that would work since the image bounced back would probably interfere with the holographic image.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: The TV bit is rubbish

      Come on now, the guy has a point. All that about TVs *IS* rubbish.

      A simple TV show could never be thought of as being populated by anybody at all, let alone anyone capable of experiencing it from within; a computer game would be a much better analogy - indeed, in a sophisticated enough simulation agents within the game would "perceive" space around them and might possibly even be self-aware - except in that case, a 3D simulation would be perceived *AS 3D* by said agents, and the fact that *WE* might be looking at it through a 2D projection on a monitor would have absolutely no impact as far as they are concerned - that world *DOES NOT* "exist" on that 2D surface; we could detach the monitor and even completely shut down the renderer, and the internal physics simulation would continue to run, in "3D", for all participants living inside that simulation.

      There might be interesting and profound implications of the science discussed, but illustrating it with a TV is a fail.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bohemian Rhapsody week?

    Two references to lyrics in one week. Is that song being played on loop at Vulture Central or something?

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Bohemian Rhapsody week?

      Two references to lyrics in one week. Is that song being played on loop at Vulture Central or something?

      It's not unusual..

      :)

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Bohemian Rhapsody week?

        It's not unusual...

        Oh Please Gods, not Tom Jones...

        1. Proud Father

          This conversion is getting a bit heavy........

          It's getting', it's getting', it's gettin' kinda heavy

          It's getting', it's getting', it's gettin' kinda heavy

          It's getting', it's getting', it's gettin' kinda heavy

          It's getting', it's getting', it's gettin' kinda heavy

  13. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Facepalm

    DIsagreement is optional and fattening

    In the same way, there’s no simple way to tell if the world we see around us is an illusion, a collective hallucination or the real 3D deal.

    This is retarded. There is nothing more real than the real, so by definition this is the real, whether you find a complex mathematical mapping of some lower-dimensional space onto a "pseudo" 4-D space or not and declare that lower-dimensional space to be "the real thing".

    Btw. here is a discussion of the announcement from a couple of years back:

    Testing the Holographic Principle

    where we also read:

    But some experts on the holographic principle think the experiment is completely off-target. “There is no relationship between the argument [Hogan] is making and the holographic principle,” Bousso says. “None whatsoever. Zero.” The problem lies not in Hogan’s interpretation of the uncertainty relationship, but rather in “the first step of his analysis,” Bousso contends.

    Bousso notes that a premise of special relativity called Lorentz invariance says the rules of physics should be the same for all observers, regardless of how they are moving relative to one another. The holographic principle maintains Lorentz invariance, Bousso says. But Hogan’s uncertainty formula does not, he argues: An observer standing in the lab and another zipping past would not agree on how much an interferometer’s beam splitter jitters. So Hogan’s uncertainty relationship cannot follow from the holographic principle, Bousso argues.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: DIsagreement is optional and fattening

      ITT: Three people believe in Star Trek science.

  14. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Pint

    Proof, if proof be needed

    No high energy matter accelerators required, just a few circular transits (or rounds) of this stuff.

    And one for the sub-title editor for making me laugh.

  15. John G Imrie

    In the begining

    Was the approach to the microphone, then the repeated binary count. This was followed by the Power Cord of creation.

    Or that's what I heard, now could you pleas keep the noise down, I'm trying to listen.

  16. Flugal

    Not a lot wrong with making use of Bohemian Rhapsody lyrics. It makes more sense than using lyrics from The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke, Silver Salmon or even Dragon Attack.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Oi, look - my eyes are just hologram...

      Or is it a twist in my sobriety?

      Seems just as appropriate...

  17. malle-herbert
    Coat

    Maybe...

    We all just exist on The Thirteenth Floor!

    1. VinceH

      Re: Maybe...

      A very underrated movie, IIRC. I might watch it again soon.

  18. Crisp Silver badge

    How do we tell if our universe is a hologram?

    We look for the big silver H on its forehead of course!

  19. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Fingers crossed that somebody doesn't unplug the holographic projectors to plug the vacuum cleaner in.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      You would never know. The mainframe would eventually boot up again, fix the filesystem, possibly require some tape backups if anything exceeded the speed of light during the power loss brown-out, then soldier on - how would you know how many times have you been restored from a backup...?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @DropBear

        Restored from backup I don't know, but I am pretty sure I am made of second hand atoms.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @DropBear

          I am pretty sure I am made of second hand atoms.

          .. and that finally explains Ryanair ..

  20. breakfast

    But is reality really real?

    Questioning whether reality is real is one of those things that, although appealing to a stoned undergrad, doesn't really make much sense. It's reality, what else is it going to be?

    What it is made of is undeniably an interesting question, but whatever the form of the structure is ( a holographic sheen on the surface of an n-dimensional super--bubble perhaps ) it won't change how real it is.

  21. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the world we see around us [..] may be real"

    It may be, but there sure are a truckload of delusional people in it.

  22. Uffish

    “If we find a noise we can’t get rid of..."

    Good luck to the Boffins on this one! If I remember correctly, the last lot that found 'a noise they couldn't get rid of' had to spend a very long time tweaking and measuring, including time scraping bird shit off the antenna, before they could reasonably say that the noise probably wsn't an artifact.

  23. Joe Harrison

    Of course it is real, there can be no doubt

    It's real alright. It is obvious and happening right in front of your eyes how could it not be real.

    The problem comes when you discover how hard it is to come up with an adequate definition of "real" (hint: there isn't one).

  24. Swarthy Silver badge

    I seem to recall reading this experimental procedure before

    Wasn't this process the core of the Michelson-Morely experiment?

    1. Werner McGoole

      Re: I seem to recall reading this experimental procedure before

      Indeed. One of the most important experiments in physics, although it routinely gets overlooked when documentaries are looking for the big moments in science.

      It also sounds suspiciously like the gear used to look for gravitational waves. In fact, from the description I can't see how you'd tell the difference if you did detect something. Presumably there'll be a subtle signature in the signal that's below the noise level of journalists.

  25. Rick Brasche

    so if I get this straight..

    if they find garbage "noise" in their readings, it proves their point?

    Can we apply this to other theories as well? I know lots of government pundits like to confuse "missing or questionable" data as "proof" of various economic programs already

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    now when they say "hologram"

    they're not looking to see if Everything is a simulation run by Something Else, but as a means of understanding the structure of the universe, right?

    Because if Everything is Someone's Simulation, wouldn't the rules of the simulation require prevention of the simulation structure in order to run?

  27. Frosted Flake

    I predict the experiment will be a SUCCESS.

    Unfortunately, that won't prove anything. Even if it's "real"quantum jitteryness, there is this thing called thermal noise. I don't think it will be possible to tell them apart. But, go on. Surprise me.

    And Swarthy is right, it looks just like a pair of Micholsen-Morely devices. And if it finds something, then we have a whole lot of physics to do over again.

    While I'm here, I should set out a few of these! !!! !! !!!! !!!!! !! !

  28. Zash

    Just to help out a somewhat clueless Canadian... Which form of trillion does The Reg use? 10^12 or 10^18?

    1. bridainep, reg reporter (Written by Reg staff)

      Trillion defined

      In this case it's 10^18...

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Trillion defined

        Seems a touch inconsistent since I was expecting it to be 10^24 instead (if a million is 10^6 and a billion is 10^12). I would've thought 10^18 would've been described as a million billion instead of a trillion.

  29. Joefish
    Boffin

    Problem I have with the hologram theory...

    How does a hologram encoded in two dimensions represent anything other than a 2-D surface projected into three dimensions? Holograms as we know them are merely infinitely thin projected surfaces; they're unable to encode any concept of solidity. One object hidden behind or placed inside another would cease to exist.

    I supppose if you imagine everything to be at least semi-permeable to at least some form of radiation, you'd have the equivalent of nested coloured glass objects, which could be represented holographically. But still, is that enough information to represent the properties of everything intersecting a particular line of sight?

    1. Fehu
      Pint

      Re: Problem I have with the hologram theory...

      The concept of solidity is assumed by the observer. Studies of matter at the subatomic level show that matter is much less solid than it seems. The analogy has been made that atoms are like tiny solar systems with vastly more space in and around them than actual stuff. That and the understanding of how we experience the world around us through sight, sound, touch shows that the construct of reality we build in our minds probably doesn't have that much to do with what is really real.

      I am Billy Pilgrim and I have become unstuck in time. Now, I'm just waiting for everyone else to catch up. The tall cool one 'cause it makes it so much easier to become unstuck.

      1. Joefish
        Coat

        Re: Problem I have with the hologram theory...

        Doesn't matter how small something really is; there's a fundamental difference between a 2-D shell in 3-D space and a 3-D object. Then again, considering electron orbits, maybe it is just shells all the way down...

        So we were at least partly right with the turtles...

  30. Elmer Phud

    Sign of the times

    A while back the comments would be littered with Star Trek references.

    It would appear that holograms are not compatible with Game of Thrones.

    Where's Captain Kirk?

    1. I_AM

      Re: Sign of the times

      Trelane, "The Squire of Gothos" has been sent to his room for messing with the Earthlings

      Feel better now?

  31. DougS Silver badge

    Testing for a simulation

    If they find the universe does appear to be a hologram, maybe they can figure out how to test if it is a simulation. I tend to think there's a good chance it is, not based on the argument in the paper a few years ago (the "if we ever create small simulations of reality, then the odds are good that we live in such a simulation") but simply because quantum mechanics makes a lot more sense when viewed that way.

    Think about trying to simulate a universe, or part of one, and the restrictions you'll have both based on the hardware (what we observe as the "speed of light" could be to cover the latency inherent in whatever hyper-parallel computing setup runs the simulation) and software - the uncertainty principle could be lazy evaluation, wave/particle duality the result of using the same code to cover both, planck length and quantum states of energy exposing the resolution of the simulation, etc. If the universe is being simulated just for humanity (or just for you) then a lot of the stuff outside our solar system could be simulated at a far lower resolution for both space and time.

    In order to really prove the universe is a simulation, you'd almost need to find an obvious bug or exploit. Maybe the reason there are no intelligent aliens about is that they've found a root exploit and the admin of the simulator caused their star to go supernova to limit the damage.

    1. psyq

      Re: Testing for a simulation

      Here is one idea:

      http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.1847

      And a general audience version: http://www.phys.washington.edu/users/savage/Simulation/Universe/

      TLDR: If we are living in a "beta" simulation, there are possible ways to find it out, and the paper proposes one way, by measuring ultra high energy cosmic rays, and check the direction of travel of the highest energy particles (near so-called GZK cut-off). The idea is that hypothetical simulation might reveal its symmetry if the highest energy particles are following a certain direction.

      I am not a physicist, so I have no clue if this could work, or whether eventually detected phenomena can be explained with something else (most probably IMO).

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Noise.

    People found out about the background microwave radiation noise when they built better antenas, and something was still causing noise on them, and it wasn't the pigeons.

    They are on the right track, building something ultra-sensitive and expecting noise. It happened before.

  33. Cipher

    In 2003, Nick Bostrom, a professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford, published a paper called The Simulation Argument, arguing that it is most likely we live in a computer simulation world.

    Bostrom paper

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      I like to look at the entire Universe as possibly being one big computer simulation.

      In fact, simulation or not, the Universe does seem to act as a computer. Especially, if quantisation of space-time is confirmed it will make it that much more plausible.

      Basically, if you count each quantum number of each particle as a bit of information and you define a few simple laws on how they are to interact, then you can create a grid of discrete cells - be they a processor registers or memory cells, depends on your budget - and calculate each local interaction every cycle, which on macro basis will automatically produce "observable" Universe which we see today.

      The speed of light will then be defined by the maximum processing speed of this machine and if mass is the quantity taking most power to process, then as you calculate a group of fast moving particles as they go from cell to cell, if the particles have a rest mass they will become more and more difficult to calculate and you will start skipping cycles on their interaction in favour of keeping them moving. So, they will look to the outside cells as if their local time has slowed down in relativistic fashion, so to say.

      This is just a thought experiment. I am not crazy enough (yet) to claim this is the actual reality. But it might be. Or not.

      I'll watch this space in the meantime...

  34. Caaaptaaaain kick arse

    Da ding - end of level 1

    Insert coin

  35. ratfox Silver badge
    Alien

    They're catching on!

    Remember the coding marathon to implement the Higgs boson in their universe in time for the opening of the LHC?

  36. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

    or perhaps

    the universe is the next generation of computer built by the pan-dimensional beings who, in our existence, resemble white mice.

    Deep Thought provided the answer. Earth was commissioned to provide the question. When that came back in somewhat nonsensical form, The Universe was commissioned to explain the question in such way that the answer makes sense.

  37. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Look at the BIOS

    On another thread recently, I asked how does malware sense that it is running on an emulator? Another reader answered that the BIOS usually looks different.

    So if this universe we are in is a simulation, where is the equivalent of the BIOS?

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Look at the BIOS

      Overwritten 25ms after the Big Bang?

      I don't suppose the universe is designed for multiple reboots. Let's hope we can avoid BSOD here...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Look at the BIOS

        I don't suppose the universe is designed for multiple reboots. Let's hope we can avoid BSOD here...

        It predates Microsoft, so we should be safe.

  38. LaeMing Silver badge
    Happy

    Finally!

    A real-world application of holographic memory!

  39. Kaltern

    I'd like an Extra Life then please.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      You'll have to unlock it first.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

    -Albert Einstein

    These people are a good counter-argument to the idea of inevitable human progress,

    1. Adam Inistrator

      so ironic that a man who could expand his mind to conceive that time was not constant everywhere, had difficulty to believe that things truly happen randomly at the quantum level

  41. Winkypop Silver badge
    Boffin

    Available for hire

    1 Delorean (Low KMs, never driven over 88mph)

    1 Flux Capacitor (used)

  42. David 45
    Mushroom

    Ghosts in the machine

    Don't cross the beams!

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    God Is... God Is Not...

    One wonders which answer would be evidence for or against God's existence?

    Any why?...

  44. khisanth

    How can a 2d "thing" create 3d "things" ?

    Lets say the universe is indeed a hologram, who made the hologram? is the hologram a hologram?

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      It's all a lie. It's just a bump-mapped texture.

    2. Adolph Clickbait

      We exist on someones credit card!

  45. Alan Edwards

    Hologram detector detector

    All this assumes that the virtual simulation we're in doesn't have code that detects that the self-aware programs running on it are trying to see whether they are self-aware programs, and lies to them.

    We must be in a simulation, how else do you explain the moon being the right size to precisely blot out the Sun. What are the chances of that happening by chance?

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Hologram detector detector

      The chance is vanishingly small. But events with vanishingly small chances do happen in a really big universe.

      You should read Transition by Iain Banks, there's an interesting take in it on what having a Moon and Sun the same apparent size leads to.

    2. Adolph Clickbait

      Re: Hologram detector detector

      Not all that bad, considering said moon is slow moving away from the earth.

  46. Hempy

    Isn't this what shamans and other mystics have been telling us for the past 100,000 years or so?

  47. Frogmelon

    I hope they can eliminate the noise from my friend Brian's curry-powered bottom burps.

  48. sisk Silver badge

    So when they're done with this the next step is to prove the simulation argument by showing we live in a simulated universe. Then, of course, we need to set up a communication interface with the engineers so they can send us the documentation for the simulator, allowing us at last to just RTFM instead of fumbling around like a bunch of n00bs.

  49. F0rdPrefect
    Joke

    42!

    Its all the fault of the white mice.

  50. Son 1

    Universe thinks differently!

    Universe attempts to prove Boffins are just a HOLOGRAM!

  51. Spod

    If the universe is a hologram does that mean the big bang was just God switching on the hologram projector?

  52. Missing Semicolon
    Boffin

    We'd better be careful how hard we look at this.....

    "There is a theory, that if we were ever to find out why the Universe is here, and what it is for, it will immediately be replaced by something even more bizarrely inexplicable.

    There is another theory.

    This has already happened

    "

  53. DieSse

    "In quantum theory, you can’t know both the exact location and the exact speed of subatomic particles at one time"

    Well duh. In everything it's impossible to know speed and position simultaneously - because the very definition of speed involves a change of position,

    So an exact position HAS TO give an unknown speed. Same with a bus as with an electron.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not necessarily. If you plotted an item's PRIOR position, then when you get the current position, you can get BOTH its position (you just got it) AND its velocity (by calculating the delta vs. the prior position).

      The trick with quantum theory is that this method doesn't work because the very act of measuring position alters properties too much to be able to use it in conjunction with a second measurement (IIRC they measure velocity not of a single thing but of a stream of them).

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And all this time...

    ...I though the universe was a holodeck to keep us entertained(and out of trouble).

  55. Nym

    Conceivably jitter...

    Is the result of the error in two dimensional representation of an x-dimensional 'series' of objects.

  56. Frosted Flake

    Just where is this hologram?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019