In episode 29 of the Star Trek series “The Next Generation”, the holodeck computer generates a character from the Sherlock Holmes novels by Arthur Conan Doyle: the villainous Professor Moriarty.
The interesting twist is that this holographically created image, at some point, starts to realize that he, in fact, IS a computer generated entity, and not the actual human being he is supposed to represent.
A remarkable feat! Only outdone by his success in actually leaving the holodeck.
I found that a very interesting episode, mostly because I have often thought along those lines myself (and who hasn’t?) .. what IF? What IF we were just part of a computer simulation? Could it be we’re just somebody’s (cruel) science project? Could it be that the universe as we perceive it, is just a hologram?
As I recently found out, scientifically, this is maybe not such a crazy nutjob idea after all.
The idea more or less started when the Dutch physicist (and Nobel laureate) Gerard van ‘t Hooft proposed his holographic principle, which, simply put, states that all information in a three dimensional space can be mapped onto a two dimensional boundary surface of that space. Or, to turn that around, the information described on a two dimensional surface can be projected in a three dimensional ‘holograph’.
The American scientist (who started his career at age thirteen as a plumber) Leonard Susskind developed that idea further. If you find the idea of a holographic universe intriguing, you may consider getting yourself his book “An Introduction To Black Holes, Information And The String Theory Revolution: The Holographic Universe” (see icon below) [Update: Disclaimer: This book is NOT exactly a 'populair science' book: it's chockful of 'higher' mathematics!].
Fascinating stuff, and I wish I would understand ten percent of it. [Update: Now that I have thumbed through the above mentioned book - that I no longer recommend for lay persons like myself - I have to humbly adjust that percentage from 10 to 1]
[Update: Instead of the book mentioned above I WOULD recommend two of Leonard Susskind's books that ARE written for the lay person. See below.]