From Nature News:
“Imagine waking up one day and realizing that you actually live inside a computer game,” says Mark Van Raamsdonk, describing what sounds like a pitch for a science-fiction film. But for Van Raamsdonk, a physicist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, this scenario is a way to think about reality. If it is true, he says, “everything around us – the whole three-dimensional physical world – is an illusion born from information encoded elsewhere, on a two-dimensional chip”. That would make our Universe, with its three spatial dimensions, a kind of hologram, projected from a substrate that exists only in lower dimensions.
Wow. For sure it couldn’t have happened before about 1970, so at least we can date the idea …
This ‘holographic principle’ is strange even by the usual standards of theoretical physics. But Van Raamsdonk is one of a small band of researchers who think that the usual ideas are not yet strange enough. If nothing else, they say, neither of the two great pillars of modern physics — general relativity, which describes gravity as a curvature of space and time, and quantum mechanics, which governs the atomic realm — gives any account for the existence of space and time. Neither does string theory, which describes elementary threads of energy.
So how does that make everything an illusion? Anyway if it’s “everything,” what does “illusion” mean?
Testing such ideas empirically will be extremely difficult. In the same way that water looks perfectly smooth and fluid until it is observed on the scale of its molecules — a fraction of a nanometre — estimates suggest that space-time will look continuous all the way down to the Planck scale: roughly 10-35 metres, or some 20 orders of magnitude smaller than a proton.
But it may not be impossible. …
You remember signing a release to be in a Twilight Zone episode? You know how they hang it on some harmless science factoid and then … well, it’s for sure great TV but … Hey, it’s sure to be great TV.