Is the Universe One Big Hologram?

universe_nightsky“You know how I can tell we’re not in the Matrix?  If we were, the food would be better.” Thus spoke Sheldon Cooper, the socially-challenged nerd from The Big Bang Theory. And yet, there is actually a scientific theory that posits that the universe itself could be a 2D hologram that is painted on some kind of cosmological horizon and only pops into 3D whenever we observe it (aka. always).

And in what may be the most mind-boggling experiment ever, the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) seeks to test this theory for the first time. Their tool for this is the Holometer, a device which has been under construction for a couple of years. It is now operating at full power and will gather data for the next year or so, at which time it will seek to uncover if the universe is a hologram, and what it’s composed of.

big_bangThe current prevailing theories about how the universe came to be are the Big Bang, the Standard Model of particle physics, quantum mechanics, and classical physics. These hypotheses and models don’t fully answer every question about how the universe came to be or continues to persist – which is why scientists are always investigating other ideas, such as supersymmetry or string theory.

The holographic universe principle is part of string theory – or at least not inconsistent with it – and goes something like this: From our zoomed out vantage point, the universe seems to be a perfectly formed enclave of 4D spacetime. But what happens if you keep zooming in, past the atomic and subatomic, until you get down to the smallest possible unit that can exist in the universe?

fermi_holometer-3In explaining their theory, the scientists involved make much of the analogy of moving closer to an old-style TV until you can see the individual pixels. The holographic principle suggests that, if you zoom in far enough, we will eventually see the pixels of the universe. It’s theorized that these universal pixels are about 10 trillion trillion times smaller than an atom (where things are measured in Planck units).

The Holometer at Fermilab, which on the hunt for these pixels of the universe, is essentially an incredibly accurate clock. It consists of a twin-laser interferometer, which – as the name suggests – extracts information from the universe by measuring interference to the laser beams. Each interferometer directs a one-kilowatt laser beam at a beam splitter and then down two 40-m (130-ft) arms located at right-angles to one another.

holometer-interferometer-diagramThese beams are then reflected back towards the source, where they are combined and analyzed for any traces of interference. As Craig Hogan, the developer of the holographic noise theory and a director at Fermilab, explained:

We want to find out whether space-time is a quantum system just like matter is. If we see something, it will completely change ideas about space we’ve used for thousands of years.

After any outside influences are removed, any remaining fluctuations – measured by slightly different frequencies or arrival times – could be caused by the ever-so-slight quantum jitter of these universal pixels. If these universal pixels exist, then everything we see, feel, and experience in the universe is actually encoded in these 2D pixels. One major difficulty in such a test will be noise – aka. “Holographic noise” – which they expect to be present at all frequencies.

fermi_holometerTo mitigate this, the Holometer is testing at frequencies of many megahertz so that motions contained in normal matter are claimed not to be a problem. The dominant background noise of radio wave interference will be the most difficult to filter out, according to the team. As Holometer lead scientist Aaron Chou explained:

If we find a noise we can’t get rid of, we might be detecting something fundamental about nature – a noise that is intrinsic to space-time.

This would have some serious repercussions. For a start, it would mean that spacetime itself is a quantum system, just like matter. The theory that the universe consists of matter and energy would be annulled, replaced with the concept that the universe is made of information encoded into these universal pixels, which in turn create the classical concepts of matter and energy.

fermi_holometer-1And of course, if the universe is just a 3D projection from a 2D cosmological horizon, where exactly is that cosmological horizon? And does this mean that everything we know and love is just a collection of quantum information carrying 2D bits? And perhaps most importantly (from our point of view at least) what does that make us? Is all life just a collection of pixels designed to entertain some capricious audience?

All good and, if you think about it, incredibly time-honored questions. For has it not been suggested by many renowned philosophies that life is a deception, and death an escape? And do not the Hindu, Buddhist and Abrahamic religions tells us that our material existence is basically a facade that conceals our true reality? And were the ancient religions not all based on the idea that man was turned loose in a hostile world for the entertainment of the gods?

Well, could be that illusion is being broadcast in ultra-high definition! And getting back to The Big Bang Theory, here’s Leonard explaining the hologram principle to Penny, complete with holograms:


The Walking Dead Season 3 (Episode 8)

the_walking_deadWelcome back Walking Dead fans! Last time, it seems I made a bit of a mistake and would like to rectify it first. According to updates from IMDB, season 3 will be running for a full 16 episodes instead of ten. However, this was the last episode before the mid-season break, so it did have its share of climaxes and more cliffhangers. When they come back in February, we can look forward to another 8 episodes!

Okay, moving on to what happened this week. A lot of thrills, kills, and chills as the two camps collide, new players are introduced, and some serious shit hits the fan!

Made To Suffer:
WD3_sufferThe episode opens with a new party fighting their way through the forest. After fighting their way through a slew of Walkers, one of their party is bit and they come upon the prison. Finding a collapsed wall, they make their way inside one of the uncleared cell blocks. Over in Woodbury, the Governor continues to try and reach his daughter Penny, relying on the techniques Milton was using to try and trigger memories. After his attempts fail, he becomes angry and throws her back into her cell.

At the prison, we see tension growing as Axel appears to be taking an interest in Beth and Carol tells him to back off. He explains that it’s just that she is the only available woman since Maggie is taken and Carol is a lesbian, or so he thought. She corrects him on this, and laughs when he begins making some clumsy advances towards her.

Shortly thereafter, Hershel, Carl and Maggie hear screams coming from down below cell block and realize they have company. Carl goes down to investigate alone, and finds the new arrivals in the midst of a fight with many Walkers. He tells them to follow him and covers their escape while they head up top, bringing their bit friend with them. When they reach a cell, Carl locks then in and tells them to take care of their friend. They reluctantly agree and kill her with a hammer before she can turn.

WD3_suffer_carlOver at Woodbury, Rick, Daryl, and Oscar make their way into town with Michonne’s help. Once they reach the heart of town, they realize that she has no idea where Glenn and Maggie are being kept and things begin to stall. However, they are alerted to their location as an escape attempt by Maggie and Glenn goes south and gunfire erupts. Merle and his henchmen take them prisoner again and prep them for execution, but Rick and his party manage to show up just in time.

Using smoke grenades, they steal Glenn and Maggie away and head for the wall. Daryl narrowly misses seeing his brother in the confusion and the party falls back to a nearby house. Michonne then wanders off to sneak into Governor’s apartment, as she clearly has some unfinished business with him. The Governor meanwhile begins deploying his men once words get around that they have intruders. Naturally, Andrea wants to help but he forbids it, since he knows that any contact with her old companions will go sideways on him. At the same time, Daryl learns that his brother is out there and wants to find him, but Rick refuses him.

WD3_suffer_reunionHowever, both fail as a gunfight ensues in the streets and everything hits the fan. Using more smoke grenades to cover their escape, Maggie, Rick and Glenn make it over the wall, but Oscar is killed. Rick also has a flashback as he shoots an approaching man who reminds him of Shane, and Daryl stays behind to provide covering fire but gets cut off from the rest. Andrea is also caught in the fight and begins laying down fire with her pistol, and pursues the Governor to his apartment where they both run into Michonne.

Before they arrive, Michonne finds the Governor’s private room and sees his collection of Walker heads and his daughter Penny. When she realizes what Penny is, she draws her sword and prepares to kill her. However, the Governor shows up then and pleads with her not to hurt his daughter, but Michonne kills her and the two get into it.

WD3_suffer_pennyAfter much struggling, during which the aquariums holding the Walker heads are smashed, Michonne grabs a shard of glass and stabs the governor in the eye. She is about to kill him too when Andrea shows up and stops her. Michonne runs out, leaving Andrea with the mess of heads and the Governor as he clutches the body of his dead daughter and sobs.

Afterward, she and the Governor talk while he recovers in bed, but he doesn’t have much in the way of answers. Outside of town, Rick pulls his gun on Michonne and demands answers. The Governor calls a town meeting and tells them they were attacked by “terrorists” and that Merle was working with them. He’s taken prisoner and reunited with his brother, and the townspeople begin to call for blood! WD3_suffer_dixons

The mid-season finale was quite the climax/cliffhanger. On the one hand, we got to see the first of many confrontations between the Governor and the prison-folk, which was been building up since season 3 began. And now that he’s missing one eye and been deprived of his daughter, the stage is now set for the one-eyed Governor of the comic fame to lead an assault on the prison itself. All the teasers for the rest of season three point towards this, and I for one look forward to it!

Also, there were two key reunions in this episode which deserve note, and which were well-timed to coincide with one another. On the one hand, we get to see Merle and Daryl reunite after two and a half seasons apart. On the other, Andrea and Michonne meet up again and nearly come to blows in the Governor’s private room. In both instances, we have a cases of friends and family finding themselves on opposite sides in the course of a civil war. And Maggie even goes so far to characterize it for us: “All this time running from Walkers… you forget about what people do.”

This is a central theme to the story of The Walking Dead, which is how human beings inevitably turn on each other when the going gets tough. Already, we’ve seen cases of this with Merle and Shane, how one proved too unruly and dangerous to have around and the other went insane with jealousy and had to be killed. Now, it will reach fruition as the Governor’s camp and the Prison camp go to war, both in the name of protecting their own.

Once again, it was really nice to see Michonne kicking some ass! For a long time now, a fight has been brewing between her and the Governor and it finally happened. I was surprised the Governor held his own for as long as he did, but white hot rage probably had something to do with that. In the end though, Michonne got the upper hand on him and would have removed his head, had Andrea not shown up to save his ass. Damn you Andrea! Michonne tried to warn you, but you just wouldn’t listen! And you’re STILL getting in the way! But of course, that’s what keep the plot going so I can’t criticize too much…

At the same time, we got a little plot development on the quieter side of things, that being back at the prison facility. First up, Axel is beginning to show signs that he might have been a sex offender in his previous life. Though he claims he’s just a desperate man looking for love and is limited in his options, one can’t help but feel that he could become dangerous before long and will have to be “dealt with”. Again, I’ve got some insider knowledge on this, having read some of the comics, but I’m anxious to see how that pans out.

And of course, the prison group has received an infusion of new blood with the arrival of four new people. After being rescued by Carl, there was the usual standoff moment as he was forced to lock them in a room after they finished off their friend. Not much in the way of explanations were needed, as its clear than any newcomers in this world have to earn the trust of others before being welcomed in to their community. Luckily, Tyreese, the de facto leader of the group, seems to understand and is willing to play ball, if only because they have no other options.

But of course, the cliffhangers… First off, we’ve got Daryl and Merle who find themselves reunited under the worst of circumstances. The Governor has labelled them “terrorists” and clearly means to kill them. Meanwhile, Rick and his party are torn of what to do, whether they should beat it back to their own camp or try and mount a rescue. Me, I’m guessing they’ll head back to the prison while the Governor tries to get what info he can from Daryl. And in the end, Merle will defect and try to free his brother, just in time to stop the Governor’s armies for attacking the prison.

And of course, as soon as Rick and his bunch return, they will have to decide the fate of the newcomers. Once more, we can expect the usual process of back and forth where everyone wants to trust each other, but no one is willing to lower their guard until they’re sure. And I imagine, Rick, Tyreese, and everyone in between will find they have no options once conflict with the Governor’s people becomes inevitable.

But of course, all that’s speculation. Mainly, I’m just looking forward to see what they do with it and am pretty pleased with the direction it’s all been taking so far. Here’s to the second half of Season 3, coming in February of 2013!

Big Bang Theory Flash Mob!

My thanks to Rami for bringing this one to my attention. Man, I can be so out of it when it comes to pop culture sometimes! But I think you’ll agree, this is not something any fan of Big Bang Theory, or flash mobs for that matter, could afford to miss. Downright awesome in terms of its sheer suddeness, choreography and presentation. One has to wonder how you organize something like this considering all the people and coordinating dancing involved.

Be sure to watch to the end too. Not only do they cover many different songs, but the finish caps it off with hilarity! And the cast themselves, they got some sweet-ass dance moves. Mainly I just watching Penny – God, is she hot! – but Howard, Raj, Leonard and Bernadette bust a few too. Man, that’s a good show. Enjoy the clip!

Big Bang Theory, Season Six

Man I love this show! Before it came around, scientific theories and geeking out weren’t considered mainstream at all. And for those who enjoy the show, the season 5 ender was quite the cliffhanger. The gang got together to give Howard and Bernadette a wedding before his big mission, Howard was seconds away from being launched into space, and everyone, including Sheldon and Amy, joined hands to wish him well. Touching, and also pretty hilarious!

Check out the promo for the Season 6 opener which promises to have more hijinks. Naturally, they open with a sci-fi reference, this one to Alien – “In Space No One Can Hear You Scream…” Just two weeks to go… man, they sure are taking their time on this one!