May 30, 2010

World Science Festival Explores ‘Humans as Holograms’

Brian Greene and other "string theorists" are exploring a possible scenario in which people, and the entire world in which we live, are actually a 3-D holographic projection of two-dimensional data that exists outside the accessible universe.

The concept is hard to comprehend for some because of the complex math behind the theory. However, Greene says his goal is to build public excitement about science.

"The idea is to...find the compelling narrative and stories that allow these programs to really feel like an experience and not a lesson," Greene, wearing a leather jacket that practically exudes old-school, rock-star cool, told The Associated Press. It's an appropriate look for a man who has brought the possible inner workings of the universe to scores of non-geniuses through his book "The Elegant Universe" and the PBS specials by the same name.

He founded the festival in 2008 with his wife, Tracy Day. They say that it is an extension of his work, translating into layman's terms the fundamentals of string theory.

Greene says he worries the U.S. is seeing a dissipation of its leadership in his field and others. 

"If the superconducting super collider had been built in Waxahachie, Texas, and the world was coming here to undertake the most powerful collisions of particles that we've ever been able to achieve, recreating conditions since the Big Bang in Texas as opposed to Geneva, would that be better for America? Yeah, I think it would be," Greene told AP.

The festival event hopes to make science as much a part of the American culture as dance or music.  In one event at the festival, choreographer Karole Armitage has created a dance piece illustrating concepts from contemporary physics.

The festival's opening night gala includes the premiere of "Icarus at the Edge of Time," which is an orchestral work by Philip Glass based on Greene's children's book about a journey to a black hole.

Greene has turned his focus to a book for adults on the possible ways that multiple universes might manifest themselves.

He told AP that one of the more popular science-fiction scenarios - an alternate universe in which people are transformed to similar but evil or subtly different versions of themselves - is but a remote possibility. Greene said that it's more likely that multiple universes exist alongside each other like bubbles in a bubble bath. The extremely fast expansion of the universe in our distant past, combined with elements of string theory, suggest this as a possibility.

It is almost as difficult to wrap one's head around as the possibility that we are all holograms projected over a distance, unable to detect the illusory nature of our 3-D world.

Green concludes: "Consciousness is nothing but the physical processes taking place in the brain...Consciousness is just another interaction of particles."


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World Science Festival