Spacetime is not pixelated – Holometer rules out first theory of space-time correlations

Dec 4, 2015

Our common sense and the laws of physics assume that space and time are continuous. The Holometer, an experiment based at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, challenges this assumption.

We know that energy on the atomic level, for instance, is not continuous and comes in small, indivisible amounts. The Holometer was built to test if space and time behave the same way.

In a new result 1 Search for space-time correlations from the Planck scale with the Fermilab Holometer released this week after a year of data-taking, the Holometer collaboration has announced that it has ruled out one theory of a pixelated universe to a high level of statistical significance.

If space and time were not continuous, everything would be pixelated, like a digital image.

When you zoom in far enough, you see that a digital image is not smooth, but made up of individual pixels. An image can only store as much data as the number of pixels allows. If the universe were similarly segmented, then there would be a limit to the amount of information space-time could contain.

The main theory the Holometer was built to test was posited by Craig Hogan, a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Chicago and the head of Fermilab’s Center for Particle Astrophysics. The Holometer did not detect the amount of correlated holographic noise—quantum jitter—that this particular model of space-time predicts.

But as Hogan emphasizes, it’s just one theory, and with the Holometer, this team of scientists has proven that space-time can be probed at an unprecedented level.

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27 comments on “Spacetime is not pixelated – Holometer rules out first theory of space-time correlations

  • I absolutely LOVE that in the middle of all of the mega-precise, super-calibrated, ultra-clean equipment shown in this super cool image…there is a 2×4.

    “Hey Sven, the micro-coagulator is misaligned with the quantum determinator”… “OK, let me whack it with this.”

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  • I’ve noticed when watching news reports that the criminals faces are always pixelated. So if space-time is pixelated that would mean that we are all Originally Sinners. Perhaps I should go to Mass tomorrow ?

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  • You can rest easy. It means criminals are all very very tiny and not at all like you and me…

    If there was any Original Sin, it must have been very small. I think we have scrumping in perspective now….

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  • Wouldn’t those hypothetical tiny bits of space-time be 3-dimensional “voxels” instead of 2-dimensional “pixels”?


    EDIT: Of course, it’s hard to see how the time component could be 3-D. Maybe time is 1-D and averaging it with space gives 2-D. My brain hurts.

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  • Actually, the dimensions get added, not averaged. The 1D time component plus the 3D space components constitute the continuum of spacetime.

    Pixels are two dimensional, voxels are three dimensional, and I think the “hypothetical bits of spacetime” (which also can be called voxels, but I think they need their own name) would be four dimensional.

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  • I don’t care how sophisticated, esoteric and complex astrophysics is; how can anyone be justified in referring to time as a dimension? It is nether the fourth nor the fortieth dimension. Time is not a dimension, period.
    I feel I have a sanction to ask such an “impertinent” question, as I am a bonafide relative of Albert Einstein. That is the truth. (He had a touch of my genius, btw.)
    Time in not a dimension and never will be.
    I am not altogether opposed to regarding space and time as a single concept, however, and neither was my great teacher, who wrote this in his early twenties:

    “the representation of coexistence is impossible in Time alone; it depends, for its completion, upon the representation of Space; because, in mere Time, all things follow one another, and in mere Space all things are side by side; it is accordingly only by the combination of Time and Space that the representation of coexistence arises”. – Schopenhauer (On he Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, 1813)

    -Dan the wise ignoramus

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  • What would happen if time were taken out of the equation? Would everything just freeze and stay that way forever (How do you say ‘forever’ without time?) Without time the Big Bang would be just a ‘B’….sorry, not even that. 😉

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  • Ah-ha! I just read this in what seems like a reputable source: The Daily Galaxy via and

    And I haven’t even studied physics or astronomy!

    100 years from now physicists and chemists will see that S was right, about space and time, and about the will as a unifying principle. As far as the latter goes, they might not call it will; they will call it energy (which is the wrong word) but he will be proven right in the end. He influenced Darwin and Freud. That’s right. A great, great sage.

    There are more scholarly articles like this one (from 2011):

    “Einstein never interpreted time “t” as a fourth dimension of space. Space is not 3D + T, space is 4D. With clocks we measure numerical order of material change. This numerical order is the only time that exists in a physical world. With this approach all immediate information transfers of quantum physics are explained in a more appropriate way. 4D space is a medium of quantum information transfers […]”

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  • Dan
    Dec 8, 2015 at 5:41 am

    “Einstein never interpreted time “t” as a fourth dimension of space. Space is not 3D + T, space is 4D. With clocks we measure numerical order of material change. This numerical order is the only time that exists in a physical world.

    Time is a relative variable dimension which is linked to the other dimensions. Relativity is proven by SAT NAVS. If you do not put relativity into the calculations, and allow for clocks measuring time at different rates, they get the GPS positions wrong!
    But in a relativistic world, things are not simple. The satellite clocks are moving at 14,000 km/hr in orbits that circle the Earth twice per day, much faster than clocks on the surface of the Earth, and Einstein’s theory of special relativity says that rapidly moving clocks tick more slowly, by about seven microseconds (millionths of a second) per day.

    Also, the orbiting clocks are 20,000 km above the Earth, and experience gravity that is four times weaker than that on the ground. Einstein’s general relativity theory says that gravity curves space and time, resulting in a tendency for the orbiting clocks to tick slightly faster, by about 45 microseconds per day. The net result is that time on a GPS satellite clock advances faster than a clock on the ground by about 38 microseconds per day.

    To determine its location, the GPS receiver uses the time at which each signal from a satellite was emitted, as determined by the on-board atomic clock and encoded into the signal, together the with speed of light, to calculate the distance between itself and the satellites it communicated with. The orbit of each satellite is known accurately. Given enough satellites, it is a simple problem in Euclidean geometry to compute the receiver’s precise location, both in space and time. To achieve a navigation accuracy of 15 meters, time throughout the GPS system must be known to an accuracy of 50 nanoseconds, which simply corresponds to the time required for light to travel 15 meters.

    But at 38 microseconds per day, the relativistic offset in the rates of the satellite clocks is so large that, if left uncompensated, it would cause navigational errors that accumulate faster than 10 km per day! GPS accounts for relativity by electronically adjusting the rates of the satellite clocks, and by building mathematical corrections into the computer chips which solve for the user’s location. Without the proper application of relativity, GPS would fail in its navigational functions within about 2 minutes.

    100 years from now physicists and chemists will see that S was right, about space and time,

    No need to wait 100years. Philosophers knew nothing of relativity in 1813!

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  • The Will is an invention. It is a post hoc narrative to conceal how our post hoc narratives flip the causation of human actions and the feelings of desire. At best, it is a prosaic rehearsal of apparent desire with its fingers crossed for an outcome.

    Feynman entirely viewed time as a traversable “degree of freedom”. His diagrams show it traversed in both directions. A positron is an electron going backwards in time. We are made of electrons.

    Bunk can be printed in many an august looking forum without peer review. The individual and his actual understanding (usually marked by academic achievements) is the first proper test of merit in such cases.

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  • Hey, Phil,

    Hope you’re not mad at me.

    I apologized to you on the Daily News thread. I shouldn’t have said you don’t appreciate American culture

    S’s conception of the will is not one based upon simply more words and concepts doing double duty in special ways… And there is nothing “religious”, i.e. mystical or dogmatic, about his conception of the Will.. I will give you his “proof” later. Tell me first if you can appreciate the beauty of this:

    Accordingly, we shall not rest contented with recognising that animals,
    both in their actions and also in their whole existence, bodily structure
    and organisation, are manifestations of will; but we shall extend
    to plants also this immediate knowledge of the essential nature
    of things which is given to us alone. Now all the movements
    of plants follow upon stimuli; for the absence of knowledge,
    and the movement following upon motives which is conditioned
    by knowledge, constitutes the only essential difference between
    animals and plants. Therefore, what appears for the idea as plant
    life, as mere vegetation, as blindly impelling force, we shall
    claim, according to its inner nature, for will, and recognise it
    as just that which constitutes the basis of our own phenomenal
    being, as it expresses itself in our actions, and also in the whole
    existence of our body itself. It only remains for us to take the final step, the extension of our way of looking at things to all those forces which act
    in nature in accordance with universal, unchangeable laws, in conformity with which the movements of all those bodies take place, which are wholly without organs, and have therefore no susceptibility for stimuli, and have no knowledge, which is the necessary condition of motives. Thus we must also apply the
    key to the understanding of the inner nature of things, which the immediate knowledge of our own existence alone can give us, to those phenomena of the unorganised world which are most remote from us. And if we consider them attentively, if we observe the strong and unceasing impulse with which the waters
    hurry to the ocean, the persistency with which the magnet turns
    ever to the north pole, the readiness with which iron flies to
    the magnet, the eagerness with which the electric poles seek to
    be re-united, and which, just like human desire, is increased by
    obstacles; if we see the crystal quickly and suddenly take form
    with such wonderful regularity of construction, which is clearly
    only a perfectly definite and accurately determined impulse in
    different directions, seized and retained by crystallisation; if we
    observe the choice with which bodies repel and attract each other,
    combine and separate, when they are set free in a fluid state,
    and emancipated from the bonds of rigidness; lastly, if we feel
    directly how a burden which hampers our body by its gravitation
    towards the earth, unceasingly presses and strains upon it in
    pursuit of its one tendency; if we observe all this, I say, it will
    require no great effort of the imagination to recognise, even at
    so great a distance, our own nature. That which in us pursues its
    ends by the light of knowledge; but here, in the weakest of its
    manifestations, only strives blindly and dumbly in a one-sided
    and unchangeable manner, must yet in both cases come under the
    name of will, as it is everywhere one and the same—just as the
    first dim light of dawn must share the name of sunlight with the
    rays of the full mid-day. For the name will denotes that which is
    the inner nature of everything in the world, and the one kernel of
    every phenomenon.

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  • Recent perspectival interpretations of Kant suggest a way of relating his epistemology to empirical science that makes it plausible to regard Einstein’s theory of relativity as having a Kantian grounding. This first of two articles exploring this topic focuses on how the foregoing hypothesis accounts for various resonances between Kant’s philosophy and Einstein’s science. The great attention young Einstein paid to Kant in his early intellectual development demonstrates the plausibility of this hypothesis, while certain features of Einstein’s cultural-political context account for his reluctance to acknowledge Kant’s influence, even though contemporary philosophers who regarded themselves as Kantians urged him to do so.
    – Stephen Palmquist (Don’t know who the dude is, but I like the quote.)
    P.S. I’d give the link to the articles but it has to be downloaded, and there’s a fee.

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  • Dan, lovely writing. Condensed, it seems to me to say “Look, this is What Stuff Does.”. So the “Will” you refer to is basically “What Stuff Does”. From physics to chemistry to biology to psychology, all of it is What Stuff Does. And it’s fascinating, seeing it and finding out about it and the kinds of things it does, including making Us. Science is then the investigation of what you call “Will”. I like that.

    Also, I liked the implied blurring of the distinction between plant and animal. Though for me the distinction is mostly a matter of time. Speed up video of plants, and they suddenly seem much more like animals.

    On beauty and science, I’m with Richard Feynman, my favourite Explainer. The more science you know, the more beautiful it all becomes. What your favourite philosopher, Mr S, could have achieved with a 21st (or even 20th) century science education along with his way with words, I cannot imagine.

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  • Time as a Dimension: that’s just to make the sums work, don’t worry about it. The sums, as the nearest GPS device will tell you, work pretty well. I’m reminded of the horror in class at the introduction of Imaginary Numbers. It’s ok (I think we were told), it’s just a Wee Trick to make the sums work. When you’re done, you chuck away the imaginary part, it is, after all, only imaginary. And you’re left with a real answer that works, and that you’d be hard put to work out some other way.

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