Sunday, June 21, 2009

Our world may be a giant hologram


OK, a really weird article, but I couldn't help myself. It really does have to do with Israel Jewish News. The "Israel" part of of the story is that one of the major theories present here is from the work of an Israeli scientist Jacob Bekenstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

I'll get to the Jewish part in a minute.

Essentially, scientists were looking for proof that our three-dimensional universe might actually be simply a hologram of a physical process occurring in a two-dimensional universe. They found evidence this occurs--accidentaly--while they where trying to investigate some other aspect of the universe.

Why is that important? Well, this discovery might help explain dimensionality and how some processes, like the formation and disappearance of black holes, might occur.

But, more interestingly for me, I like to look at how science is always reconfirming what our Torah and our Talmud has already said. Many of the things which scientists scoffed at, who dismissed as "fictional" and "fantastic" in the Torah, are turning out to be true representations of how the universe works.

For example, "String theory," the idea that all things in the universe are connected and logically and mathematically interrelated was already universally understood by people of faith all over the world. We know that there is One Creator who conceived and built the universe, not a random connection of individual elments. We know that everything we do affects every other thing in the universe, this is why life is so important, and why the way we behave and interact with the world must be carefully considered every moment of our lives. Each of us has an indelible effect upon everything in the universe. Wow.

The theories of evolution also follow Torah's outline--each phase of the process of creation in science following the same recipe that G-d outlines in Bereshit. This is something which has always stood out, for me, when contemplating the Divine Authorship of Torah. It is simply not possible for a mortal author without an understanding of the great diversity of life and without advanced scientific instruments to understand how one life-form is related to another in such depth. This would only be understood by G-d. (I highly recommend the book Genesis and the Big Bang if you want to understand how science and Torah are interrelated in relation to Creation. It is a great read!)

Things which are seemingly simple in the creation of the universe in Bereshit take on a whole new dimension as scientists discover new knowledge of the universe. For example, in the Creation, G-d seperates divides the darkness from the light. One might understand this simply as the division between day and night, one may also see it is a division between dark matter and visible matter in the universe.

So, how do I think this newest theory relates to Torah? Well, most religious Jews believe G-d created Torah first, then the universe was designed according to Torah. So, the universe, which is three dimensional, has it's source in the two dimensional Torah.

Hmmm. I guess this "holographic universe" idea it is another example of science "discovering" something that people of faith have always taken for granted.

Interesting, no?

Our world may be a giant hologram

DRIVING through the countryside south of Hanover, it would be easy to miss the GEO600 experiment. From the outside, it doesn't look much: in the corner of a field stands an assortment of boxy temporary buildings, from which two long trenches emerge, at a right angle to each other, covered with corrugated iron. Underneath the metal sheets, however, lies a detector that stretches for 600 metres.

For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves - ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.

For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.

If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

The idea that we live in a hologram probably sounds absurd, but it is a natural extension of our best understanding of black holes, and something with a pretty firm theoretical footing. It has also been surprisingly helpful for physicists wrestling with theories of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.

The holograms you find on credit cards and banknotes are etched on two-dimensional plastic films. When light bounces off them, it recreates the appearance of a 3D image. In the 1990s physicists Leonard Susskind and Nobel prizewinner Gerard 't Hooft suggested that the same principle might apply to the universe as a whole. Our everyday experience might itself be a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface.

The "holographic principle" challenges our sensibilities. It seems hard to believe that you woke up, brushed your teeth and are reading this article because of something happening on the boundary of the universe. No one knows what it would mean for us if we really do live in a hologram, yet theorists have good reasons to believe that many aspects of the holographic principle are true.

Susskind and 't Hooft's remarkable idea was motivated by ground-breaking work on black holes by Jacob Bekenstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and Stephen Hawking at the University of Cambridge. In the mid-1970s, Hawking showed that black holes are in fact not entirely "black" but instead slowly emit radiation, which causes them to evaporate and eventually disappear. This poses a puzzle, because Hawking radiation does not convey any information about the interior of a black hole. When the black hole has gone, all the information about the star that collapsed to form the black hole has vanished, which contradicts the widely affirmed principle that information cannot be destroyed. This is known as the black hole information paradox.

Bekenstein's work provided an important clue in resolving the paradox. He discovered that a black hole's entropy - which is synonymous with its information content - is proportional to the surface area of its event horizon. This is the theoretical surface that cloaks the black hole and marks the point of no return for infalling matter or light. Theorists have since shown that microscopic quantum ripples at the event horizon can encode the information inside the black hole, so there is no mysterious information loss as the black hole evaporates.

Crucially, this provides a deep physical insight: the 3D information about a precursor star can be completely encoded in the 2D horizon of the subsequent black hole - not unlike the 3D image of an object being encoded in a 2D hologram. Susskind and 't Hooft extended the insight to the universe as a whole on the basis that the cosmos has a horizon too - the boundary from beyond which light has not had time to reach us in the 13.7-billion-year lifespan of the universe. What's more, work by several string theorists, most notably Juan Maldacena at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, has confirmed that the idea is on the right track. He showed that the physics inside a hypothetical universe with five dimensions and shaped like a Pringle is the same as the physics taking place on the four-dimensional boundary. [MORE]

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