A link to this video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdcsuI_uH-4
In the last few months I've talked a lot about the David Deutsch team at Oxford, who in September 2007 published a proof equating the probabilistic outcomes that occur at the quantum level with the branching timelines that occur as a result of choice and chance at the macro level. I've talked about how we can imagine our 4D line of time as having branches that occur from time to time when important "cusps" occur, and that the image we could hold in our minds is like a dandelion gone to seed, with the observed line of time proceeding from moment to moment being the stalk, and the blossom at the head being where the upcoming branching set of choices are presented to us.
At the quantum level, then, that "dandelion head" of available choices is really occurring every unit of planck time, and we are traveling down our line of time with those choices being selected for us without our conscious participation. We've talked in this blog before about Dr. Schrödinger’s poor old cat, simultaneously alive and dead until an observer opens the box and finds out whether an atomic particle has decayed or not: and most people would agree that the probabilistic outcome that happens in this thought experiment is not influenced by the hopes or free will of the person opening the box. In other words, the particle decays or doesn't decay, and it appears that we witness one or the other quantum outcome regardless of the good wishes or animosity we bear towards that darn cat.
At the macro level, most of our day is the same way: out of the unimaginably large number of outcomes that are taking place down at the quantum level, there are some that are more likely because of what has come before, and some occasional much more significant outcomes that take reality off into some new tangent. Likewise, we don't actively involve ourselves in deciding for the most part about the reality around us, because it is happening automatically without any conscious decision-making on our part: walls remain solid, gravity remains constant, objects at rest tend to stay where they are, and so on.
But even in a universe where no active choices are made by anyone or anything, we will still end up with worldlines that resemble the images in this blog: there will be uneventful long straight lines of no surprising change, there will be sections of noisy chaotic turbulence, there will be occasional bifurcations, there will be important cusps where a lot of new possible outcomes suddenly become available. Tracing along any one line in these images, following the twists and turns that our perceived worldline happens to take, then, is like the one particular reality we end up experiencing out of all the possible realities that could have existed.
Taking any one of those paths, then, is what moves us along the line of time, and this process is happening at both the quantum and macro levels one planck length at a time after another.
Here's an important key: because the quantum and macro level are really going through the same processes of probabilistic outcome (as per the Oxford team's proof described above), branches to new states at the quantum level affect the macro level, and changes at the macro level affect the quantum level. Can we, as macro physical creatures, consciously choose outcomes at the quantum level? No, because that's not the scale we operate at. But choices deliberately made at the macro level change things at the quantum level, because it's really all the same continuum, just being viewed at different scales.
This is why it makes sense to talk about our physical reality in the same terms as our quantum reality, and this is where we find how free will fits into this picture: because at both levels there are choices that are happening whether we choose, or whether someone else chooses for us, or even if we make no choice and random chance and probability chooses for us.
With this project, I have portrayed those branches as being in our "probability space" in the fifth dimension. The pictures in this blog show us a visualization that gives us a hint of how beautiful and intricate those bush-like branching patterns of choice and chance could be: imagine, for instance, that each of these pictures represents someone's life. "Here's the time I almost got hit by a drunk driver, here's the time I almost went to med school but changed my mind, here's where I got married, here's where the planes hit the towers", and so on. A person's life, when viewed from down here in the fourth dimension, ends up travelling down only one of those available lines at each junction, but it's always fun to play the "what if" game and imagine the other outcomes that choice and chance might have presented.
What we're looking at in these images is a visualization tool, and of course Imagining the Tenth Dimension owes much of its popularity to its eleven minute animation, a visualization tool that gives people a way to imagine ten dimensions. But here's something interesting: the three images we are looking at here are really all pictures of the same thing. They are the map of the connections within this very blog.
They were generated by a website which has been around for a while, called "Websites as graphs". Even more interesting, I think, is what you will see if you click on this link:
generate tenthdimension blog as graph
as you will then be able to watch an animated image somewhat similar to the ones in this entry being generated in real time, tracking all of the connections to this blog and its nearly one hundred other entries that have been created over the past year since its launch. You can also click on Create the Graph of Any Other Website on that page, and it will ask you for a URL. If you have a couple of minutes, give it one of the big sites like Amazon or AOL and watch all of the connections being drawn.
This all connects to the higher dimensional thinking we've been playing with here, exploring how ideas are connected together across space and time, and how higher-dimensional patterns are what created the universe we live in and the preference for one reality over another from within the multiverse of all possible universes. What we're playing with are creative visualizations of the nature of reality, and whether you believe there is nothing above the fourth dimension of spacetime, or whether you believe the fifth dimension and above are part of a Calabi-Yau manifold, or that all of the particles in our 4D universe are derived from an E8 rotation, there are ways that visualization tools can help us to imagine what would otherwise be unimaginable.
And my way of visualizing the dimensions is just another way of doing that very thing.
Enjoy the journey,
PS: If you go to my blog entry The Google Suggestions Time Capsule Project you will see that I am continuing to update the list of Google Suggestions that I am keeping track of there.