Holography Schmolography

[updated 2014-09-04] The whole holography thing. YES. I am actually going there! I’m going to place a bet against (some) physicists.

I have absolutely nothing to lose! I don’t even have any kind of science-y reputation that can be trashed, and I will be just as stupid once proved wrong as I am prove-ably stupid right now, before we know anything.

My (original) bet:

Universe-as-hologram, if it is found, will (I declare!! Based on nothing!!) prove to be an emergent phenomenon rather than a plank-scale substrate of reality-as-we-know-it.

What I currently understand

OK – quick (probably highly-erroneous) recap:

Hawking radiation, being (in it’s original form) akin to “just” a bit of entropy, implied a certain loss of information. This flew in the face of – well, everything… and so good ‘ole Hawkins reworked his theories some… and now, for all intents and purposes, an entity falling into a black hole manages to encode itself in the surface / event-horizon of the black hole itself, thus preserving information.

This result (still “just” a theory) naturally made people go “Woah! that’s pretty much like a 3d entity encoded on a 2D surface! Smells like holography.” And indeed – you don’t generally need voxels (3d pixels) to describe a 3d structure. You can get away with a regular-ass 2D matrix of pixels… as long as the resolution is high and you’re cool with the super-scrambling that informational compactification brings with it… or in holism-speak, the whole ‘whole in the part, and the part in the whole‘ type of scrambling.

In kindergartenese:

Now let us transport the entire thing, using analogy, into the everyday: let us think instead of the falling of a pebble into a pond.

So: you drop a pebble into a pond (okay, okay… let’s say a closed body of water. It’ll work better). The overall water level rises by just a smidgen and it tells you how much “rock” fell into the “pond”. This is a bit like the original version of hawking’s explanation of detecting that something fell into a black hole: The water level rises a bit. But, you’ve lost information about WHAT fell in. You could have chucked in a shoe, you could’ve chucked in an iPod into our analogical pond: you would only be able to discern that the water level has gone up.

Then after thinking about it some more, you say wait a minute: When something falls into the body of water there are ripples that flow outwards in a certain way. This rock goes ‘ker-splosh, ripple, ripple, ripple, ripple’. The ipod on the other hand goes ‘ker-plonk, bubble, bubble, ripple’. Now we can discern the nature of what went in, just by observing events at the surface of the water. We haven’t lost information.

Inferences, inferences!!

OK great. But, just cos the rock made ripples on the surface of the water does not mean that the rock *IS* made of “surface-water-ripples”. This is my beef with the whole thing.

As I see it, holography might be useful for the universe to have some kind of super-efficient, solipsistic communication with itself about itself, but it does not have to be built out of the bloody stuff (holograms). In short, I haven’t thus far UNDERSTOOD (forgive me) the need to elevate what is basically an information encoding protocol to the level of matter-as-we-know it. Stop printing bollocksy sensationalist crap, media people!

It’s like looking at one of those movie posters (look this way and Spidey is crouched, walk a few more paces past and now he’s spurted webbing and is leaping into the air!)… and then deciding that Spiderman – the entire story arc and its creators and its related franchises… is a hologram.

No. The hologram of spiderman, is the hologram.


Up till now, the pro-hologram, new-age-y tinged propaganda (at scales completely removed from that of the Planck length) has generally been that the ideation of such things as Spiderman… embarking upon character design, the bringing together of talents to manifest a comic as something real beyond the figment of its creator’s imagination… might be a sort encoding/decoding act of holography – in a highly esoteric sense. The idea that everything past present and future was in some sense encoded or at least encode-able in every part of every being in the universe, and that folks just needed to “wake up” and “tune in, man… because the universe is in you”…

It has been very interesting (and a little weird) for me to see that same concept invoked at Planck-scales… it remains just as esoteric, however… and I guess we’ve got to have a peek and test it, ain’t we?

Next Day: The horse. It’s mouth. Looking there instead of at sensationalist news stories!

w00t!! I shoulda seen this web page before I started writing my post! Lookit all this goodness, straight from the horse’s mouth. Quoting from the Holometer experiment’s very own FAQ page:

What new effect are you looking for?

The new idea we are testing states that positions (and time) are not precisely defined. When you measure the location of an object in two directions at the same time, the measurements have extra jitter.

We are seeking to measure a possible very slight random wandering of transverse position. This “holographic noise” could be caused by a new quantum uncertainty of space-time.

Funny that… Intuitively, I’d expect there to be some kind of jitter, wouldn’t you, poking at things from 2 different directions? But just when I was going to ask ‘so why are we specifically calling the jitter ‘holographic noise’ / why would the jitter be due to holography, they’ve anticipated, thusly:

Why call it Holographic noise?

The theoretical ideas are similar to how ordinary holograms work. When you look through a hologram printed on a two-dimensional surface, a three-dimensional projection appears. Looking at this projection carefully, you see that it is a little fuzzy. This fuzziness is related to how small the pixels on the two-dimensional surface are. The smaller the two-dimensional pixels, the sharper the details are in the three-dimensional projection.

So… but… gah! A regular 2D image with shitty pixelation would also look fuzzy/jittery, no?

Also also: Jitter at far more mundane scales simply tends to mean some “digitization” / pixelation is afoot. That’s generally what it’s meant till now… as in, the mere act of discriminating/quantizing yields jitter, no? Like zooming in on a smooth line and realizing that it’s made of diagonally stacked squares. No holography needed by way of explanation.

All the jitter will prove, if it’s detected, is that the universe-as-computer paradigmers have a digital processor on their hands, not an analog one (and they’ll scarcely rejoice, probably – I’d wager they’ve presumed as much all along).

Also also also:

“the holographic principle states that the capacity of a container is related to its surface area rather than its volume”

So really, we are comparing quantities. “Capacity”. The capacity / the amount of stuff (and, extrapolating, the entropy of a body varies with the surface area of that body. News stories however keep spinning this as if somehow the body in question is a hologram. I don’t think that’s the same thing? It isn’t the same thing, people.

But the best part is:

How can you seriously claim that we’re all just living in a simulation? How can you seriously clam[sic] that the third dimension doesn’t exist? Have you gone off the deep end? Don’t you have anything better to do?

Simply put, the Holometer is testing none of these claims. We can address some of the misconceptions about the Holometer by clarifying several misleading terms.


the term “holographic” unfortunately calls to mind words like “illusion” and “simulation” which really have nothing to do with the Holometer or any aspect of the Holographic Principle.

Ah. And there I was about to proclaim that my favorite cakes were Black Forest and Red velvet, in case I had to eat some. But it’s still worth putting it out there I suppose… because my original bet is (now) pretty ludicrous given that I wasn’t up against physicists at all, but journalists. I made a ludicrous bet entirely due to people printing sensationalist rubbish about the holometer experiment and my wondering if this was actual physics.

Still. Waiting with bated breath to see what the Holometer *actually* finds out 🙂

AND, I’m still waiting for further explanations by physicists / people who know more about this topic. Or a really rich Samaritan who will just pay for me to go to school and learn all this stuff first hand!

A li’l extra: Some fun reading on vanilla, good ole fashioned holography:

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