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There’s no evidence we live in a hologram … yet

Image: Holometer
A Fermilab scientist works on the laser beams at the heart of the Holometer experiment. The Holometer uses twin laser interferometers to look for evidence of quantum jitters. (Credit: Reidar Hahn / Fermilab)

Is our universe a two-dimensional hologram? It sounds like science fiction straight from “The Matrix,” but scientists are checking out the hypothesis for real. So far, the answer is no.

The experiments are being conducted at Fermilab in Illinois, using a gnarly-looking device known as the Holometer. The apparatus is designed to measure the smoothness of spacetime at lengths down to a billionth of a billionth of a meter. Put another way, that’s a thousand times smaller than the size of a proton.

The standard view is that the fabric of reality is continuous – but some theories propose that spacetime is pixelated, like a digital image. If that’s the case, there’s a built-in limit to the “resolution” of reality.

The Holometer uses a pair of high-power laser interferometers to look for tiny discontinuities in movements that last only a millionth of a second. Such discontinuities would provide evidence of holographic noise, or quantum jitters, in spacetime.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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