The images on your computer screen also exist in software as a series of ones and zeros. The music coming from your headphones might come from those same ones and zeros - or from carefully-pressed plastic, or from laser-etched metal. A lot of things you interact with daily come from information that's stored in many formats…and so are you. According to physicist Leonard Susskind, the three-dimensional universe is a hologram, a projection of two-dimensional information stored along the boundary of the universe.
"This is a real disconnect and it's very hard to get your head around," said Susskind in the first episode of NOVA's The Fabric of the Cosmos with Brian Greene. But the concept of the universe as a hologram arises from the mathematical study of black holes. When an object - say a red rubber ball - gets sucked into a black hole, it passes the event horizon and is lost. The distinctions that make that object unique, however, do not disappear. Instead, information about the ball's redness and spherical shape spreads over the surface of the event horizon, forming a two-dimensional shell of information. Theoretically, a computer could even use that shell to reconstruct a duplicate of the original ball.
The math that describes the black hole's information shell matches the math describing the universe as a hologram. Although the concept seems utterly alien, Susskind says, "I think it's already reached a consensus" in the theoretical physics community. Still, the theory could be proven wrong - except any experiment devised to do so would be too complex for our technology to implement.
So what effect does this revamping of reality have on our lives? According to Susskind, not much. "I'm a normal human being," he says, "I don't think holographically."
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