Leonard Susskind — “The world is a Hologram”

“The world is a Hologram” — a complicated topic, simplified to the bone. This presentation from Professor Leonard Susskind nails it! After reading Stephen Hawking’s “The Universe in a Nutshell” I thought I understood a little bit about the universe. But I was wrong. Watching Susskind’s presentation I really understood. I begun telling others about it and wanted to know even more about the subject. What makes this presentation so worthy for me is how he breaks every single denominator down in order to help us understand something we can’t see, hardly can imagine, can’t really make sense out of — a concept that is extremely hard to get our heads around.

The topic itself is fascinating as well as outrageous because it opens up a universe not only of endless space but of limitless possibilities that are available to us — and always have been. This concept is so revolutionary that we find it hard to perceive, as if we were living on a flat planet, suddenly realizing that the world is round. Professor Susskind makes it so easy for us to comprehend that it is a joy to follow him and understand how the universe works. After reading Hawking I thought I had some grasp of black holes but I wasn’t really able to explain it to anyone. The minute I put the book down I wasn’t quite sure of anything I had read anymore.

Professor Susskind gives us analogies and stories that we can all relate to. These enable us to connect the topic in a very direct way. He makes us understand deeper and remember longer. His presentation is exemplary because it proves that even a very complex subject matter can be broken down, so afterwards people walk out saying, “Wow, yes indeed that was truly an interesting topic! I learned a lot and want to know more.” Susskind starts with a quote out of one of Conan Dolye’s Sherlock Holmes stories, “When you have eliminated everything that is impossible whatever is left over must be true.” Then he builds his augment by adding examples and experiments that we could even do ourselves to illustrate his point — such as how much water it takes to fill a bath tube — and compares that to the size of a black hole in order for us to grasp the differences, similarities, and dimension of the topic at hand. Although it doesn’t appear to make sense in the beginning, at the end it all seems to be rather simple.

Knowing that Leonard Susskind is a theoretical physicist one might think, “This is going to be way over my head and I won’t understand a thing.” No such thing! Susskind uses the simplest, almost child-like visuals to explain why it is that what we perceive is in fact not what we perceive. He shows us how the 2D and 3D world are essentially the same and thereby that we are living in both worlds at the same time. Yes, opposites can be — and are — true. Professor Susskind makes this very plausible. By using examples as Alice and her friend who sees her fall into a black hole and disappear, assuming her to be gone forever. Comparing Alice’s disappearance to deleting something from our computer is a classic because we all know that when we throw something in the trash that it is still there on our harddisk and we might be able retrieve it again. Alice crossing the threshold of a black hole is similar to deleting something from a computer.

When Susskind uses unfamiliar words such as ‘entropy’ he defines them, so all are on the same page, and then goes on using the word, for example to help us see what a black hole is. Leonard Susskind wants his audience to understand. He simplifies the subject matter without dumbing it down, so every listener can begin to relate to, understand, and retain the information learned. All those well chosen examples, comparisons, findings, quotes, mathematical equations, scientific facts, combined with a subtle sense of humor serve one purpose — to drive home the main message. In the end we willingly agree that the world is a hologram indeed.

Paule Wendelberger