The Holographic Universe

I’m currently reading “The Holographic Universe” by Michael Talbot. I expected quite a bit more science than is actually present in the book,  but it’s an interesting read nonetheless. (Though the book definitely explains science through a super new-age lens.) Only a quarter of the way through so far, but chapter three bought something up that blew my mind.

First, holograms 101:

The reason we can see stuff is because light bounces off of everything. Traditional images taken by cameras record incident light intensities as the photons hit the elements in a CCD or whatever sensor the camera is using. A hologram also records the phase of this light as well, meaning that playback of the recorded image retains all of the information during the recording phase.

Recording a holographic image. [Source: Wikipedia]

To record an image, a coherent light beam (aka laser) is sent through a beam splitter so we have two identical beams of light. One beam is reflected off the object to be recorded while the other beam serves as the reference of the recording laser. The two beams (object & laser) form interference patterns when they intersect, and this is recorded on the photographic plate.

Reconstructing the image. [Source: Wikipedia]

When the image is to be read/reconstructed, the original recording beam (or laser of same wavelength) is shone through the plate. Interference allows the original beam to be recovered, restoring the recording of the object to the identical state it was in when the image was recorded. Because we literally recorded the light bouncing off the image, the holographic result is actually identical.

In this way, a mirror recorded as a hologram will also reflect light. And a holographic recording of a magnifying glass will actually magnify objects behind it. The recording plate can also be cut into as many pieces as desired, while the full original image can still be restored albeit being a little more blurry because of the cutting. SO COOL. TOO COOL.

A hologram is interesting in several different ways. Bohm, one of the major progenitors of the idea of a holographic universe describes an idea of enfolded and unfolded order. The image of a hologram looks super weird:

Holographic image of an apple. [Source: ABI HCSI]

Information concerning the specific light waves on an apple is “enfolded” into this film. So order is hidden. When we attempt to reconstruct the apple, we “unfold” the information by shining the laser back through the film. Bohm argues that if the entire universe is holographic, we can fold and unfold information out of the fabric of our universe. (Thus explaining all the stuff with photon is wave/particle, dimension of an electron, etc… because order is being constantly established and destroyed through our observations. Yes. Not scientific, but interesting to think about!)

The topper on the theory is…. That everything in the universe is part of the same “holographic film”. Yep. Just like how your arm is part of you, you’re also part of the floor, and part of the trees, and part of your house. And part of time! o_o

And just like how every portion of the hologram contains information on the hologram as a whole, if we could access and decode the unordered holographic film of our universe we could find Andromeda on our pinky, or Einstein writing e=mc^2 in our closet. What blew my mind was that Talbot quoted Auguries of Innocence, a poem by William Blake that I had posted about before but can now view with a completely different lens.

To wit, the first verse:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour



  1. Syed

    Hi Sophie, your blog is simply wonderful. Thanks a lot. In this particular entry, you’ve incorrectly mentioned Auguries of Innocence by William Tell – it’s by William Blake. Thanks and keep up the good work!

    • Sophie

      Oh! Thanks for reading and for catching that error! I’ve fixed it now.

      I have no idea how I came up with William Tell, haha.

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