Ever since Einstein posited that space and time were inextricably linked, scientists have wondered where the cosmic web called spacetime comes from.
Now, ongoing research in quantum physics may finally arrive at an explanation: A bizarre phenomenon called quantum entanglement could be the underlying basis for the four dimensions of space and time in which we all live, according to a deep dive by Knowable Magazine. In fact, in a mind-boggling twist, our reality could be a “hologram” of this quantum state.
When two particles are able to simultaneously and instantaneously react to one another despite being separated by vast differences, they’re said to be entangled. But according to the rules of spacetime, that would mean the particles sometimes send communications faster than the speed of light — seemingly pitting quantum physics against the speed of light, which is the universe’s speed limit.
“But they actually don’t send any message at all,” wrote Tom Siegfried in Knowable, citing a year’s worth of physics research published in the journal Annual Review of Condensed Matter Physics by Harvard researcher Brian Swingle. “So how do entangled particles transcend the spacetime gulf separating them? Perhaps the answer is they don’t have to — because entanglement doesn’t happen in spacetime. Entanglement creates spacetime.”
The math behind this idea is dense and complicated, but if you zoom out, the idea is that the math that describes the four dimensions we experience — length, width, depth, and time — is the same as the math underlying a three-dimensional quantum state.
It’s comparable to how a two-dimensional image projects a three-dimensional hologram, according to the research article, which concedes that these are still untested hypotheses.
“But it could be that physics is on the brink of peering more deeply into nature’s foundations than ever before,” writes Siegfried, “into an existence containing previously unknown dimensions of space and time.”
READ MORE: A quantum origin for spacetime [Knowable Magazine]
More on quantum physics: Quantum Physics Experiment Suggests That Reality Isn’t Objective