Birthplace of stars

Scientists studying the cosmic microwave background across the universe, what is claimed to be the “afterglow” of the so-called “Big Bang,” now suggest the universe started out as a “vast and complex hologram.”

“There is at least as much evidence for the strange theory as there is for the traditional idea of the structure of our universe, according to astrophysicists from the University of Southampton, who worked with colleagues in Canada and Italy,” reported the London Independent.

Kostas Skenderis, an expert in mathematical sciences at the university, said: “Imagine that everything you see, feel and hear in three dimensions (and your perception of time) in fact emanates from a flat two-dimensional field. The idea is similar to that of ordinary holograms where a three-dimensional image is encoded in a two-dimensional surface, such as in the hologram on a credit card.

“However, this time, the entire universe is encoded.”

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He explained: “Holography is a huge leap forward in the way we think about the structure and creation of the universe. Einstein’s theory of general relativity explains almost everything large scale in the universe very well, but starts to unravel when examining its origins and mechanisms at quantum level.

“Scientists have been working for decades to combine Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum theory. Some believe the concept of a holographic universe has the potential to reconcile the two. I hope our research takes us another step toward this.”

At Wired a report noted that the idea isn’t new, but the researchers now claim to have evidence.

The Southampton team, the report said, “found signs our universe is an illusion by studying the cosmic microwave background (CMB) – radiation left over from the Big Bang.”

“A holographic universe means information that makes up what we perceive as a 3D reality is stored on a 2D surface, including time. This means, essentially, everything you see and experience is an illusion,” the report said.

Researchers claim in their study, published in the Physical Review Letters, that they think there’s proof of the idea.

They developed “models” of the holographic universe based on the theory of quantum gravity, which challenges the accepted version of gravity.

“The holographic principle says gravity comes from thin, vibrating strings which are all holograms of a flat, 2D university,” the report said. That evidence comes when researchers peer back in time as far as 13 billion years.

“Recent advances in telescopes and sensing equipment have allowed scientists to detect a vast amount of data hidden on the ‘white noise’ or microwaves left over from the moment the universe was create,” the report said. “Using this information, the team was able to make comparisons between networks of features in the data and quantum field theory. They found some of thet simplest quantum field theoris could explain nearly all cosmological observations of the early universe.”

The report quotes scientists suggesting that the latest assumption “moves quantum gravity away from being an alternative theory and toward an accepted model.”

“We are proposing using this holographic universe, which is a very different model of the Big Bang than the popularly accepted one that relies on gravity and inflation,” commented Niayesh Afshordi, a study author and scientists at Perimeter Institute.

Afshordi suggested holography is a “Rosetta Stone, translating between known theories of quantum fields without gravity and the uncharted territory of quantum gravity itself.”

The ArsTechnica blog had some doubt about the overall concept of holography as an answer.

“The best we can say is that holographic theory is as good as quantum field theory – at least when it’s not breaking. In the end, what can we conclude? Some versions of quantum field theory do not fit the data, so they can be excluded. Simply put, that’s the way it’s going to be. Each new hit of data will allow us to restrict the allowable parameter space for the competing theories, slowly narrowing them down.”

ScienceAlert reported the conclusion from theoretical physicists and astrophysicists in the U.K., Canada and Italy and noted, “To be clear, the researchers aren’t saying we’re living in a hologram right now. They’re suggesting that in the very early stages of the universe – a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang – everything was being projected into three dimensions from a two-dimensional boundary.”

It explained that since 1997, more than 10,000 papers have been published on the topic, “so it’s a lot less crazy than it sounds.”

But, the report said the “question of how things transitioned from two dimensions to three is now anyone’s guess.”

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