It sounds like an Onion headline, but it’s the strange truth: A handful of government physicists believe that we may be existing in a two-dimensional hologram. Yesterday Fermilab, a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, unveiled a set of groundbreaking experiments that will uncover whether or not we live and breathe in a holographic reality. Like characters in a TV show, who don’t know that their 3-D-esque world only exists on a 2-D screen, it’s possible that our perception of three-dimensional space and the universe is merely an illusion, scientists say.
Speaking to Motherboard, Craig Hogan, director of Fermilab’s Center for Particle Astrophysics and developer of the holographic noise theory, said that if we are in fact living in a hologram, reality essentially has a limited amount of information, “like a Netflix movie when Comcast is not giving you enough bandwidth. So things are a little blurry and jittery. Nothing ever just stands still, but is always moving a tiny bit.” Hogan’s assertion aligns with quantum theory, which says that you cannot know the exact speed and location of subatomic particles. But Hogan believes that landmark theories in physics, such as Einstein’s theory of relativity, can only make complete sense if our known world is a multidimensional hologram.
Specifically, the government researchers believe that the universe might be contained in a similar way that data points are contained within a TV screen. Get up close to the screen and all you see are tiny pixels—but stand back, and you have a beautiful and clear image. The researchers believe that the same concept can be applied to space, which has a pixel size so small that it’s about 10 trillion times smaller than an atom. And when you get up close, existence looks blurry.
Researchers are testing out experiments in a trailer in rural Illinois that will either confirm or deny their belief that we all exist with a Matrix-like reality, with the universe encoded in small packets in two dimensions. The experiment’s centerpiece is Hogan’s Holometer, a contraption invented to test out frequencies and the quantum jitter found in space. The device uses light interference technology called interferometers, which measure distances with high accuracy. The interferometers shoot one-kilowatt laser beams (equal to 200,000 retail laser pointers) at a beam splitter, then the light is reflected back where the two beams recombine. Fluctuations in the light’s brightness are created if the device detects motion. Then researchers examine the fluctuations to see if the beam splitter moves in the same way they believe space jitter occurs.
Hogan confirmed that the team would report their initial discoveries within the next year, although the project is still in preliminary stages. But, he said, “If we see something, it will completely change ideas about space we’ve used for thousands of years.”