The holographic Universe, or the theory that the Universe is actually two-dimensional and we live in a three-dimensional projection of it, may seem like a preposterous idea - even a silly one. What are these scientists thinking? But it is true that there is such a thing and I'll attempt to explain it here.
Let's start by considering the concept of "entropy". The simplest description of this is the amount of "disorder" in an amount of matter or energy. More accurately, it represents the number of different microscopic states of particles within some matter or energy that are possible without changing its outward appearance. This concept is known as Boltzmann entropy.
Now we have to consider another type of entropy, named after American mathematician Claude Shannon, this time regarding digital information. It has been found that quantifying the information in, for example, an email, using Shannon entropy, produces the same formula as that of Boltzmann entropy describing matter or energy. The Universe can be reduced to units of digital information!
Within Boltzmann entropy, there is an upper limit to the number of different states of particles possible within a volume, leading to the probability that matter cannot be sub-divided indefinitely. There must be a cut-off point and this fundamental particle is a "bit" of information. This concept describes the Holographic Principle.
This principle also suggests, within quantum gravity and string theories, that these "bits" of information describing a volume of space are encoded into its boundary in two dimensions. The best way to envisage this is to consider the event horizon of a black hole, where three-dimensional objects become frozen in place - in two dimensions.
An intriguing proposal has been put forward, suggesting that the whole Universe could be a three-dimensional projection of some two-dimensional information, "printed" onto the cosmological horizon. It is thought that, at resolutions at the Planck length (the theoretical smallest possible length measurable - some millions and millions of times smaller than an electron) or beyond, one of our spatial dimensions becomes intertwined with the time dimension, leaving just two spatial dimensions.
So, could this amazing claim be proved?
This is the name of a gravitational wave detector located near Hanover in Germany. It is one of the most sensitive instruments of this nature ever built.
The program was studying gravitational waves from black holes and it returned what appeared to be distorted information. This distortion had already been predicted by a physicist from Fermilab, an installation part of the US Department of Energy. Craig Hogan suggested that this discovery by GEO 666 confirmed his prediction and that the mystery "noise", as he called it, was the result of microscopic fluctuations of space-time and such fluctuations occurred because of the holographic principle.
In effect, it seemed that proof had been found of the holographic Universe!
This is an acronym for INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory, a satellite in orbit around Earth. It is a European Space Agency project and has a mission to study elusive gamma-rays - violent outbursts of energy resulting, it is thought, from the collapse and subsequent explosion of a giant star.
The Laboratory has mind-bogglingly sensitive instruments, able to investigate down to microscopic scales, far more so than GEO 600. It detected no such "noise" or, as it has also been termed, "fuzziness" in the fabric of the Universe.
This would appear to contradict the GEO 600 discovery, meaning we're not in a holographic Universe after all.
To settle the holographic Universe issue once and for all, the scientist Craig Hogan, mentioned above, initiated a project at Fermilab to build the ultimate in sensitive instruments - a holographic interferometer, or "holometer".
If GEO 666 was delving towards the lower limit of the Universe's resolution, the holometer will go even further, hopefully revealing the "bits" of information from which reality is made. In just the same way as zooming in on a computer image eventually results in it becoming blurry and pixelated, Hogan hopes that his experiment will show similar properties with regard to the Universe itself.
Let's consider now another thing that may indicate a holographic Universe. It all starts with a remarkable discovery by physicist Alain Aspect at the University of Paris, in 1982. He and his team found that sub-atomic particles can communicate with each other instantaneously - no matter what distance is separating them.
In other words, an electron, say, will know what another electron is doing, whether it's a few feet away, or on the other side of the galaxy. (How he discovered this is beyond the scope of this page.) There was immediate consternation at the discovery, as it implied faster-than-light communication and that violated Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Scientists had to immediately set about trying to provide an explanation. The holographic Universe theory is one of them.
Conventional holograms created on Earth are three-dimensional photographs produced using a pair of lasers. The first is directed at the object to be photographed, then the second is aimed at the resultant light bouncing off the object. This intermingling of the lasers is then captured on film. The developed image initially just looks like a meaningless swirl of light - until shining yet another laser onto it produces the 3-D effect.
You might be thinking, Why am I telling you this? Well, it's leading up to describing a very peculiar quality of these laser-produced 3-D images. When one is cut in half and a laser shone on each of the individual halves, each half will still display an image of the whole object. In fact, it doesn't matter how many times you cut up the original image - every smaller part will display the whole object.
In other words, every part of a hologram contains information about its whole.
This American-born scientist has been called one of the most influential theoretical physicists of the 20th century. Based at the University of London, he considered Aspect's discovery in the context of the properties of holograms - that all parts of an object are connected in some way to the whole.
The reason electrons seemed to be able to communicate with each other instantaneously over long distances, he suggested, had nothing to do with the information travelling through normal space and time. There was, in fact, an underlying reality to the one with which we are familiar, within which all things are interconnected. This would explain how widely spaced electrons were able to influence one another, without violating Einstein's theory.
This behaviour was consistent with the properties of the hologram mentioned above, strongly suggesting that we are living in a holographic Universe. Bohm goes even further, proposing something he terms a "superhologram". Within this ultimate deep level of reality, past, present and future exist simulataneously, as does all possible matter and energy. It is the place, in his words, of "All that is".
I promised you really weird, didn't I?