Is the Universe a Hologram?

If I haven’t posted much lately, it’s because I’ve spent the last eight months hard at work writing a new book! The subject is one that has long been dear to my heart: coincidences. Over the next few months, I’m going to try to post more regularly, but as you might expect, given where my head has been lately, you’re going to be seeing a lot of coincidence-related topics! (And let me just say that, if you have a particularly improbable or meaningful coincidence story you’d like to share with me, I’m all ears. The book won’t go to press for a few more months, so there’s still time for me to squeeze in a few more examples!)

I’m devoting a major portion of my book to discussing the sources (including chance) that could be responsible for producing various coincidences, and one of the many intriguing hypotheses I consider involves David Bohm’s holographic model of reality. While holographic models have been used in various ways in physics as well as in neurophysiology, it is Bohm’s original model, described in his 1980 book Wholeness and the Implicate Order, that’s most interesting to me in this context, and I’m going to make it the subject of today’s post.

A hologram is a two-dimensional interference pattern recorded on a piece of film that, when properly illuminated, creates a three-dimensional image. A hologram is intriguingly “holistic,” in that you can cut it into many pieces and each piece will be independently capable of recreating the entire three-dimensional image (though the range of angles from which the image can be viewed will be smaller). Unlike in conventional photography, where each part of the image is stored on a different part of the film, a hologram stores information about the entire image on every part of the film.

As Bohm points out, things are similar in our universe, where information contained at any particular location in the universe reflects the state of the universe as a whole. To use a non-holographic example, think of all the television programs, radio programs, and cell phone conversations currently being transmitted through the space in which your body is located. All of that information is already right there, moving through your body in electromagnetic waves. To access it, all you need is a receiver that responds to the kinds of waves you want to focus on.

In fact, your body already has a built-in receiver for certain wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum: the wavelengths of visible light. Your eyes are able to provide you with an image of what’s going on all around you based on nothing but the patterns of the electromagnetic waves currently passing through your eyeballs. Look around the area where you are currently located. No matter where you choose to stand within that area, you can obtain similar information about the surrounding environment, because that same information is located at every point. If you are standing outside at night, your eyes can even discern information about stars many light-years away. How amazing is it that your eyes are detecting information about such widely separate parts of the universe, all of which is present within the tiny spheres of your eyeballs?

There’s more to Bohm’s holographic model, however.

A hologram is constructed by splitting a single laser beam into two parts, one of which is reflected off a three-dimensional object before the two beams are then brought back together and their interference pattern recorded on a piece of film. This record of the interference pattern is the hologram. When it in turn is illuminated, it produces a three-dimensional image of the original object.

Bohm’s suggestion is that the everyday reality we see is like an interference pattern. If we look directly at a holographic interference pattern, it looks like a picture of many separate objects. We can tell that there are some repeating patterns within it, but the overall image appears incredibly complex, even somewhat chaotic. When illuminated with the right light, however, it reveals itself as the record of an object in a higher-dimensional space.

Similarly, in our everyday view of reality, we see our world as filled with separate physical objects and events, and though we notice some recurring patterns, overall the world seems very complex, even somewhat chaotic. Bohm’s idea is that all the apparently separate objects and events in the universe might be best understood as reflections of a single object existing in a higher-dimensional space.

If this is so, it could explain some of the strange coincidences we notice in our daily lives. What appear to us like two oddly similar but causally unconnected events could in fact be the reflections of a single event in a higher-dimensional space!


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