As we recently learned, you and I might be holograms projected from the edges of the universe. In case you missed it:


So what happens if the universe is expanding? It seems to me our holograms would change positions. Perhaps this explains what we perceive as movement. The edge of the universe moves, and suddenly I think I'm driving my car someplace.

The other thing that might happen is that our images would grow in size, the same way a projector's image grows as you back it up from the screen. We wouldn't notice the growth because everything would grow at the same time, with denser objects growing just a bit faster, thus creating the illusion of gravity.

If any of that seems inconsistent with scientific observation, don't worry. The great thing about being a hologram is that our memories of the past are all false. So if you think our planet orbits the sun, maybe you only remember learning that and it never happened. All bets are off when you are a hologram.

If our memories are false, you'd expect to see some inconsistencies in the historical record, just because all those false memories wouldn't fit together seamlessly. The longer the history, the more likely there would be inconsistencies. For example, we might have a popular theory that the universe suddenly inflated from a dot of nothing, or that most of the universe is made of invisible dark matter, or particles can have spooky entanglement issues from a distance, or light can behave like both a particle and a wave. Check, check, check, and check. You're sure those things will be rationally explained by science someday, but I'll predict new inconsistencies will be formed in the process, to perpetuity.

If our reality is a hologram, you might also expect that the theory of evolution would have some head-scratching parts. Maybe something like this:


If you are tempted to argue that I'm misinterpreting something here, based on your vast knowledge, remember that your knowledge is all false memory. Or maybe just half vast.

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Jan 29, 2009
Stumled upon by Craig Hogan of Fermilab...

...Fermilab named after the phyisicist Enrico Fermi....

....who asked an important question of why there is no other life considering the age and size of the Universe, knows as the Fermi Paradox.....

......Fermi Paradox with numerous solutions, one of the more popular ones being that the immediate and distant universe is a holographic projection.....

Coincidence.... i think not!


Also Stephen Baxter wrote a rather nice collection of novels (Manifold) with the Fermi Paradox being the main underlying theme. Time, Space, Origin, and a book of short stories called Phase Space. Great read :)
Jan 28, 2009
Scott - I couldn't help thinking about my wife's assertions of our newborn daughter's hair being colored the same as hers was during her pregnancy... A fine dark shade of red that soon faded after birth. She's a biologist by trade and quickly dismissed this 'lunacy', but still shares the story that our offspring took on Mom's haircolor, at least for a little while. She couldn't explain it :) Maybe this does. Regardless, good 'ol random thought trail (maybe my hologram just expanded and receeded at nearly the same time!)

Hope the cat feels better soon!! (sorry, been catching up with posts!)
Jan 26, 2009
I thought this universe granularity was defined by Planck's' Constant? If not then I've been harbouring the knowledge in secret for over 20 years now, based on a misunderstanding I got from an Asimov book.
Jan 25, 2009
"Our everyday experience might itself be a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface. "
so in reality we're a comic.....

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Jan 25, 2009
The idea of discounting observed evidences, because they might one day be explained as a trick or having been subjectively mismeasured, is awfully similar to the principle that whatever science observes has been put there by God either as a test or for some reason to create the appearance of scientific rules in play. My resistance to discounting said evidence could only be overcome with provision of other very clear and widely accepted evidence falsifying previous conclusions and preferring the hologram theory. Not merely by pointing out the unresolved questions currently being explored. I'm not a scientist but it is as logical for me as not automatically becoming a Muslim just because I have issues with Judaism - I would do that if God made himself known and told me to be a Muslim. Probably. And likewise if all the scientists were telling me to put my weight behind a new science, I guess then I could. Which brings us to the global warming controversy. Feh.
Jan 25, 2009
By the way, you used to work in a bank right?

Computers can store pseudo real numbers like 53.29. They're called "floating point" numbers. But since the computer cannot really store anything but integers, it has to do some math tricks to accomplish this and the number is not accurate.

e.g. You may put in the number 7, but it's actually storing 6.99999999997 or something. Or 7.000000003. Whatever it's in the mood for.

So financial software does not use floating point numbers. They strictly use integers, or even store the numbers as strings or some other lossless format.

But physics programs and simulators and games use floats! These look well enough at a high level but the accuracy breaks down at a low level.

Fun, eh?
Jan 25, 2009
I have another thought.

You often like to suggest we're all in a computer program.

If all this hologram stuff is a natural aspect of reality, that the designers of the program are faithfully replicating, than it has no implications. Everything is exactly as it should be.

But if it's NOT an aspect of how reality is supposed to be, than it's superfluous complexity that the designers need not bother to implement!

If it's a simplification to make the universe easier to implement in a computer, than the whole simulation is a failure.

Here's why.

If the point of the simulation was to see explore human history, than we're already going the wrong direction because we ran into the simulator's limitations and are now developing based on a different reality than that of the creators.

That last idea - that it is a simplication - does hold some merit. I play flight sims like X-Plane. I got hooked on X-Plane. And then I downloaded an aircraft called the X-30 National Aerospace Plane. It had tons of fun getting it up into low earth orbit and back down again.

One day I tried pushing it a bit further. Once in orbit I did a brief engine burn which raised the high point of my orbit to over 2000 !$%*! up! And up and up I went.

And as I got higher, the limitations of the simulation started to show. You see, the computer stores all data in integers, so it has a resolution limit. When it tries to pretend it's working with non integers, inaccuracies appear.

Since this was a flight sim designed for little bi-planes and whatnot, when I got over 2000 !$%*! up all the sim's inaccuracies started to appear; my spaceship started jittering and behaving weird and the autopilot couldn't hold it straight anymore.

So I got a different sim called Orbiter which is decently accurate all over the solar system... But it has it's imperfections too.

This whole bit about reality not making any sense and physics breaking down below a certain level reminds me of that, big time. Hitting the limits of the simulation.

But if this is supposed to be a simulation of reality to explore how we interact with it, it should have been turned off already.

Because once we hit that limit, we're not going to develop the same way and are now basing our concept of reality on the simulator's flaws. The simulated world is now a waste of time.

Therefore, this is probably how true reality is supposed to look, wether we're in a simulation or not.
Jan 25, 2009
The word 'hologram' evokes a mental image of Star Trek style, computer generated, fake worlds.

That's not what they're trying to imply. They're talking about the kind of hologram that's on your credit card, that looks 3D even though it's on a 2D surface.

It doesn't mean anything is less real (whatever that means).

They're just looking under the hood of the universe.
Jan 24, 2009
two words that every high school science student could use to debunk this annoying article: Phenotype and genotype.
You really like to use science to make us monkeys dance don't you.
Jan 24, 2009
I probably should have read all the other comments before commenting, but I didn't.

The article you link to doesn't disprove the theory of evolution in any way. Identical DNA can be expressed in different ways. Perhaps the mother water flea's experiences cause a hormone to "turn on" a gene in her developing offspring. The DNA for the helmets already exists, it is just a switch that is either on or off until the mother's hormones (or something) tells it which way to express itself.
Jan 24, 2009
The article doesn't say that we're holograms in the traditional 'immaterial moving picture that's made out of light' sense; if we ARE holograms, then we're holograms made out of atoms with observable chemical properties, holograms that nonetheless obey the laws of physics laid down by Newton several centuries ago. The physics that we experience now may be created by the physics happening on the edge of the universe. But hey, our physics has to have some reason for acting the way it does, right?

I don't see how this should change the way we live or view our lives.
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Jan 24, 2009
These things don't explain desires, economies, survival of the fittest, the specific patterns which make up our life into what it is today.
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Jan 24, 2009
Very Smart Scott!!!

Maybe this blog of yours is also based on knowledge of false Memory????

Whats your arguement to this??


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Jan 24, 2009
If you think that article casts doubt on natural selection, then you are not paying attention. Unsurprisingly, the article misrepresents matters. The 'helmet' still had to evolve by natural selection. Whether it is expressed or not in a particular individual depends on environmental factors, which in this case includes the mother's environmental factors. This is still natural selection and doesn't change the fact that evolution happened. It's a mechanism by which certain phenotypic traits might be expressed in some offspring and not in others. Natural selection made this mechanism possible.
Jan 23, 2009
The water short fall you blogged of earlier...
Jan 23, 2009
The Newsweek article and the assumptions in it have already been debunked:

Sharon Begley, how could you?
Category: Development • Evolution • Science
Posted on: January 22, 2009 3:10 PM, by PZ Myers

Usually, Begley is reasonably good on science, but her latest piece is one big collection of misconceptions. It reflects a poor understanding of the science and of history, in that it confuses long-standing recognition of the importance of environmental factors in gene expression with a sudden reinstatement of Lamarckian inheritance, and it simply isn't — she's missed the point of the science and she has caricatured Lamarck.

Some water fleas sport a spiny helmet that deters predators; others, with identical DNA sequences, have bare heads. What differs between the two is not their genes but their mothers' experiences. If mom had a run-in with predators, her offspring have helmets, an effect one wag called "bite the mother, fight the daughter." If mom lived her life unthreatened, her offspring have no helmets. Same DNA, different traits. Somehow, the experience of the mother, not only her DNA sequences, has been transmitted to her offspring.

That gives strict Darwinians heart palpitations, for it reeks of the discredited theory of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). The French naturalist argued that the reason giraffes have long necks, for instance, is that their parents stretched their (shorter) necks to reach the treetops. Offspring, Lamarck said, inherit traits their parents acquired. With the success of Darwin's theory of random variation and natural selection, Lamarck was left on the ash heap of history. But new discoveries of what looks like the inheritance of traits acquired by parents--lab animals as well as people--are forcing biologists to reconsider Lamarckism.

She's describing real and interesting phenomena, but it isn't new and it isn't revolutionary. These are results of plasticity and epigenetics, and we aren't having heart palpitations over them (you're also going to have a difficult time finding any "strict Darwinians" in the science community who are even surprised by this stuff). We load up pregnant women with folate and maternal vitamins and recommendations to eat well, and we tell them not to get drunk or smoke crack for a few months, because it is common sense and common knowledge that extra-genetic factors influence the health and development of the next generation. Genes don't execute rigid, predetermined programs of development — they are responsive to the environment and can express radically different patterns in different contexts. The same genes build a caterpillar and a butterfly, the difference is in the hormonal environment that selects which genes will be active.

It's the same story with the water fleas. Stressed and unstressed mothers switch on different genes in their offspring epigenetically, which lead to the expression of different morphology. It's very cool stuff, but evolutionary biologists are about as shocked by this as they are by the idea that malnourished mothers have underweight babies. That environmental influences can have multi-generational effects, and that developmental programs can cue off of the history of the germ line, is not a new idea, especially among developmental biologists.

This is just wrong on evolution:

Water fleas pop out helmets immediately if mom lived in a world of predators; by Darwin's lights, a population of helmeted fleas would take many generations to emerge through random variation and natural selection.

It misses the whole point. The population of water fleas have a genetic attribute that allows the formation of spines under one set of conditions, and suppresses them under others. This gene regulatory network did not pop into existence in a single generation! If it did, then Begley would have a big story, evolution would have experienced a serious blow, and we'd all be looking a little more carefully into this 'intelligent design' stuff. The pattern of gene regulation was the product of many generations of variation and selection; only the way it was expressed in a phenotype experienced a shift within a single generation.

It's also not Lamarckism. It's another of those short and simple-minded myths perpetuated by high-school textbooks that Lamarck and Darwin had competing explanations for the same phenomena. They did not. This story of giraffes stretching their necks is an example of the purported inheritance of acquired characteristics … and here's some headline news, Darwin proposed exactly the same thing! Darwin did not have a solid theory of heredity, and he himself proposed a mechanism of pangenesis which permitted the inheritance of characters by use and disuse and by injury or malformation. The key difference is that Darwin proposed that these variations could lead to the formation of new species; Lamarck believed in the fixity of species, and thought that a species would merely express a constrained range of forms in differing environments.

Both were wrong. A concept called the Weismann barrier emerged in the late 19th century, which suggested that the only influences that can be transmitted across generations are those that affect the germ line, the cells that give rise to sperm and egg, and that modification of the somatic tissues alone would not propagate. This is correct, and it's still true: nothing in these reports suggest anything but that when perturbed by environmental stressors, gametes can switch on different genetic programs.

I think epigenetics and plasticity are important and play a role in evolution, certainly, but these kinds of elaborations on how cells interact do not imply in any way that there is a revolution in evolution, or that evolutionary biology has had it all wrong, or that this is heresy in progress. It's also annoying to see all the vague handwaving about discrediting a "Darwinian model" — what Darwinian model? These discoveries are about mechanisms of genetic inheritance, and Darwin didn't have a valid mechanism in the first place. In that sense, the only real heresy that counted was Mendel's.

Jan 23, 2009
Now wait just a darn minute, Mr. Adams. Last week I would have just let the thoughtless slam of our more full figured and/or slower friends go unanswered, but this week we live in a brave new world. No slight towards the underpriveleged, however unintended, can be allowed to go unpunished in the light of this new day. Just what were you thinking when you said:

'our images would grow in size, the same way a projector's image grows as you back it up from the screen. We wouldn't notice the growth because everything would grow at the same time, with denser objects growing just a bit faster'.

You managed to slander both our XXL and intelligence deprived citizens in the same breath! I won't be at all surprised if we see no more 'Dilbert' cartoons after this, once the authorities are notified. i won't tell, mind you, but there have got to be some supporters of the new order who monitor this blog. I would stand in your defense, but I'm not a cartoonist, and so far they haven't come after guys like me. I hope the re-education camp is nice.
Jan 23, 2009
The Newsweek article is sensationalized and inaccurate. It (willfully?) omits any mention of epigenetics, the field of study that deals with inheritable traits based not on genes but environment and experience. Discover magazine had a good article about it a couple of years ago: http://discovermagazine.com/2006/nov/cover
Jan 23, 2009
Scott alot of things you say come true. Please stop making this kind of prediction. Instead predict that John Coryell will become a millionaire.
Jan 23, 2009
"If mom had a run-in with predators, her offspring have helmets. If mom lived her life unthreatened, her offspring have no helmets."


Seriously, that whole article reeks of deceptively phrased anecdotal evidence. Googling "Sharon Begley" mostly returns results that are critical of her conclusions and questions about her authority on scientific topics.
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