Physics Experiment to Test if Universe is an Illusion

Terrence Aym's image for:
"Physics Experiment to Test if Universe is an Illusion"
Image by: 

In a relatively short period of time we may awake one morning to discover we aren't who we think we are and not where we thought we lived.

In case you don't know it, our entire reality may be nothing more than a cartoon.

Like a page torn from a script for the movie "The Matrix," physicists are building a machine to test a hypothesis first formulated years ago that everything we think of as "reality" is nothing more than a grand illusion.

According to the mathematics for black holes, what we perceive as a third dimension may not exist.

Where are we?

Imagine the universe as a pixelated computer image. As you enlarge the image you lose definition and eventually discover that the matrix underlying the image is really nothing more than a bunch of strategically positioned dots.

"Dots" are what researchers discovered inadvertently during a series of experiments conducted during 2009 in a German physics lab. While probing for the gravitational waves theorized to emanate from black holes, the researchers discovered interference—or "noise"—that skewed the data gleaned from the cutting-edge project, GEO600.

Astrophysicist Craig Hogan of the famous Fermilab—who made waves during 2008 by postulating that the 3D universe is basically an illusion—viewed the German's problems with their gravity wave experiment as a clue that might support his own hypothesis.

In an episode of the 1960s television show "Star Trek," the character Dr. McCoy inadvertently steps through a time portal and changes all of history. When the character Captain Kirk discovers his space vessel has disappeared from orbit around the planet, he's blandly told by the time machine that "All that you knew is gone." In essence, all that was is no more.

Hogan can sympathize with Kirk. If his holometer experiment is successful, we all might find that what we thought is, isn't.

The mathematics explaining the structure and properties of black holes can "prove" that the nature of the universe may not be three-dimensional at all. Instead, everything is a construct built on two-dimensions and what we perceive as a third dimension is nothing more than a simple projection of time creating the illusion of depth.

According to this mathematical model the universe is nothing more than a flat projection onto a backdrop much like a cartoon. Yet as measuring devices become ever more sensitive, the detection of the illusion will become inevitable.

This is what Hogan thinks may have happened during the German science experiment. They crossed the threshold past the illusion and began detecting the underlying "noise" that is the foundation of reality.

But it's not an easy thing to see. “You can’t perceive it because nothing ever travels faster than light,” he explains. “This holographic view is how the universe would look if you sat on a photon.”

Hogan's holometer is—at its heart—the most accurate clock ever made, With it he intends to measure whether our reality is—or is not—nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

The measuring instrument is being constructed to exacting standards and tolerances at a special MIT physics engineering lab. Dubbed the holometer, the machine will act as a "holographic interferometer"—a high-tech version of the classic 19th Century interferometer invented to measure the parallax of light.

Hogan named the novel instrument a holometer in deference to the 17th century holometer that was the first instrument ever constructed to measure everything on the Earth and heavens. The device was used extensively by surveyors and astronomers.

Today's holometer is a bit different. Its purpose is to survey the make up of spacetime and determine if it is smooth or lumpy. If it is lumpy, then we are not where we think we are.

Hogan explains that the holometer project is to “…build a machine which will be the most sensitive measurement ever made of spacetime itself."

So far, physicists have been forced to rely strictly on math to discover the ins and outs of the universal mysteries. Now they may have a piece of actual hardware to assist in the quest to reveal the nature and scope of reality.

“People trying to tie reality together don’t have any data, just a lot of beautiful math,” says Hogan. “The hope is that this gives them something to work with.”

And if what we all think of as "the universe" is really just a cartoon?  Well, it might make people look at the Road Runner in a slightly different way.


Craig Hogan website

Fermilab website

MIT website

"Hogan’s holometer: Testing the hypothesis of a holographic universe"

More about this author: Terrence Aym

From Around the Web

  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow