What we touch. What we smell. What we feel. They’re all part of our reality. But what if life as we know it reflects only one side of the full story? Some of the world’s leading physicists think that this may be the case. They believe that our reality is a projection—sort of like a hologram—of laws and processes that exist on a thin surface surrounding us at the edge of the universe. Although the notion seems outlandish, it’s a long-standing theory that initially emerged years ago from scientists studying black holes; recently, a breakthrough in string theory propelled the idea into the mainstream of physics. What took place was an intriguing discussion on the cutting-edge results that may just change the way we view reality.
On the Blog: Space Is an Elaborate Illusion
More videos from this series: A Thin Sheet of Reality
This program was part of The Big Ideas Series, made possible with the support of the John Templeton Foundation.
Three-time Peabody Award winner, four-time Emmy Award winner, and Dateline NBC correspondent John Hockenberry has broad experience as a journalist and commentator for more than two decades. Hockenberry is the anchor of the public radio show The Takeaway on WNYC and PRI. He has reported from all over the world, in virtually every medium, having anchored programs for network, cable, and radio. Hockenberry is a noted presenter and moderator at conferences such as TED, Aspen Ideas, and the World Science Festival.
Gerardus ’t Hooft was born on July 5, 1946, Den Helder, the Netherlands. When he received his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1972 at Utrecht University on “The Renormalization Procedure for Yang-Mills Fields”, this work would later earn him, together with his advisor Martinus Veltman, the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics.
’t Hooft has been Professor in Theoretical Physics at Utrecht for most of his professional life, doing research and education on the topics of the electro-weak interaction, the strong interaction and later also the gravitational forces in the world of the sub-atomic particles. Member of the Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW) as well as other institutions and academies, his work led to a number of honorary doctorates and international prizes such as the Wolf Prize of Israel, the Pius XI Medal, and the Franklin Medal.
Photo credit – Alex Kok
Leonard Susskind is the Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University, and one of the discoverers of string theory, a candidate for a theory that unifies all laws of physics. An award-winning author, he is a proponent of the idea that our universe is one of an infinite number.
Raphael Bousso is recognized for discovering the general relation between the curved geometry of space-time and its information content, known as the “covariant entropy bound.” This allowed for a precise and general formulation of the holographic principle, which is believed to underlie the unification of quantum theory and Einstein’s theory of gravity. Bousso is also one of the discoverers of the landscape of string theory, which explains the small but non-vanishing value of the cosmological constant (or “dark energy”). His work has led to a novel view of cosmology, the multiverse of string theory. Bousso is currently professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Renowned for his influential contributions to string theory and its application in mathematics, particle physics, cosmology, and black hole physics, Herman Verlinde’s research has been recognized through several awards and fellowships from the Packard Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Science.
A professor of physics at Princeton University, he is a leading member of the High Energy Theory group. In 1988, Verlinde received his Ph.D. at Utrecht University under the supervision of Gerard’t Hooft. From 1994 to 1998, he was professor of physics at the University of Amsterdam, where he founded its Center for Mathematical Physics. In 2008 and 2009, he was a visiting member at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton.
Herman Verlinde is the twin brother of Erik Verlinde, who is also a prominent string theorist and professor of physics at the University of Amsterdam.