11 December 2013

The universe as a hologram

There are lots of things I don't/can't/will never understand.  Quantum theory and string theory lead the pack...
In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena proposed that an audacious model of the Universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics. The mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram: the real action would play out in a simpler, flatter cosmos where there is no gravity...

In two papers posted on the arXiv repository, Yoshifumi Hyakutake of Ibaraki University in Japan and his colleagues now provide, if not an actual proof, at least compelling evidence that Maldacena’s conjecture is true...

Neither of the model universes explored by the Japanese team resembles our own, Maldacena notes. The cosmos with a black hole has ten dimensions, with eight of them forming an eight-dimensional sphere. The lower-dimensional, gravity-free one has but a single dimension, and its menagerie of quantum particles resembles a group of idealized springs, or harmonic oscillators, attached to one another.
I'm not asking for an ELI5 explanation.  I'm content to remain ignorant.


  1. They could be pulling a prank on me, and I would not know it. It's like I'm reading gibberish.

  2. The point is not to try and understand string theory, but to understand that (some) scientists have found a mathematical model that describes quiet a large part of nature.

    'A' model, not 'the' model.

    Also, the fact that it's a horribly complicated model indicates that it's probably a rudimentary model. Good models are simple yet nuanced. Now, having a redumetary model is better than having no model, and gives an opportunity to start working on improving it.

    Finally, is it really that difficult to image that if you make a horribly complicated model, that you can explain anything you want?

    1. It goes beyond that. I don't understand the necessity for understanding cosmography. Perhaps I'm too much of a pragmatist, but it seems irrelevant to human endeavors.

    2. Stan,

      I think we are hoping that it will somehow lead to the warp drive. :)

    3. 1.- it is just immensely satisfying to know that we humans can wrap our minds around the inner workings of the cosmos.
      2.- there are at least 5 equally outlandish theories that have changed your live dramatically.

      As an example take general relativity and the curvature of space time. Seems useless to understand when it comes to your daily life. Without it the GPS systems that most people carry around these days would not work.
      And if it wasn't for quantum mechanics you would not be 'posting'. Understanding the models of the universe may seem useless, but that understanding more often than not has unexpected consequences and implications that do impact your daily life.

    4. PS: as an experimental physicist i could not resist, these guys are really not even looking at physical models of the universe so it is even more academic than you consider it to be. And yet....i am using this exact same framework to understand the porperties of high temperature superconductors. Turns out that the mathematical description of the universe is identical to the behaviour of electrons in some solids...With a bit of luck you may one day find room temperature superconductors in your gadgets providing you with a near endless battery all thanks to 9 dimensional space time theories of a non-existing universe. (and that would be immensely cool as well, if it ever happens)

    5. this is hurting my brain...
      but I do appreciate your points!

  3. My takeaway from these theories is that the universe is a lot weirder than we can possibly imagine. There's no way we can even hope to comprehend the true nature of the universe. Just buckle up and enjoy the ride!

  4. For all the science fiction I read, I haven't a clue how any of the stuff works. I took physics back in the 50's, and I do try to read up on new ideas. But to be honest, I'm clueless.

  5. Sometimes all of these theories and models just seem like an "emperor's-new-clothes" scenario.

  6. Whenever I see this stuff I think of those Ptolemaic models with wheels within wheels that explained why the earth was the center of the universe. Dark energy is right up there too. Sounds like the ether.

  7. My limited background makes a lot of modern physics out of my reach. But, based on several books* I have read, written by physicists who understand what is going on, it would be wise to take a lot of modern physics "discoveries" with a huge grain of salt.

    Basically a lot of current bleeding edge physics is untestable and in my opinion is just mathematically well dressed metaphysics.


    * Lee Smolin "The Trouble With Physics" and Peter Woit "Not Even Wrong".

  8. humans with this sort of comprehension are essentially mutants... a step forward on the evolutionary ladder. Most of us are just a rung up from Neanderthals.


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