06 July 2011

It's only a model

Staying with the theme of our material Universe, news reaches us today that we are probably not, after all, living in a hologram. I've written before about Leonard Susskind's theory that what we experience as reality is but the two-dimensional hologrammatic projections of three-dimensional happenings beyond the Event Horizon of a super massive black hole at the edge of the universe. Got that? Good, because apparently Professor Susskind is wrong.

According to an article in Wired yesterday recent European Space Agency (ESA) experiments looking for pixelation at the quantum level of reality have come back sharper than a Carl Zeiss lens. No fuzziness means that not only are we unlikely to be living in a hologram, there are also big implications for other areas of string theory, another area of great importance for Susskind.

It will be interesting to see if either Susskind or Stephen Hawking, who both exist in an eternal Farnsworth/Wernstrom struggle over the nature of the universe (at least according to Susskind's subtly titled "The Black Hole War - My Battle With Stephen Hawking To Make The World Safe For Quantum Physics") make any public response to this latest news from the ESA. Academic feuds are fun to watch when they unfold like a bullet-time train wreck across a Horizon documentary.

Of course, if we've learned nothing from Star Trek: The Next Generation, or any lazy writer since up to and including Christopher Nolan, its that the moment you finally believe that you are no longer in the simulation, that's when everything really starts to go crazy.


Wired article on the ESA experiment
Original ESA press release

Susskind explains his Holographic principle in this excerpt from a Horizon documentary, "What is Reality?", from January of this year.

Susskind's book is genuinely called "The Black Hole War - My Battle With Stephen Hawking To Make The World Safe For Quantum Physics", but his earlier book "The Cosmic Landscape" serves as a much better general introduction to String Theory. Also worth reading for a general overview on current thinkings on the nature of our, and other, universes is John Barrow's "The Book of Universes", though possibly Michio Kaku's "Parallel Worlds" is a bit more accessible.

As an aside if you've read Paul Murray's "Skippy Dies" (and I know somebody has to have read it) Ruprecht's idol Professor Hideo Tamashi is basically Susskind with Michio Kaku's hair. Interestingly enough according to @HelenCFinch UK government research funding is directly tied to both the number of your media appearances and the edginess of your haircut. Which also explains Brian Cox. And possibly Jedward.

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At 3:48 pm, Blogger Jonzer said...

My first dalliance with String Theory (and indeed the Grand Unified Theory of Everything) was with Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe" (an amazing book but a dire TV series - don't watch it you will shit yourself inside out with horror). It was my second popular science book having started with "The Fourth Dimension and How to Get There" by Rudolf V.B. Rucker.

The Elegant Universe was actually recommended to me as I was talking to a friend about knowing nothing about Quantum Physics. The fact that it dealt with both Relativity (about which I had previously known nothing other than its name) and String Theory was an absolute boon.


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