I’ve been reading various papers and reports on something that is being called the “Holographic Universe.” It’s an idea that the three dimensional (four with time a la Einstein) universe in which we live is actually the projection of a two-dimensional surface. Sometimes I’ve heard this mixed up with the idea of the “Simulation Universe” which is the idea that (a la the movie The Matrix) we are living in a computer simulation instead of a true reality. (Shades of George Berkeley huh?)
There’s a pretty darn good article on Astronomy.com that explains the underlying thinking behind the Holographic Universe and then goes on to explain that entanglement is the underlying foundation of Space-time, essentially connecting a 2-dimensional quantum physics with the 4-dimensional Riemannian physics of General Relativity. I take it to mean that the mathematical structures are isomorphic to each other – an idea with which particle physicists working on special unitary groups know intimately.
Here’s the interesting thing though –
[…]Space-time itself may be generated by quantum physics, specifically by the baffling phenomenon known as quantum entanglement.
As popularly explained, entanglement is a spooky connection linking particles separated even by great distances. If emitted from a common source, such particles remain entangled no matter how far they fly away from each other. If you measure a property (such as spin or polarization) for one of them, you then know what the result of the same measurement would be for the other. But before the measurement, those properties are not already determined, a counterintuitive fact verified by many experiments. It seems like the measurement at one place determines what the measurement will be at another distant location.
That sounds like entangled particles must be able to communicate faster than light. Otherwise it’s impossible to imagine how one of them could know what was happening to the other across a vast space-time expanse. But they actually don’t send any message at all. So how do entangled particles transcend the space-time gulf separating them? Perhaps the answer is they don’t have to — because entanglement doesn’t happen in space-time. Entanglement creates space-time. (emphasis added)
That last bit is the huge insight into the model. It solves the problem of faster than light information flow in a novel way. You don’t have to invoke a sort of cosmic censorship mechanism based on special relativity, you get to have both, but they do different things.
There’s so much that we don’t understand about the Universe. It’s quite breathtaking. Dark matter (which we don’t understand at all, but the effects of which we can observe) accounts for 90% of everything. Space-time (and regular matter) is an emergent, holographic property of “spooky action at a distance” – the very thing that Einstein and his collaborators tried to disprove in the seminal EPR paper, and we don’t fully understand how.
When people tell me that Science disproves the existence of the divine or of other realms, I’m just sort of amused now. Science is wonderfully rejiggering itself (the scientific method is designed to be self-corrective after all) to return to ideas that were discarded and to reexamine them. This process doesn’t mean that God’s existence is somehow proven, but it means that it’s premature to say that there’s no room for a separate realm or divine presence to inhabit.
The best part of the article above, by the way, is the description of the cosmological simulations that are being used to investigate these ideas as “toy universes.” I love that phrase. We are creating toy universes to try to understand the Universe in which we exist…
Do go read that article. It’s very accessible and quite well done.