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Fermilab's Holometer Set to Find if We Live in a 2D Universe

Aug 27, 2014 06:15 AM EDT
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Researchers at the US Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory are conducting an experiment to find whether we live in a 2D universe.

The experiment, called The Holometer, has started collecting data and scientists expect that it will answer some key questions about the Universe, according to a news release.

"For thousands of years we have assumed that space is made of points and lines," Craig Hogan, director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, told The Verge. But "maybe that is not right - it might be made of waves, the way that matter and energy are."

According to the researchers, much like the characters on television, we wouldn't know if we are in a 2D Universe and if our 3D Universe was just an illusion. Pixels on television appear as an image only when we stand at a certain distance away from the screen. The scientists believe that the "natural pixel" size of space is about 10 trillion times smaller than an atom.

The Holometer has a pair of one-kilowatt laser beams (roughly equivalent to 200,000 laser pointers), which are split using a "beam splitter" and sent perpendicularly down to two, 40 meter arms. At the end of the arms, the beams are reflected back to the splitter. Fluctuations in brightness of the beams show whether or not the beams have moved in a certain way.

This method will help figure out if the Universe is vibrating like a wave, the team said.

Fermilab's Holometer - or holographic interferometer - researchers say, is the most sensitive device ever built to assess the "quantum jitter of space itself."

The US Department of Energy and other sources have funded the research. Around 21 scientists from Fermilab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan are working on the project.

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