Our existence could be coded in a finite bandwidth, like a live ultra-high-definition 3-D video. And the third dimension we know and love could be no more than a holographic projection of a 2-D surface.
A scientist’s $1 million experiment, now under construction in Illinois, will attempt to test these ideas by the end of next year using what will be two of the world’s most precise clocks.
Skeptics of a positive result abound, but their caution comes with good reason: The smallest pieces of space, time, mass and other properties of the universe, called Planck units, are so tiny that verifying them by experiment may be impossible. The Planck unit of length, for example, is 10 billion billion times smaller than the width of a proton.
Craig Hogan, a particle astrophysicist at Fermilab in Illinois, isn’t letting this seemingly insurmountable barrier stop him from trying.
Hogan is following through on a radical idea to confirm Planck units with two of the most precise clocks in the world. Deemed holometers, each L-shaped laser interferometer will have two perpendicular, 131-foot-long arms to scan for pixelation in the very fabric of space and time. If it’s there, two laser beams (split from a single source) that run through the arms won’t hit a detector at the same time.
“What we’re looking for is when the lasers lose step with each other. We’re trying to detect the smallest unit in the universe,” Hogan said. “This is really great fun, a sort of old-fashioned physics experiment where you don’t know what the result will be.”
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