Prepare for a head trip: The universe may actually be a hologram and everything you see an illusion, according to new research that could prove gravity comes from thin, vibrating strings—holograms of events in a simpler, flatter cosmos. It was an idea first put forth by physicist Juan Maldacena in 1997, but never tested until now. Japanese researchers now have mathematical evidence, via two studies on black holes, that this hologram theory may in fact be right. If proven, it would solve inconsistencies in Einstein's theory of gravity, and be a "solid footing" for string theory, Nature reports.
The Daily Mail likens the theory to the security chip on your credit card: It's a 2D surface that has all the data needed to describe a 3D object. Basically, all the information about our universe is stored in a flattened version that projects everything we see. Trippy, right? The new research shows "that the thermodynamics of certain black holes can be reproduced from a lower-dimensional universe," says physicist Leonard Susskind, but the universes explored by the team don't look like our own, Maldacena notes. Still, it does show hope that our universe can be explained by a similar theory, he adds. Or as Gawker puts it, "Make of the findings what you will. We'll just be over here having an existential crisis." (Read more string theory stories.)