The Holographic Universe

Warning: this is not a libertarian post and I may get kicked out of this blog group for going way, way off topic! (It does have repercussions for Objectivists and others interested in ontology and epistemology.) This is an invitation to share a fascinating idea from modern physics: the holographic universe.  As I understand it, the idea is that everything within a volume of space can be thought of as encoded on the boundary of the region – like a conventional hologram.  (You can find runaway interpretations of the idea online which I suspect are bogus.)

Further warning: I am not a physicist.  I do have a Ph.D. in engineering and a decent grasp of mathematics and I have been studying modern physics with Prof. Leonard Susskind at Stanford.  His continuing education classes are just right for the likes of me – people who know elementary calculus, complex variables, etc. but cannot undertake a full-blast graduate physics course.

I commend to you Prof. Susskind’s lecture, The World as Hologram.  He is talking to a lay audience so he uses very little math.  But in his Stanford class he carefully took us through the math that leads to the conclusion that a black hole’s entropy is proportional to its surface area and not its volume as common sense would suggest.

If there’s a lesson here for a libertarian like me, perhaps it’s this: that we shouldn’t let ourselves get into a rut.  Don’t focus exclusively on libertarian issues, but stretch your mind from time to time in a new direction. Allow the possibility that you might learn something from a socialist like Lenny Susskind.  He’s someone I admire very much and I’m fortunate to have gotten personally acquainted with him.

By the way, you could hardly find a more moronic commentary on modern physics than this one, posted on the web site of the Ayn Rand Institute, from which I quote:

Today, physicists suppose that a particle can travel many different paths simultaneously, or travel backwards in time, or randomly pop into and out of existence from nothingness. They enjoy treating the entire universe as a “fluctuation of the vacuum,” or as an insignificant member of an infinite ensemble of universes, or even as a hologram. The fabric of this strange universe is a non-entity called “spacetime,” which expands, curves, attends yoga classes, and may have twenty-six dimensions.

Again, I’m not a physicist, but I have learned enough to recognize this paragraph as a preposterous know-nothing caricature of ideas that have been carefully worked out by physicists who almost without exception remain ruthlessly dedicated to experimental facts and correct logic.

3 thoughts on “The Holographic Universe

  1. Many of Susskind’s lectures can be found on Youtube. Most require some math background, though the one linked to above does not. I recommend his book “The Cosmic Landscape” which has almost no math.

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