Was our early universe a hologram?

As if it wasn’t cool enough when Tupac was brought back to life at Coachella, scientists believe that the hologram may have played an even more mind-blowing role in history, finding evidence to support the idea that the early universe existed as one.

The idea isn’t a new one; physicist Leonard Susskind hypothesised as early as the 1990s that the laws of physics – as we comprehend them – don’t actually require three dimensions. Thus was born the mind-bending theory that our universe was once a hologram – and with it tens of thousands of published papers supporting the idea.

A team at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, has found strong evidence to support the hypothesis of a nascent holographic universe. Team member Niayesh Afshordi clarified that the holographic universe is “a very different model of the Big Bang than the popularly accepted one that relies on gravity and inflation”. The hologram principle posits that during the early days of the universe – days being a figurative term for the first few hundred thousand years – everything was projected from a two-dimensional boundary into three dimensions.

To go all scientific on you, the idea is that the volume of space is encoded on an observer-dependent gravitational horizon, so it only requires two dimensions while appearing as three. Thankfully, team member Kostas Skenderis of the University of Southampton was on hand to decode this for us mere mortals who didn’t get their doctorate in quantum physics; he compares the hologram principle of the universe to that of a credit card, where a three-dimensional image is encoded in a two-dimensional surface. Then comes the mind-boggling leap that, instead of just that tiny silvery chip on the back of your bank card, it’s the entire universe that’s encoded.

Forgive me, physicists among you, for how I’m about to articulate the following, but it has long been established that the theories of general relativity (big things) and quantum mechanics (small things) aren’t wholly compatible, particularly when attempting to explain the early universe, when all energy and mass were concentrated in a minute space. This clash has been eased slightly by the theory of quantum gravity, which dictates that if you get rid of a spatial dimension, you can also omit gravity in your calculations, making the process easier.

Using this theory as a springboard, researchers built a model comprising one time and two spatial dimensions. Real, empirical data on the universe was then input, including cosmic microwave background (CMB). When the model recreated the behaviour of slithers of the CMB, the team was elated. And whilst, yeah fine, it could only recreate the universe at a magnitude of ten degrees wide, the discovery is a huge one, giving even more validity to the snowballing theory that, like the West Coast hip-hop deity, the universe indeed once existed as a hologram.

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