Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Universe is Like a Hologram

  • Stuart Kim of Stanford University wants to know: "Why can't I live as long as a whale? How hard would it be?" Do your qigong everyday, Mr. Kim, eat very little, and keep your emotions flowing smoothly...
  • Electrical stimulation of the brain is an effective treatment for depression.
  • Another study has come out linking phytoestrogen (found in soy products) and low sperm count. I have my doubts about these studies. If that's true, then why are the Chinese so prolific? Last time I checked, even with the one-child policy, there are more than a billion and a half Chinese people in China alone. If you count all the overseas Chinese and other nations that consume a lot of soy, that's nearly half the world's population. The lead researcher, Dr. Jorge Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health, says: "It's way too early to say stop eating soy foods. It's not time to worry about whether you're eating too much soy. There's not enough information to conclusively say that."
  • What is the scientific explanation of the Northern Lights?
    Every so often, the Earth's magnetic field lines are stretched like rubber bands by solar energy, snap, are thrown back to Earth and reconnect, in effect creating a short circuit. This stored-up energy powers the northern and southern lights.

    This is fascinating stuff. Think about it - the Earth's magnetic field lines are stretched by solar energy so far that they SNAP, then they come back to Earth and reconnect.

Finally, I'd like to post a long quote from an interview with Leonard Susskind, the physicist who proved Stephen Hawking wrong about black holes.
What is the great resolution you referred to?

One result is something called Black Hole Complementarity. Let's say Alice falls into a black hole while Bob stays on the outside and watches. Nothing drastic happens to her when she crosses the event horizon [the point of no return around a black hole]. Of course she's eventually going to get it. On the other hand, there is another picture of the black hole, where every bit of information that you throw onto the horizon of a black hole gets sort of stuck on the horizon and builds up a soup of information bits. And this soup is hot, about a 100 billion billion billion degrees.

So Alice would get burned up?

We have a dilemma. One theory, based on general relativity, simply says Alice just floats past the horizon. That would be Alice's view of things. But Bob's view of things, if he believes in quantum mechanics, is that Alice falls into this soup of hot bits and her molecules are ripped apart. So, which one is correct? Alice can't both be killed at the horizon and not killed at the horizon. The answer is they are both correct.

How can that be?

These two ideas are not in conflict because to be in conflict, there has to be a contradiction. Well, nobody can see a contradiction for the simple reason that nobody can send a message from the inside of a black hole. Alice can't send a message saying, "Bob, I'm OK, don't worry about me," because the message can't get out of the black hole. Yet everything Bob sees is consistent with saying that Alice was thermalized.

It's difficult to see how both can be true.

We've had these things before in Einstein's thought experiments. Einstein, in the special theory of relativity, proved that different observers, in different states of motion, see different realities.

There's another strange theory that's come out of this battle, isn't there?

Yes, the Holographic Principle. A hologram is a two-dimensional sheet, such as film, which codes three-dimensional information. A simple way to say it is that the black hole horizon is like a hologram. The horizon of the black hole is like the film, and the image is the stuff that falls into the black hole. It's extremely unintuitive. According to this theory, the exact description of a region of space -- no matter how big -- is like a film on the boundary, where complicated and extremely scrambled versions of that space are going on. So in that sense, the universe is like a hologram.

Enjoy your weekend...

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