Friday, May 30, 2008

Time in Either Direction

A direct link to this video is at

Imagining the Tenth Dimension was launched at the end of June 2006. As we approach the second anniversary of this project, I continue to be amazed at the new connections that are appearing between my way of visualizing how our reality is constructed, and the scientific mainstream. That would not be possible without experts like Sean M. Carroll out there, doing the heavy lifting, processing the heavy math, coming up with new leading edge theories that, like my own project, are designed to help us all towards a deeper understanding of the concept of timelessness. Sean M. Carroll, senior research associate in physics at the California Institute of Technology said the following in the June 2008 issue of Scientific American, in his article entitled "The Cosmic Origins of Time's Arrow".

Among the unnatural aspects of the universe, one stands out: time asymmetry. The microscopic laws of physics that underlie the behavior of the universe do not distinguish between past and future... The arrow of time is arguably the most blatant feature of the universe that cosmologists are currently at an utter loss to explain.
Since the idea of time-reversal symmetry, and the idea that time is a direction, not a dimension, are both central to my way of visualizing reality, I loved this article. Here's a couple of quotes from the notes attached to illustrations in that article:
Our universe may be part of a much larger multiverse, which as a whole is time-symmetric. Time may run backward in other universes.
In my book there is a chapter called "The Flow of Time" which discusses these ideas. In one section of that chapter, the reader is taken through a fanciful thought experiment of what it would be like to meet a creature created from the chemical processes which can logically flow in the opposite direction to our own arrow of time. Also from the illustration text:
The universe began empty and will end up empty--the appearance of stars and galaxies is a temporary deviation from its usual equilibrium condition.
Beginning and Ending with Zero
This is the simple and elegant truth that both Gevin Giorbran and I have been trying to get people to see for years: the natural equilibrium state before and after the universe begins and ends is the same state - in my model, it is that place where the zero and the ten are congruent - the omniverse, the indeterminate quantum fabric which is the ever-present background to any observed reality. In Gevin's model, he called this the Set Of All Possible States: same concept. The equilibrium condition that Dr. Carroll's article refers to here can also be thought of as symmetry order, the underlying place where everything balances out, another subject which regular readers of my blog or my book will know is central to this way of visualizing reality. As the first of my 26 songs attached to this project says: ultimately, Everything Fits Together.

In that same Scientific American article, Sean Carroll also said this:
According to the rules of quantum mechanics, the total number of microstates in a system never changes.
In other words, no matter what we are trying to imagine for the background to our reality, there is a place outside of time, outside of space, outside of probability, where all possible states for our universe or any other possible universe exist simultaneously, another central concept to both my and Gevin's projects. Dr. Carroll:
Indeed, as far as entropy is concerned, it would be even more likely for the universe to fluctuate straight into the configuration we see today, bypassing the past 14 billion years of cosmic evolution.
This is a recurring theme to Dr. Carroll's article: what cosmologists are wrestling with is how unlikely our own universe and its unique arrow of time is, and that in fact the low entropy/high order "beginning" to our universe that we think of as the big bang is even more unlikely than the current "now" we are in. Saying that there is an even more highly ordered state before the big bang merely pushes the problem back further and further - unless we can acknowledge what Dr. Carroll (and I) have been saying: there is ultimately a place of equilibrium where all of these states exist simultaneously, and that is the same state before and after our (or any other universe) exists. In fact, where you place the starting point within the omniverse really doesn't matter: but that starting point then sets a probabilistic set of processes in motion that represent the return to the natural balance of that equilibrium state, one planck length at a time.

Time as a return to equilibrium
Time can flow in either direction. It can appear to be moving towards more entropy (as it does in our universe) or it can appear to be moving towards less entropy in other possible universes. The important wrinkles which David Bohm's implicate order added, and which Gevin Giorbran so eloquently built upon, is this: there are two kinds of order, and they are called grouping order and symmetry order. Because we see our universe heading towards high entropy, what we think of as the arbitrary starting point for our own universe (as per Sean Carroll's ideas above) can be thought of as an expression of the maximum grouping order for that data, and what we think of as the ending point for own universe is really an expression of the maximum symmetry order. In my book I advanced a similarly fanciful idea:
But why stop there? It could also be possible then that the universe didn’t actually exist until one second ago, which is when the observer turned their attention upon our universe and collapsed the probability wave function into what we now perceive as our reality, complete with a history which each of us believes we remember. Whether the observer came into existence 13.7 billion years ago or one second ago, the result will be the same: out of all the possible timelines which could have existed prior to this moment, through the act of observation we are now experiencing one of them as our own present, and our own history.
So. The probabilistic line of time we are moving on is just a move from one kind of order to the other, and a return to the natural equilibrium that exists within timelessness. Amazingly, this means that another universe built from a subset of the multiverse that starts with high symmetry order would experience time as a move to lower, not higher entropy. Everything about that universe would be a paring down of choices, rather than the constantly expanding bush-like branching structure that we experience as we travel down our own "line of time"... it would be as if eggs could unscramble themselves and exploded bombs could reassemble themselves in that universe. As I've quoted many times, quantum physicists like Seth Lloyd say we can think of our big bang as the first yes/no that separates our universe out from all other possible universes. In the "reverse-time universe" which Dr. Carroll refers to in this article, one would find their universe moving towards that most basic yes/no state of the highest grouping order, and the lowest entropy. Isn't that an amazing thought?

My song "Big Bang to Entropy" talks about these ideas as well: that we move from, and we move towards, the very same equilibrium state, and that there is a way to think of our universe and all of its probabilistic states as a single entity once we move beyond the concept of time.

A direct link to this video is at

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

Next: Being More Fifth-Dimensional


fuzzygargoyle said...

Do you think that the concept of inertia could be applied in any way to this duration-directionality puzzle?
If you care to respond, please direct a copy to
Thank you!

Rob Bryanton said...

In blog entries like You Have a Shape and a Trajectory, I've looked at this idea of duration and directionality from a more personal perspective.
And in entries like Dr. Mel's 4D Glasses I've talked about Feynman's "sum over paths" concept for quantum particles - if you sum up all the paths a particle could have taken to get from point a to b, there's one path that is most likely, but that may not be the one that was actually taken.

So... thinking about inertia as it applies to 4D objects allows us to think of how an object at rest has a trajectory that it's most likely to stay on, and that's will be just as true whether it's in motion or at rest when you're looking at it as a 4D spime.

So are inertia and Feynman's sum over paths related? That's an interesting thought.

Thanks for writing!



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