Are Black Holes Actually Nothing but Two Dimensions?

A new study suggests black holes are a holographic trick the universe is playing on us.


Is a black hole really just sound and fury, signifying nothing? If the new theory suggesting that these gravitational irregularities are actually just holograms proves correct than, yes, that would be a fair description. But the authors of the new paper in Physical Review Letters putting the argument forth have a long way to go to prove their case. It all has to do with the way we calculate entropy inside a given system.

For some context: The notion that a black hole is actually a holographic facade goes back to the 1990s, when Stanford University physicist Leonard Susskind first hypothesized that the universe as a whole just needed two dimensions for the laws of physics to operate correctly. The world appears 3D to us, but it’s not.

Yes, that sounds insane, but the “holographic principle” actually helps to reconcile some of contradicting parts posed between quantum mechanics and general relativity (such as the paradox that information paradox: where matter can’t be created nor destroyed, but somehow nothing can escape a black hole).

Still this isn’t something all scientists agree with. In fact, recent research by Fermilab scientists pours a little more cold water on the holographic principle.

But, for arguments sake, lets just run with this notion — at least as it relates to black holes. The strangest thing about a black hole is that its edge, known as the event horizon, can’t be observed on account of light not being able to escape the gravitational pull. Physicists don’t really understand how an object just falls into the black hole there’s really no “in.” Everything just gets trapped in the dense gravitational flux of the surface.

German physicists at the Max Planck Institute for Theoretical Physics have now created a new estimate of the amount entropy contained with a black hole — and that value suggests black holes are indeed two dimensions and not three.

“We were able to use a more complete and richer model compared with what [has been] done in the past …and obtain a far more realistic and robust result,” lead study author Daniele Pranzetti said in a news release.

The key to this new approach on black hole entropy has to do with something called Loop Quantum Gravity, as a way to explain quantum gravity. In quantum mechanics, gravity is caused by collections of grains that make up space-time, called quanta. Globs of quanta come together to create more powerful gravitational forces. Quanta collections in black holes are especially powerful.

What does this have to do with black holes? Even if we can’t see or measure what’s past the event horizon — and therefore can’t directly observe the black hole’s entropy — the collection of quanta can still be measured just outside the event horizon.

So a black hole can be a simple flat, two-dimensional circle, but still exhibit the properties we would attribute to a three-dimensional phenomenon.

This actually isn’t the first time holograms and black holes have sprung up in the news in recent times. Stephen Hawking laid down a case for how information could escape a black hole. So maybe Hawking needs to revise his thoughts on that to account for a black hole that’s actually just a flat circle. Maybe True Detective had the right idea after all.

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