Theories of the Universe: The Universe As a Hologram

The Universe As a Hologram

Have you ever seen a hologram? They are those eerie, ghostly, two-dimensional images that appear to be three-dimensional. The first time I saw one was in Star Wars, when Princess Leia's holographic image was projected by R2D2 to Luke Skywalker. They've become quite popular over the last twenty years or so. Most charge cards have a holographic image imprinted on them. And you can often go to an art show where holograms are the main works being presented.

So what do holograms have to do with theories of the universe? Well, as you'll be seeing shortly, some cosmologists think that the universe is a giant hologram. And while in this section we'll be looking at holographic theory from a scientific perspective, in other sections coming up we'll also see how it relates to human consciousness. But this will bring to a close the purely scientific part. In the last four sections we'll be looking at theories of the universe from philosophic, psychological, and symbolic points of view. And contained within that discussion, we'll pursue the role of human consciousness and how important that is for any theory of the universe.

What's a Hologram?

Universal Constants

A Fourier transform is a mathematical way of converting or transforming any simple or complex pattern into a language of simple waves. To get an idea of how this works, let's take the example of a television set and the camera in the studio. The television camera in the studio takes an image and converts it into electromagnetic frequencies. Those frequencies are then broadcast or sent via cable to your television set at home. There your TV converts those frequencies back into the images you see on your screen. And the Fourier transforms do the same thing. His equations convert images into waveforms and back again into patterns or images.

The discussion that follows in this section is going to be based on the work of just a few people. Holographic cosmology, like plasma cosmology, sits in a small corner of the universe with the other theories that aren't part of mainstream physics or science. Nevertheless, it deals with fundamental anomalies that most scientists in mainstream science have chosen to ignore or have dismissed as unimportant. Most of the insightful work done in relating cosmology to holograms has been done by David Bohm, a University of London physicist, a protg of Einstein and a widely respected quantum physicist. The other scientist that we'll look at in the next section is Karl Pribram, a neurophysiologist at Stanford University and author of many books on the physiology of the brain. The ideas and theories developed by these two individuals form the essential ingredients of holographic theory and how it relates to the universe and our mind.


The word laser or L.A.S.E.R. is really an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Inside a laser is some form of crystal, gas or other suitable substance, in which atoms, when stimulated by focused light waves, amplify and concentrate these waves and then emit them in a narrow, very intense beam of one color or frequency.

But before we delve into those ideas, it would be good to provide you with a little background on exactly what a hologram is. In 1947, Dennis Gabor formulated the mathematical theories out of which would come the development of the hologram. At the time, he was working on improving the electron microscope. The mathematical equations that he was using were based on a type of calculus invented by an eighteenth-century Frenchman by the name of Jean Fourier. The equations he had developed were called Fourier transforms.

By experimenting with different kinds of film, Gabor used these equations to help him convert a picture of an object into a blurry set of interference patterns (remember those from Young's double slit experiment?) on film, and then converted those interference patterns back into an image of the original object. Of course, today the mathematics are taken out of the process, because now the whole thing is done with lasers. But his original insight into how images and waves can be converted into each other and vice versa made the development of holograms possible.

Laser beams are used to create holograms because the light emitted from a laser is a very pure form of coherent light. It's especially good at creating interference patterns. Without the invention of the laser, the holographic images we see around us today would not have been possible. To create a hologram, the single beam of light that's emitted is split into two separate beams. The first beam is bounced off the object to be photographed, while the second beam is allowed to collide with the reflected light of the first. The interference pattern that's created by the intersection of these two beams is then recorded on a piece of film. When you look at the image on the film, it doesn't look at all like the object that was photographed. It simply looks like a group of concentric rings, similar to the surface of a pond after you throw a rock in. However, when you shine another laser beam or even just a strong source of light through the film, a three-dimensional image of the object appears.

When a holographic image is projected, you can actually walk around it and view it from different angles. It looks almost solid, yet if you put your hand in it, there is nothing there. But one of the most unusual aspects of holograms is what lies at the core of the theories we're going to cover. If you take a piece of holographic film and cut it in half, each half will contain the entire image of the object photographed. And if you continue to cut the pieces in half again and again, the entire image of the object can still be seen on each piece of film.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Theories of the Universe © 2001 by Gary F. Moring. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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