Was the early Universe a hologram?

Researchers suggest they have found evidence that the universe was once a hologram. The idea is not new, but today revives the debate of the “holographic principle”.

For decades physicists have toyed with the idea that our Universe is — or once was — a gigantic hologram where the laws of physics only applied in two dimensions. The idea is back on the carpet today. A team of British, Canadian and Italian researchers believe they are providing the first observational evidence that our early Universe was once a hologram. This work published in the journal Physical Review Letters does not suggest that we are living in a hologram right now, but rather that in the early stages of the Universe — a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang — the Universe was projected in three dimensions from a two-dimensional hologram.

The holographic Universe discussed in the 90s suggests that a mathematical description of the universe actually requires one dimension less than it seems. All the information that today creates our reality would actually be contained in a two-dimensional surface. Since 1997, over 10,000 articles have been published about it, which is actually a lot less crazy than it sounds. Professor Kostas Skenderis from the University of Southampton explains: Imagine that everything you see, smell, or hear in three dimensions emanates from a flat two-dimensional field. The idea is similar to ordinary holograms where a three-dimensional image is actually encoded in a two-dimensional surface like in the hologram on a credit card. However, this time, the whole universe is coded « .

After investigating irregularities in the cosmic microwave background — the « afterglow » of the Big Bang — researchers say they’ve found strong evidence to support a holographic explanation of the Universe. According to the accepted scenario of the Big Bang, the chemical reactions operated caused a massive expansion of the Universe which would have swelled almost instantaneously from the first stages. But while most physicists accept the reality of what we call « cosmic inflation », no one is able to pinpoint the exact mechanism responsible for such inflation. The Universe would have visibly expanded faster than the speed of light, suddenly going from subatomic size to that of a golf ball.

According to Professor Skenderis, general relativity now explains almost everything in the infinitely large, but it has struggled to understand the origins and mechanisms at the quantum level. This is why researchers are trying to combine these two physics and the concept of a holographic universe has the potential to reconcile the two.  » A system with less dimensions would be compatible with everything we have seen since the Big Bang “, explains Afshordi Mandelbaum who participated in the study.

To advance their evidence, the researchers created a computer model to simulate a holographic universe. In this model, you had one time dimension and two spatial dimensions instead of three. By ‘feeding’ their model with real information about the Universe, including data from the cosmic microwave background, the researchers found that the data fitted perfectly. In contrast, the model was suitable only for a small universe (no wider than ten degrees).

What can we conclude from this? Researchers say they are still a long way from proving our early Universe was in fact a holographic projection, but the fact that real-world observational data could explain some of the missing two-dimensional laws of physics means we cannot reasonably rule it out. So is there any chance we’re all living in a hologram right now?  » Not quite “replies Afshordi, “ the model only applies to the early Universe « . As for knowing how the transition between the two took place, that is another enigma.

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