Dispatches | January 24, 2009

Good news this week for people who like holograms. An article just out in New Scientist says we all just might be living in one.

… I know, right? As I read the article I noticed my face mimicking the expression of the tiny framed Shakespeare hologram I have on my wall here, which I purchased from the hologram store in the Denver airport reluctantly for $10 when I was in junior high, having lacked the two hundred bucks needed to purchase the wicked hologram of T-Rex. Yesterday, as I learned about how that shop was maybe a hologram that sold holograms, my expressions cycled from enlightened to puzzled, with tiny 3D Shakespeare watching me from the wall — paused, at my angle, midway through his reverse-epiphany, as if to say, “Methinks … whoa!”

The New Scientist article reports on the findings of German scientists who noticed some weird readings from a huge, entrenched detector that was supposed to measure gravitational waves, but instead kept picking up “an inexplicable noise.” It’s been suggested that the “noise” is the threshold at which the image that is the universe becomes grainy — kind of like how a newspaper photo becomes nothing but dots at a point when looked at very closely. People who know about black holes wonder whether this means that the universe is not just “a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface,” but a blurry one, at that.

I can see that — literally — especially after last week when my fianceé shot me in the eyeball with a Nerf gun while I was driving, thus bringing about the exact scenario my mother warned could happen anytime my kid brother and I dared to wave our Nerf guns around in the car except that we didn’t crash and die. I hypothosize that since last Tuesday I have perceived existence as it truly is with my right eye — a big, slightly blurry mess where things are mostly as I perceived they were before, but not quite.

Of course, I lack the mathematical machinery to express this — a foam dart leaving a plastic barrel at an unknown speed while also traveling at roughly 50 mph down the road at a perpendicular angle — or to check the findings reported in the New Scientist article, or to do much of anything, really. The room-length chalkboard in the math and physics lecture hall of my mind still shows the faint traces of perimeter and area problems, maybe some notes on how to multiply fractions, part of the quadratic formula …. As I look at this photo, to me, the person on the left, who knows a lot about black holes, could easily be standing one position up the conveyor belt from the person on the right, who knows a lot about donut holes. They appear to have similar hats.

Speaking of hats, the hats we happen to wear, as writers, and artists, and critics, and readers, designate us as people who have feelings about the nature of reality and how it is to be negotiated. What the news this is all a hologram means for philosophy and religion is anyone’s guess. I have a sneaking suspicion it will be taken as kind of depressing by some, and as kind of validating by others. In other words, I expect global reactions to be a lot like tiny 3D Shakespeare’s, who is very disturbed, or very satisfied.