Time, the holographic universe, and Schrodinger’s Tiger

by Marie Marshall

Schrodinger's Tiger

“I’m not a scientist and I’m not a mathematician,” a friend said to me. “I’m a philosopher. So when my daughter – she was of primary school age at the time – asked me what there was before time, I told her this: ‘Time is simply a measurement of the rate of change; for when there was no such thing as time, you have to imagine a state of things which is absolutely static, nothing moves, nothing changes, nothing can be understood to exist.’ That satisfied her for the time being – at least it made her silent on the subject.”

He went on. “Scientists are talking about the universe existing as information, and that that information is contained, stored, located at the event of a black hole. Thus the information is in two-dimensional form. However, the universe as it is perceived is three-dimensional. A three-dimensional object generated from two-dimensional information is holographic, therefore the possibility exists that the universe is a gigantic hologram. That being so, it could be a simulation. But of what, and initiated by whom? However, I see a flaw in that, and it’s a big one. If the event of a black hole is two-dimensional, then it has no depth whatsoever, it is simply where two different states – call them zones if you like – meet. If it has no depth, if it is simply where two discrete things meet, how can it be said to exist? If it does not exist, how can it hold information, how can it hold anything? If it holds something, it must exist. If it exists discretely, it can’t simply be where two zones abut. It has to have depth, no matter how small that depth is. If it has depth it is three-dimensional, not two-dimensional. Therefore the universe is not holographic.”

It seems to me that ever since the great Voltaire lampooned and overturned the optimistic principle of a priori in favour of the rational a posteriori, science has been trying to bump things back the way they were before. Well, maybe not precisely ever since, but at least since Einstein told us that the laws of the universe were the same at any point in space or time. That must mean that they existed, in all their complexity, an infinitesimal moment after the big bang, and that they have governed everything that has happened since. The scientists who propose that we are a holographic simulation – and who will probably be able to point out the flaw in my pointing out the flaw in their thinking – must also propose that the parameters of the simulation have governed, a priori, everything that has happened, is happening, or will happen.

As I sit here in my lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I am looking at the forward section, covered by a tarpaulin. Under the tarpaulin there is a tiger. The tiger may or may not be alive, or may be simultaneously alive, under the Copenhagen interpretation rather than the tarpaulin. Or it might simultaneously be under the tarpaulin and the Copenhagen interpretation…

If I, or the tiger, ever get out of this situation, then there’s a novel in this. Maybe even a blockbuster film. Knowing my luck someone will have already beaten me to it by the time I reach land.