Saturday, April 18, 2009

Polls Archive 32 - Is Time a Direction?

A direct link to the above video is at

Poll Question 32 - "In the same sense that "up" is not a dimension, "time" is a direction, not a dimension. Poll ended January 28 2009. 56% agreed while the rest disagreed.

These polls can be very instructive to me - some concepts that I think will be contentious end up with much more agreement, and some - like this one - that I think the majority will be willing to agree to come out close to a tie.

Let's talk a little more about this question.

What dimension is "up" a dimension within? If we call the first dimension length, the second dimension width, and the third dimension depth, is "up" in the first dimension? This is where the confusion begins. What dimension is "east" a direction in? What dimension is "forwards" a direction in? None of these questions make sense, because a direction can be in any dimension, and the direction only makes sense as a dimension when we consider the opposite direction at the same time.

Okay then, in what dimensions do we find "up/down"? "East/west"? "Backwards/forwards?" The questions still don't really make sense, because we need even more context. Depending upon your orientation within 3D space, any of these words could apply to any vector within that space: but as soon as you arbitrarily establish one of those sets as being your current orientation, you then bring to mind two additional sets of directions that make sense within that context, and each of those sets is at right angles to the others.

Discussions of the fourth spatial dimension, then, are bothered by all the same possible miscommunications. Is "time" a direction in the fourth spatial dimension? Sure, it could be one of them, but depending upon your orientation within that space, you could just as easily say that "up", "forwards", or even "east" is a direction within 4D space. As soon as you pick one of those words, you then limit what you can call the other directions. As it says in the wikipedia article on the fourth dimension, one of the proposed sets of names for the two new directions in the fourth spatial dimension would be "ana" and "kata". For our own entropy-driven reality riding the "arrow of time", I've been encouraging people to think of the two directions in the fourth spatial dimensions as "time" and "anti-time", and to think of that dimension as a whole as "duration".

If "up" can be a direction in any spatial dimension, does that mean that "time" could be as well? Sure! It just depends upon your orientation, your frame of reference. This is why I say that for a 2D flatlander, they would perceive "time" to be in the third spatial dimension. Generally speaking, I would say that "time" is a direction in the next dimension up from the one you're examining, but that is only one of the possible ways of describing how one spatial dimension relates to another.

This is an idea I'm passionate about, as it's central to this way of visualizing the dimensions. In "Aren't There Really 11 Dimensions?" I show how important this is: the ten dimensions that physicists talk about are spatial dimensions. Spatial dimensions have a clear relationship to each other, each is at right angles to the one before, which means (as hard as this is to visualize) that all spatial dimensions are at right angles to each other. One useful way of thinking about this is with a set of nested spheres, with each new dimension enfolding all of the other previous ones.

Another way of approaching this idea is to think of those ten spatial dimensions as a tower, but if the fourth dimension is "time" rather than a full spatial dimension encompassing the two directions of "time" and "anti-time", then that tower is built on a shaky foundation. No wonder there are still scientists who refuse to believe that there are any extra dimensions at all!

Here's the video for "Aren't There Really 11 Dimensions?", which includes an animation showing this "tower" visualization.

A direct link to the above video is at

Based upon the results of the above poll question, it looks like this is a flag I'm going to have to continue waving. Some of the other videos where I've talked about the idea that time is just a direction in the fourth spatial dimension include Hypercubes and Plato's Cave, Time is a Direction, Dr. Mel's 4D Glasses, Time in 3 Dimensions, Wormholes, and "t" Equals Zero.

To close, here's one of my songs about trying to achieve that perspective where, as Einstein, liked to say, the distinction between past, present and future is meaningless. The song is called "Big Bang to Entropy".

A direct link to the above video is at

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Next: Poll 33 - Could I Meet My Incarnation?

1 comment:

Carl de M said...

"Time" not being a direction is experientially related to the Whole Universe. That is to say Whole Numbers. The "Time experience" is from a subjective point of view, and any travel is relative to the accepted reference point.
Anti-time would look similiar to driving backwards.

As for "lots of many worlds" in the Time dimension, is that persons "depth dimension" limited to a planck depth of 1mm??

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