The universe could be nothing more than a “complex and vast hologram”. Or, at least, that’s what theoretical astrophysicists from the University of Southampton and colleagues from Italy and Canada, are saying.

The physicists, who have been investigating irregularities in the cosmic microwave background (the Big Bang’s “afterglow”), have found as much substantial evidence that our universe is in fact a hologram as traditional explanations for these irregularities do.

University of Southampton Professor Kostas Skenderis said: “Imagine that everything you see, feel and hear in three dimensions (and your perception of time) in fact emanates from a flat, two-dimensional field.”

“The idea is similar to that of ordinary holograms where a three-dimensional image is encoded in a two-dimensional surface, such as in the hologram on a credit card. However, this time, the entire universe is encoded,” he added.

In plain, he compared the theory to watching a 3D movie in a cinema. Although our perception makes us look at objects popping out of the screen — adding depth to height and width — the actual image source is still a flat 2D panel.

The obvious difference is that in our 3D universe we can actually touch our “projections”, which makes the results “real” from our perspective, Skenderis said.

“Einstein’s theory of general relativity explains almost everything large scale in the universe very well, but starts to unravel when examining its origins and mechanisms at quantum level.

Scientists have been working for decades to combine Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum theory.

Some believe the concept of a holographic universe has the potential to reconcile the two. I hope our research takes us another step towards this.”