The Holographic Universe

  • Thread starter wuliheron
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  • #1
So far I've posted this to two different bulletin boards and, despite a pretty good number of hits no one has responded. Sometimes the lack of a response is as interesting as any other possibility. :0)

The latest scientific american has an interesting article online for free about recent research into a possible holographic interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. It's fascinating reading but conceptually deep. It seems that instead of taking the Bohmian approach of using an ad hoc modification of newtonian mechanics, they have had some success analyzing the statistical approach of entropy. Basically, the article states that the entropy of information has been discovered to be proportional to surface area, and that this implies the universe may be a three dimensional hologram.

As I said, it's a deep well to contemplate, but it seems to me this means a statistical theory such as chaos theory may be able to provide predictions and a more complete discription than the traditional randomness of Indeterminacy (Ding Dong the witch is dead?) In other words, as in chaos theory we may not be able to say exactly what order exists beneigth the apparent randomness of indeterminacy, but we will be able to at least assert with confidence that some kind of order does seem to exist. Any thoughts on this article would be greatly appreciated.

P.S.- the author concludes the article with this dramatic statement:

...although the holographic way of thinking is not yet fully understood, it seems to be here to stay. And with it comes a realization that the fundamental belief, prevalent for 50 years, that field theory is the ultimate language of physics must give way. Fields, such as the electromagnetic field, vary continuously from point to point, and they thereby describe an infinity of degrees of freedom. Superstring theory also embraces an infinite number of degrees of freedom. Holography restricts the number of degrees of freedom that can be present inside a bounding surface to a finite number; field theory with its infinity cannot be the final story. Furthermore, even if the infinity is tamed, the mysterious dependence of information on surface area must be somehow accommodated.

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Well let me be the first to respond!:smile: Thanks for pointing this article out Wuli. It seems very interesting. I have read about holographic interpretations before and find them interesting but they always seem to remain hidden from these types of forums.

This is kinda funny but believe it or not, one day while in a book store I just happened to see a "Dummy's guide to cosmology theories" book. What was funny was that it had 4 chapters for 4 different theories. One for relativity, one for QM, one for String theory and then the 4th? It was the Holographic Universe theory. So even the dummies guide has it! :smile:

Anyway thanks for pointing that article out. Hopfully some of the more physics qualified will take an interest and help people like me understand what we're reading.
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  • #3
What it seems to suggest is that the universe may actually be only three dimensional, and the fourth dimension illusory. Information is neither created nor destroyed like energy, and the information entropy has now been discovered to be proportional to the surface area. What other laws it may follow is being investigated, and may provide broad understanding of how Quantum Mechanics and Relativity can be reconciled.
  • #4
Originally posted by wuliheron
What it seems to suggest is that the universe may actually be only three dimensional, and the fourth dimension illusory. Information is neither created nor destroyed like energy, and the information entropy has now been discovered to be proportional to the surface area. What other laws it may follow is being investigated, and may provide broad understanding of how Quantum Mechanics and Relativity can be reconciled.
Yes, some of the things I had read before is that a holographic universe could explain co-locality in quantum physics. I have read the article. But I need to read it a few more times :smile:
  • #5
Gold Member
does this interpentation has connection to the hologrphic principle?
here is explanation about the principle-
  • #6
Hologram or not my feet are still on the ground. Seems like a less appropriate word to describe a specific phenomenon that generates sales through sensationalism.
  • #7
At a quick glance they don't seem to have much in common. David Bohm, for example, also theorized about a holographic universe but his work went in a very different direction. What is exciting about this work is that it has discovered a new physical principle or symmetry.

Rather than postulating unsubstantiated ad hoc scenarios for a holographic universe as Bohm and your website do, this new work is building from the ground up so to speak. Information is a critical aspect of holography, but it is also an integral aspect of physics in general. By studying the physical laws constraining the flow of information the researchers have evidently found the first serious physical evidence for a holographic universe.

Their evidence is by no means uncontestable or impossible to re-interpret in other ways, but it does provide a viable alternative approach which avoids the meaningless infinities that crop up in QFT. Personally, I think they are a bit too optimistic about their approach actually replacing field theories, but it is apparently a valuable compliment if nothing else.

My own view is that there are essentially two ways of approaching modern physics, the Pantheistic and the Mystical. Holographic approaches fall into the catagory of Pantheistic approaches because of the profound unity they imply, while the utter randomness of the original Copenhagen Interpretation presents a more mystical perspective.

Thus, with the purely statistical mystical approach you engender meaningless infinities while the pantheistic approach engenders symmetry, proportion, or whatever. One is ameniable to intense quantitative analysis while the other is so qualitatively oriented it is difficult to make progress.
  • #8
Much of physics is built on assumptions which, in the name of what people perceive as logical, go against our experience. But experience, in the form of empiricism, is the ultimate judge of physical theories, so once in a while so-called "logical" theories break down on the face of brute fact.

About a century ago, people were somewhat disturbed by the "fact" that Newtonian physics implied a deterministic universe where the future was the same as the past. That in blatant contradiction with the fact (no quotes) that the future is unknowable by definition. So when quantum mechanics came on the scene to reiterate what we already knew, physicists were shocked, as if surprised that the future was not pre-determined after all.

The startling thing for me when it comes to modern physics is how indifferent physicists are to the well-established fact that the only way we can possibly perceive the universe is as a two-dimensional image. Physiology has long established that the experience of depth is an illusion created by the brain. Our eyes just don't have the ability to directly perceive depth, and the sense that we do experience depth is the result of a very ellaborate intellectual mechanism.

So our knowledge of physiology implies that the universe is holographic. As if by magic, it changes the way it looks when we change our perspective, but from any given perspective all we can see are 2-D images. How that error of misconception made its way into problems of modern physics, that will take a genius to figure out, but it's clear to me that the idea that the third dimension is as "real" as the other two is nothing but an assumption with no basis in our experience.
  • #9
Theory and Reality

First, note that all theories about our universe are only
descriptions of an underlying reality. We are expressing ourselves
symbolically with math in order to describe and predict events in our
physical universe. The best theory is the one that comes the closest
in its predictions to the outcome of experiments -- this theory is
what we regard as the "truth" until a better theory comes along.

Still, I would like to emphasize that a theory is just a description,
a theory is not reality.

With this in mind, let me point out that the gist of the article

"Information in the Holographic Universe"

is that we have two theories, one speaking in terms of a 5
dimensional anti-de Sitter spacetime based on string theory, and one
speaking in terms of a 4 dimensional "flat" spacetime based on
quantum field theory of point particles. The two theories are
equivalent. This means that there is no way for us to determine which
is the best representation of reality. They both are the best as we
would yield equal results using either.

Also note that even if 5D conceptually should give us more freedoms
in the form of new physical laws not found in the 4D representation.
This is not the case. The 5D and 4D representations are completely
equivalent -- they are different mathematical solutions to the same
equations of the same physical reality.

In popular books based on this mathematical result of recent String
Theory research, the analogy is made that the 4D universe is a
hologram that when shined on yields the 5D universe. That is a good
analogy as long as we accept that we are talking about information
about the universe and not the universe itself.

The fallacy of the popular book "The Holographic Universe" by Michael
Talbot is that he misunderstands the reasoning described above.
First, the book doesn't really distinguish between reality and
theory, causing the reasoning to be pretty blurred to say the
least. However, the major problem is that he goes from the 5D real
world to the 4D hologram, and then deduces new physics based on the
flatter 4D (a 4D world is just a surface in 5D world), not
understanding that the whole point is that the 5 and 4 D theories are

That Mr Talbot then also postulates (without any justification given,
much less proof) that our consciousness is somehow a physical entity
that can interact with other physical entities like electrons and
protons. That's another discussion.

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