Verlinde’s research has been based on two previously discovered phenomena:

  • the discovery in 1993 by Verlinde’s teacher, Gerart 't Hooft (1946) of the maximum amount of information of a 3D space not being proportional to the size of that space itself, as one would reasonably expect, but with the size of its 2D surface (arXiv:gr-qc/9310026 *).
  • the discovery in the 70s by Stephen Hawking, Jacob Bekenstein et al., that gravity near black holes is based on emergence (black hole thermodynamics).


Wall of the universe with bits

For the universe, the discovery by Gerart 't Hooft simply states that the 3D image of the universe is fully encoded on its 2D surface in the form of bits (zeros and ones) as customary in information technology (IT). Since the universe is not a binary computer, it's better to speak of qubits or quantum bits. The similarity with bits is that they constitute the smallest possible units of information, but qubits are not zero or one (think e.g. of superposition as described in §1.3.2).

Note 44 Strictly speaking, information is only information if it can be interpreted. However, in the field of information sciences, it is everything that adds to knowledge and reduces ignorance, uncertainty or indefiniteness. The amount of information 'N' is the measure for the number of different, equally probable possibilities for something. So for a coin, a dice or a birthday, one gets respectively: N = 2, N = 6 and N = 365. So the smallest possible information unit is 2. A simple mathematical procedure processes the remaining numbers into multiples of 2, i.e. a number of bits.*

Hologram on a bill of € 200

3D space and constant time would, in the case of this coding, have originated from the 2D surface of the universe, in a similar was as a hologram (see Fig). Hence, the discovery by 't Hooft is called the holographic principle.

For this reason, some would say we’re living in an illusion.

The discovery by Stephen Hawking, Jacob Bekenstein et al., that gravity near black holes originates from emergence, probably applies to gravity in the rest of the universe as well.

Note 45 Emergence is a process in which new features arise from the interaction between smaller entities, that do not possess these properties. Emergence, for example, occurs or is observed when the level of observation is changed, for example from the atomic level to the human perceptible level. Temperature and pressure are emergent properties, for example, based on the interaction between many atoms / molecules. But also richness and swarms of birds or insects are the emergent properties of many smaller entities. Even the phenomenon of a large group of ordinary citizens being able to make a better estimates or decisions than one or a few experts, the so-called "wisdom of crowds", can be construed as an emergent property.

The assumption of gravity being an emergent property, suggests that gravity on the ultra microscopic scale emerges from the interaction between atoms, molecules or smaller particles, but just such an emergence does not appear to be possible.

Despite the fact that both phenomena have been proved over and over again, its essentials were ill-understood.


Continue to: 6.3. Emergency based on qubits