On Information, Surface, and Volume

You may have read Michael Talbot’s book “The Holographic Universe.” He talks about two ideas: a) brain as hologram b) universe as hologram. In this article I will comment on the speculation of physical universe being a hologram.

Talbot credits David Bohm for the origination of the “universe as hologram” speculation. David Bohm was an extraordinary philosopher and physicist. He was very unconventional. He challenged the scientific dogmas. It is understandable that Talbot focused on Bohm in his popular book but we should not forget the scientists who made huge contributions to the discussion of this topic: John Wheeler, J.D. Bekenstein, Gerard ‘t Hooft, Leonard Susskind, Juan Maldecena, Edward Witten, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose.

I will ignore Talbot’s speculations on mind because he mixed the discussion of mind with the discussion of the “holographic principle.” I also believe that they should be discussed within the same framework but physicists would strongly object because they think of the “holographic principle” as a law of nature. In physics laws of nature have nothing to do with mind because physics does not recognize the existence of the Cosmic Mind. When we suggest that the physical universe is an objectivation (expression, thought projection, dream) of the Cosmic Mind they simply ignore us. They cannot be blamed for this because our broad suggestion does not explain the details. This is why I have been advocating “Intuitional Science” as an approach to narrow the gap between spiritual philosophers and scientists. They won’t listen to us until we approach them with abstract principles that inspire scientific research.

Physicists are intelligent people, they have strong insights into the physical reality, so they invent this alternative language to talk about the same concepts that the spiritual philosophers are struggling with. The discussion on information, surface and volume is such an example.


A hologram is a 2 dimensional recording that projects a 3 dimensional image when viewed under special lighting.  This is the essential feature of the hologram. All the information contained in a 3-D image is stored on a 2-D surface.


The “holographic principle” in physics is based on the concept of “information”. John A. Wheeler was a giant of physics in the 20th century. He coined the term “black hole”. He has made numerous contributions to physics and trained many famous physicists. He did not win a Nobel Prize because his ideas were too radical. One of his students, Richard Feynman, received a Nobel Prize but not him. John A. Wheeler was a professor of physics at Princeton University until he retired. He, then moved to Texas and taught at UT Austin. He had so many good ideas… but one will be remembered for a long time. He advanced the idea that the universe is made of information with energy and matter as incidentals.

John A. Wheeler was essentially saying that energy and matter are objectivations of “information.” He was effectively replacing the word “mind” with the word “information.” This is a huge step for science but obviously “mind” is much more than “information.”

Black Holes

Information Theory reached a new level when physicists studied the properties of the “black holes.” In order to understand black holes you need to combine the Information Theory with Quantum Theory and the Theory of Relativity.

Bekenstein Bound

Another student of John A. Wheeler, J.D. Bekenstein proposed in 1972 that there must be an upper bound to the amount of  information that can be stored in a finite region of space. This is known as the Bekenstein bound. He also claimed that the maximum information that can be stored in a finite volume is proportional to the surface area of that volume. Bekenstein derived this from heuristic arguments involving black holes.

Bekenstein bound has implications for the divisibility of matter. If the maximum amount of information that can be stored in a finite volume is limited then matter is not infinitely divisible. If Bekenstein bound is true then matter at the most fundamental level can be described by an information bit (yes/no or 1/0). Bekenstein’s teacher John A. Wheeler originally proposed this idea. He called it “it from bit.” Other theories also point to this.  Physicists talk about the Planck scale where matter reaches the highest density. From metaphysical arguments I also arrived at this conclusion. If this limit of maximum compression of matter did not exist the “Cosmic Bounce” would not have happened. In my terminology “Cosmic Bounce” refers to the turning point when the transformation of Consciousness towards materiality stops. After the “Cosmic Bounce” the transformed  Consciousness returns slowly back to its original unqualified, unlimited state. The return journey is long. It will not be finished until all souls come home.

Holographic Principle

Gerard ‘t Hooft took the Bekenstein bound one step further when he proposed the “Holographic Principle” which states that the information contained in a black hole is actually stored in the quantum fluctuations of the spherical surface known as the “event horizon.” His arguments were based on rigorous mathematics combining all known laws of physics.

The reason physicists call it the “holographic principle” is that the “event horizon” is a 2-D surface (sphere). The volume contained inside the event horizon is 3-D. If the entire information contained in a black hole is actually stored on the 2-D surface of the event horizon then the event horizon can be likened to a hologram. Remember a hologram is a 2-D recording containing the information of a 3-D image.


The “holographic principle” applies to black holes. Can we generalize this principle to the entire universe? The speculation is that the entire physical universe can be seen as a two-dimensional information structure painted on the boundary of the universe. In my opinion this is pure speculation.


I would like to remind you that all this sophisticated discussion on information, volume and surface is related to the simple fact that most of the volume of any topologically closed object is contained in the shells closer to the surface.

Think of a solid sphere. Imagine that this solid sphere has layers just like the layers of Earth (crust, mantle, outer core, inner core). Even though the radial thickness of the crust is small compared to the radial thickness of the mantle the volume taken by the crust is proportionally higher when you compare the volumes per radial distance unit. The volume taken by 1 radial-meter of crust is higher than the volume taken by 1 radial-meter of the inner core.

If you consider the expansion of space during “Big Bang” and also the mind-blowing sudden expansion of space called “Inflation” that supposedly followed the “Big Bang” immediately after, then it is easy to understand that most of the information=matter is contained on the cosmic horizon.

If you are going to apply the “Holographic Principle” to the physical universe and conclude that the universe is really an information structure painted on the cosmic horizon then you have to consider the proposal that space is “volume” when viewed within time and “surface” when viewed without time and, maybe, “time” is information creation.

About Suresh Emre

I have worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. I am a volunteer for the Renaissance Universal movement. My main goal is to inspire the reader to engage in Self-discovery and expansion of consciousness.
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