New Evidence for the Strange Idea that the Universe Is a Hologram

Photo illustration by LLacertae / Flickr

One of the great mysteries of modern cosmology is how our universe can be so thermally uniform—the vast cosmos is filled with the lingering heat of the Big Bang. Over time, it has cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero, but it can still be seen in the faint glow of microwave radiation, known as the cosmic microwave background. In any direction we look, the temperature of this cosmic background is basically the same, varying by only tiny amounts. But according to the standard “cold dark matter” model of cosmology, there wasn’t enough time for hotter and cooler regions of the early universe to even out. Even today we would expect parts of the cosmic background to be much warmer than others, but that isn’t what we observe.

One solution to this cosmological problem is known as early inflation. If the observable universe was extremely tiny in its earliest moments, it could have reached a uniform temperature very quickly. Afterwards, the theory says, the universe underwent a brief period of rapid expansion, eventually leading to the universe we observe today. We don’t have any direct evidence for early cosmic inflation, but because it would solve several issues in cosmology, it is a widely supported idea.

Recently, a team of astronomers looked at data from the Planck satellite, which gathered the most accurate measurements of the cosmic background thus far. They wanted to compare fluctuations across vast regions of the sky, known as low multipole moments, with the predictions of the standard cosmological model and a model that’s somewhat stranger, a holographic one. What if everything around you, from the distant stars to your very hands, were a hologram? Like Plato’s cave, our world of solid objects and three-dimensional space would simply be a shadow of a two-dimensional reality. On the human scale a holographic universe would be indistinguishable from the reality we expect, but on a cosmic scale there could be subtle differences we might be able to detect.  

In the holographic view of cosmology, early inflation is driven by interactions of the quantum field, which would slightly change the appearance of the cosmic microwave background. This is particularly true for low multipole moments, and this difference makes it possible, at least in principle, to prove that the holographic principle is true. In their paper, published last month in Physical Review Letters, the team report the holographic model fitting the Planck satellite data slightly better than the standard model. The results don’t prove the universe is holographic, but they are consistent with a holographic model.  

The idea that our universe might be holographic comes from string theory. Although string theory hasn’t been proven experimentally, its mathematical structure has an elegance and power that makes it appealing as a theoretical model. The holographic principle in string theory is just such an example. In its broadest form, the holographic principle states that anything you can know about a particular volume of space can be learned by looking at the surface enclosing the volume. Just as a hologram can contain a three-dimensional image within a sheet of glass or plastic, the universe could contain its vast volume within a surface.

For example, imagine a road 10 miles long that is “contained” by a start line and a finish line.  Suppose the speed limit on this road is 60 miles per hour, and we want to know if a car has been speeding. One way to do this is to watch a car travel the whole length of the road, measuring its speed the whole time. But another way is to simply measure when a car crosses the start line and finish line. At a speed of 60 miles per hour, a car travels a mile a minute, so if the time between start and finish is less than 10 minutes, we know the car was speeding.

If the holographic principle is true, then the universe can be viewed in two different ways: one of space and volume as we intuitively experience it, and one of a “surface” with one less dimension. This holographic duality is mathematically powerful because some laws of physics can be much easier to work with in one view than the other.

The structure of our universe is driven by the constant pull of gravity between stars and galaxies. In the present era, gravity is weak compared to other forces, and is described as a gravitational field in general relativity. In the dual holographic view, gravity is described as a quantum field that can interact strongly with mass. Since it is easier to calculate weak interactions than strong ones, the general relativity approach is more useful. However, in the early moments of cosmic time, when the universe was hot and dense, the gravitational fields of relativity were strong, so quantum fields of the holographic view might be easier to deal with.

The fact that both the standard and holographic models can account for early inflation supports the idea that the holographic principle applies to our universe. Cosmic inflation remains a mystery, but by viewing the universe as a hologram we might just be able to solve it.  

Brian Koberlein is an astrophysicist and physics professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. He writes about astronomy and astrophysics on his blog One Universe at a Time. Find him on Twitter @BrianKoberlein.

The Spark That Started Your Burning Pride…

was the untimely death of Miss Judy Garland. When Judy died, we all needed a drink together.

Allow me to let Tennessee Williams describe her powerful magnetic appeal that has rarely been put so succinctly.

(Thanks to DJDemille for bringing this bit of Judy Study forward.)

“What she had was a pure talent. Whatever training she had or used or needed came from performance, from experience, from sharing. The talent poured from her like sweat or blood, and I think of those fluids when I think of her performances–not the fluids which did so much to calm or seduce her when she did not have an audience. I have drowned in those fluids myself. There was no effort with Judy–other than to stay alive and to show up and to keep the standard so high for so long. We live now in a world of proficiency and efficiency and managers of one minute who get a particular job done. No flab; no fuss. I don’t like this new world. I like the world of pure talent fully given; lives fully lived; hearts fully open. Try to do whatever it is you do with the passion and commitment and terminal feeling that Judy had. None of us can. The talent was too big, and all of the recipients of this talent far, far too small.” –Tennessee Williams on Judy Garland/Interview with James Grissom, 1982/Follies Of God
Let the pride week-end begin!

(artwork created by Duke Todd)
Please take a moment this weekend to thank the living memory of Miss Judy Francis Ethel “Baby” Gumm Garland for starting gay liberation without even trying. Now you youngsters who don’t know much more about La Garland than Dorothy Gale and Toto in Oz, you all git to studyin’!

A well rounded knowledge of our gay liberation history demands a more than superficial study of Judy – made so easy via Youtube – and besides that, if you allow yourself to feel that famous force, it will be hard to stop wanting more. It’s basically gay crack.


If you find you have a problem with watching too much Judy or you find it difficult to stop watching Judy or that you find yourself thinking about Judy (like) all the time, then please call me. There is help.  I can talk you down and help you find a local barstool where you can share anonymously (because you lost all their numbers) with “friends” who have been there just like you.

Bitch be BUGGIN, YO!!!!

There It Is (Verse 2), from The Holy Book of Shalamar

Today our Shalamar study group examines the sacred trio’s 1982 single,”There It Is” from the album, “Friends.” This is the blessed beat and heavenly sound of Solar Records. Inside the lyrics we find a piece of true dance-floor poetry. Effective, beautiful and transporting, the poem uses a simple simile on top of a sound that seems to smile as it sways softly over it’s central yet unwritten theme, “the sometimes turbulent waters on the ocean of love.”

Here now, the standard King James 12″ version for your notes:

Composers – Nidra Beard, Dana Myers and Charmaine Elaine Sylvers


In the sea of love we set our sails when waters were rough,
Two in search of love with no direction,
Fish were biting at the time when catching wasn’t enough,
We couldn’t make a sport of our affection.

And who would dream that we would sail into each other?
Ooh girl, I never felt the wave of love so strong,
And this love I never felt in any other,
I trust it like a lighthouse guides a ship to land,
I found it when you touched my hand.


( Extra credit and no homework work work work work to anyone who can get Rhianna to read this. )

Hey Howard Hewitt,  LOOKIN GOOD ! ! !   ; )

Howard’s time tested talent is still makin’ Akron proud.



Forgetting About Your Own Blog

is no excuse for not posting for weeks and weeks but it happened. If you’d like to remind me to post something in the future or if you would like to request a topic or to ask me anything almost at all – hey – feel free…

auntalice AT gmail DOT com

Let your fingers do the walking and be assured – every email will be read by me or one of my staff. FYI – I like to discuss and blog about things that are; a little tired, really old, a future possibility, completely ridiculous, often underrated and of course those things that are invisible such as music, fragrance and spirits (not the kind that take a water back.) Also, I enjoy blogging about topics that involve the visible spectrum and everything that happens therein. I’m very sorry but I have to request that there be no inquiries regarding the subjects of the ultra-violet nor the infra-red at this time. Things beyond the spectrum will be permitted as topics of inquiry and or suggestions for posts sometime in the future, however at this moment I am unable to care about and therefore blog about colors that nobody can see.  note: The topic of fluorescence is fine.

Ok, so, that said, what about Horst P. Horst and his summer beauty shot for Vogue? Have you seen it yet? Are you familiar with Horst P. Horst and Vogue 1939? No? Well you are now…


H. kept this one REAL simple – huh? Blast her with the brightest tungsten ya got and pay no mind to the beat up edge of that box. Inspiring.

Thanks, Horst.

Questions Questions, Honey. Please vote.

Anonymously of course…