Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Long Undulating Snake

A direct link to the above video is at

(an amusing shot from the parody of Imagining the Tenth Dimension created by that we looked at last time, in "Ice Age in 4D")

One of the more well-known phrases from my original Imagining the Tenth Dimension animation is that when each of us thinks of ourselves as a shape in the fourth spatial dimension, we're more like a long undulating snake, a shape with a beginning, a middle and an end. I've talked before about futurist and science fiction writer Bruce Sterling who refers to this kind of fourth-dimensional information-set as a spime, and that's really the same concept.

In Suffering in the Multiverse, we took an extreme look at all of the universes that could be out there - not just in the parallel universes that result from chance and choice as per the proof published in 2007 by a team of scientists at Oxford under the direction of physicist David Deutsch, equating the quantum wave function with the different versions of our universe that result from chance and choice... but also in the multiverse landscape of all the 10 to the power of 500 potential universes that scientists like Brian Greene (who we just quoted in Does the Multiverse Really Exist?) are now beginning to say are just as real as the universe we find ourselves to be living within.

Then, in The Biocentric Universe Part 2, we looked at an amazing theory that shows how life creates time and the universe, and not the other way around. Does that sound crazy? Not when we think of ourselves from within the fifth dimension rather than the fourth.

Let's look at that "long undulating snake" visualization of ourselves within the fourth dimension. When you die, there will be one version of that shape which will represent the life you experienced from conception to death. But right now you are some place within that 4D shape, and there are many branches that lie before you. Those branches come from the fifth dimension, the dimension that Kaluza proved to Einstein is where our universe is defined, the dimension which the Holographic Universe theory says our universe is just a shadow of, the dimension where my project insists the "spooky" non-local nature of quantum mechanics makes sense when we realize that our 4D "line of time" is not continuous, because it's actually being created one planck frame at a time as our universe twists, turns and folds within our fifth dimensional probability space.

So, here you are at this very instant, someplace within that 4D shape. You can imagine that you have one long "tail" stretching from "now" back to conception, and then a "ray" of possible futures in the fifth dimension, making your shape more like a dandelion gone to seed than a "snake".

But it turns out that that's only half the story. As we've explored in blogs like The Past is an Illusion and Time in Either Direction, there are also an equally complex number of ways that you could have gotten to the "now" you're in at this instant, so in the fifth dimension you are really more like the very centre of the head of that dandelion gone to seed, forgetting about the stalk - there are branching, probabilistic versions of you that extend out into the past just as much as into the future.

Some people call this idea mind-blowing, I prefer to call it liberating. By understanding just how much freedom we each have at any particular "now" to navigate out of traps and negative loops, and visualizing the best-possible-versions of ourselves that already exist within the fifth dimension, we can head towards those goals. Think of the scientific evidence concerning the effectiveness of placebos and nocebos, and the burgeoning science of epigenetics (which shows that changes in attitude and lifestyle can change which genes are switched on or off): when you add those ideas in you can see just how intimately we are each involved in choosing one set of branches over another as we travel through our lives. This is not just about entering one parallel universe or another depending on whether I slept in an extra ten minutes this morning or not: this is about being fully engaged with the beautiful possibilities we have before us.

By understanding that the past is just as complex a structure as the future, we can start to visualize how such amazing theories as Lanza and Berman's Biocentric Universe make more sense - but all of this doesn't really start to gel until we start to imagine this "dandelion gone to seed" imagery from an even higher extra dimension, where all of those possible branches exist as a single point.

Then, finally, we've reached the purest expression of the concept that Einstein was thinking about when he said there is ultimately no distinction, no separation, between past, present and future.

But what about the law of the conservation of energy? How can there be all of these different versions of our universe without running out of energy? That law still stands: there is a certain total amount of energy within a particular version of each dimension, and that's one of the things that physicists use to calculate the amount of dark matter and dark energy that is affecting our particular universe. But each additional dimension multiplies the possibilities for the way that energy can be expressed. There are not nearly as many possible expressions of energy for our imaginary 2D flatlander as there are for us in the third dimension, for instance. And I really love the concept of digital physics because it tells us that ultimately, our reality is not based upon energy, but information. As MIT professor and quantum computing expert Seth Lloyd says in his mind-expanding book "Programming the Universe":
"The conventional history of the universe pays great attention to energy: How much is there? Where is it? What is it doing? By contrast, in the story of the universe told in this book, the primary actor in the physical history of the universe is information. Ultimately, information and energy play complimentary roles in the universe: Energy makes physical systems do things. Information tells them what to do."
Information equals reality. And that long undulating snake imagery is really just another way of trying to get people to think about reality as information, because that is a liberating approach with far-reaching implications.

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Next: The Flexi-Laws of Physics

Edit: The above blog entry was published in 2009. Here's a great entry published by physicist Sean Carroll in 2010 that gives a good explanation of how the laws of conservation of energy only apply locally. As our spacetime expands, so does the amount of available energy:


Apocalypso Facto said...

I guess I commented on this already the first time you mentioned the "undulating snake" concept, but the point is that this way of visualizing our path through the 4th dimension is one I've used ever since I was a kid, although I wasn't thinking about dimensions at all.

What brought me to visualizing myself as this "long undulating snake" was the daydreaming thought of "what would happen if everywhere I've been I'd left a 'shadow' behind me? What would it look like?". I would imagine it as this kind of long, ever stretching and revolting blob.

So there you go, I was thinking in 4D back when I was 9 or 10 maybe... :-) ...good post Rob!

Capt Frantic said...

Hey Rob, thanks for commenting on my blog. You've given me a little performance anxiety though hehe =)

I had a thought about your interpretation of time. Would it be true to say that you believe time (our time?) can be said to be merely an effect created by our 3D universe moving through 4D space. Would you also say that in a 2D universe *their time* would be an effect of *that universe* moving through a 3D space?

If so then I think I finally understand your interpretation.

Rob Bryanton said...

Hi Capt Frantic - in a word, yes. That is what I am saying. If we could think of a fifth dimensional creature, then for them "time" and "anti-time" would be the two opposing directions in the next dimension up, and so on.

Thanks for writing!

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