Could our cosmos be a projection from the edge of the observable Universe?
Sounds like a silly question, but scientists are seriously taking on this idea. As it happens, a gravitational wave detector in Germany is turning up null results on the gravitational wave detection front (no surprises there), but it may have discovered something even more fundamental than a ripple in space-time. The spurious noise being detected at the GEO600 experiment has foxed physicists for some time. However, a particle physicist from the accelerator facility Fermilab has stepped in with his suspicion that the GEO600 “noise” may not be just annoying static, it might be the quantum structure of space-time itself…
We could be on the verge of one of the biggest discoveries mankind has ever stumbled across. And in this case we would have, quite literally, stumbled over it. A detector, designed to search for the very big (i.e. gravitational waves propagating from supernovae, spinning neutron stars and colliding black holes), will have accidentally probed subatomic scales, revealing the limits on the fabric of space-time. Alternatively, it could just be noise, so in which case, gravitational wave-hunters can get back to work once they’ve tracked down the mysterious source in instrumental static.
However, scientists are at a loss to explain the noise and have turned to an expert in the quantum world to help them understand what might be going on. The implications could be revolutionary.
The German-British GEO600 is a 600 metre-long gravitational wave detector in Hanover, using lasers to converge on a highly sensitive interferometer. Apparently, it is the most sensitive instrument of its type. Gravitational wave detectors are set up to detect the slight fluctuation in the distance between two points as a ripple in space-time passes through local space. In the case of GEO600, it can detect a fluctuation of an atomic radii over a distance from the Earth to the Sun.
Craig Hogan, director of Fermilab’s Center for Particle Astrophysics, believes that GEO600 may have reached the limit on its precision, it might be limited by the quanta of space-time. The smooth, constant interpretation of Einstein’s view of space-time may need to be modified, as it too may be composed of quantum-scale “points”. As with subatomic particles, the detection of this space-time fine scale could lead to quantum fluctuations in the GEO600 results. “It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time,” says Hogan.
But what does this have to do with holograms? For the quantum model of space-time to be confirmed, scientists would need to probe down to Planck length-scales (that’s a distance of 10-35 metres). Gravitational wave detectors may be able to detect tiny distance fluctuations, but they certainly are not capable of probing down to Planck length-scales.
Actually, this may be possible if the holographic Universe theory is correct.
This theory is born from other well known interpretations of the cosmos, in particularly the black hole paradox. As something falls into a black hole, passing the event horizon, the quantum information held in the event horizon can be encoded to reveal information about the interior. Therefore, the information inside the black hole’s event horizon is not destroyed (for details on this, see the Thorne-Hawking-Preskill bet). If the information about the interior of a black hole is encoded in its event horizon, scientists have come forward to point out that perhaps the information inside our Universe is encoded in the Universes horizon (a.k.a. the limit of the observable Universe, 13.7 billion light years away).
If the information is encoded in the horizon of our Universe, could it be that everything within this boundary is simply a holographic projection of this outer “shell”? In which case, the information encoded into the horizon will be held in Planck length-scale bits, and the projection (i.e. us and the space-time we know and love) will be a 3D representation of the Universal Horizon.
Going back to the GEO600; it could be detecting the “quantum fabric” of space-time after all, as the horizon projection will be of scales far larger than the Planck length, possibly up to 10-16 metres. When talking about gravitational wave detectors that can probe down to proton scales (<10-15 metres), suddenly we see that these powerful detectors could be affected by the quantum fluctuations of space-time itself. As the projection is of scales significantly larger than the encoded horizon, the projection would appear “blurry” according to Hogan.
It is hard to understand what this actually means and physicists are currently trying to interpret these findings. If space and time are simply a rendition of encoded bits of information, projected from the horizon of our Universe, does that mean actions carried out in “local space” (i.e. here) are actually actions being carried out 13.7 billion light years away (and therefore 13.7 billion years ago) on the inner shell of the cosmic horizon?
On the other hand, it could just be noise…
Original source: New Scientist