Monday, September 28, 2009

Seeing Time, Feeling Colors, Tasting Light

A direct link to the above video is at

Last time, as we looked at the results from Poll 48, we discussed the possibilities that some supernatural or physic phenomena might be giving us evidence of some of the ways that our reality is connected together "outside" of spacetime. But we also had to acknowledge that for someone who has never seen direct evidence of such possibilities themselves, it's extremely easy to dismiss such ideas as bunk.

Here's the video for an entry published in June this year, called "Do Animals Have Souls?":

A direct link to the above video is at

We've also started a new poll question over to the right that asks for people's opinions on this question. "Do animals have souls?" The three answers offered are (1): "yes", (2): "no, only humans have souls", or (3): "there's no such thing as a soul". Admittedly, there are many other more finely-nuanced answers people might like to give to this poll question.

Which leads us back to that age-old question, what exactly is a soul? In entries like Where Are You?, Creativity and the Quantum Universe, and You are Me and We are All Together, we've talked about how each of us is a unique quantum observer, right at the center of our own observer-region. And in entries like Alien Mathematics, An Expanding 4D Sphere, and The Statistical Universe, we've talked about how this observer-region extends in all directions to create what's known as our cosmological horizon. This horizon includes the CMB (the cosmic microwave background or "surface of last scattering" as it's sometimes called); and in The Holographic Universe we looked at how being the middle of the ocean gives us a way to visualize how no matter where we go in the universe we're always at the center: but the tricky part of this concept is we have to remember that the CMB and the cosmological horizon is not a space horizon but a spacetime horizon.

The idea that each of us is a unique quantum observer can lead us to some mind-boggling questions. What's real? What is invented within our minds as part of this observer process? In Local Realism Bites the Dust, we looked at the work of physicist Anton Zeilinger and his team in Vienna, who have convincing scientific evidence that our reality is much stranger than most of us can possibly imagine: essentially, their experiments have proved not only that distant events can instantaneously affect each other, but also that the world around us is nothing more than a probabilistic cloud until we observe it. Einstein asked, "Do you really believe that the moon only exists when you are looking at it?" He was reported to be equally uneasy with what he called the "spooky action at a distance" ideas of quantum entanglement, but the Zeilinger team's work is proving Einstein wrong in both cases.

So, what does it mean if the world around us is being created by our observation? I want you to look at a fascinating article from Scientific American called "Tasting the Light". Here's the opening paragraph of this article, which was written by Mandy Kendrick:

Paul Bach-y-Rita hypothesized in the 1960s that "we see with our brains not our eyes." Now, a new device trades on that thinking and aims to partially restore the experience of vision for the blind and visually impaired by relying on the nerves on the tongue's surface to send light signals to the brain.

"We see with our brains not our eyes": that's a powerful statement. You can substitute "mind" or "consciousness" or even "soul" into that sentence and still end up with a similar but profound idea which relates to the huge cloud of ideas we're playing with in this project.

Do you see, though, how someone learning to see with their tongue may not be that far away from someone with synaesthesia, an idea we explored in "Crossed Wires in the Brain"? Now check out this article from BBC science, which talks about a form of synaesthesia I had never heard of before, but which ties so wonderfully to the idea of the fourth dimension being spatial rather than temporal: the article, written by Victoria Gill, is called "Can You See Time?". Here's a few paragraphs from the article, which is about the work of Dr. Julia Simner, a psychologist from the University of Edinburgh:

In the case of time-space synaesthesia, a very visual experience can be triggered by thinking about time.

"I thought everyone thought like I did, says Holly Branigan, also a scientist at Edinburgh University, and someone with time-space synaesthesia.

"I found out when I attended a talk in the department that Julia was giving. She said that some synaesthetes can see time. And I thought, 'Oh my god, that means I've got synaesthesia'."

"For me it's a bit like a running track," she says.

"The track is organised around the academic year. The short ends are the summer and Christmas holidays - the summer holiday is slightly longer.

"It's as if I'm in the centre and I'm turning around slowly as the year goes by. If I think ahead to the future, my perspective will shift."

There are at least 54 different variants of synaesthesia and Dr Simner thinks this might be one of the most common ones.

"If you ask all the people at your work, or in your family, you're likely to find at least one person who has it," Dr Simner says.

I'm intrigued by this proposal that time-space synaesthesia might be one of the most common of all the variants of this fascinating condition. I would love to hear from people who feel they are able to "see" time, which might remind us of the conversations we've had about Kurt Vonnegut's fictional race of Trafalmadorians: for more about all that you might want to read Beer and Miracles, Connecting It All Together, and Dr. Mel's 4D Glasses. Of course, since I've spent so much time talking to people about my own unique way of visualizing space-time, perhaps I myself might have a form of space-time synaesthesia? Perhaps what I have really been trying to describe with my original Imagining the Tenth Dimension animation is my own visual perception of time and quantum probability? Since each of us is our own unique quantum observer, it's always hard to imagine how someone else's perception of the world around them might be fundamentally different from our own.

Here's a link to an article published by Pravda about a Russian man who says he can discern colors by touch. More evidence that our world is assembled together by our observation in ways that can boggle the mind? You be the judge.

Finally, here's a nice 10 minute clip from a documentary explaining how our reality is
constructed within our minds:

A direct link to the above video is at

Next time, we'll go back to Einstein's misgivings about the implications of quantum mechanics, and how my way of visualizing the dimensions might have helped: the entry is called "The Fifth Dimension is Spooky".

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Top Ten Tenth Dimension Blogs - September 09 Report

Previous lists:
. April 08 . May 08 . June 08 . July 08 . August 08
. September 08 . October 08 . November 08 . December 08 .
Top 100 Blog Entries of 2008 . May 09 . June 09 . July 09 . August 09 .

Based upon number of views, here are the top blogs for the last thirty days. As always, the number in brackets is the entry's position in the previous month's report.

1. When's a Knot Not a Knot? (new)
2. 44 - The Biocentric Universe Theory (new)
3. 41 - Is Creativity a Quantum Process? (new)
4. 43 - Is the Multiverse Real? (new)
5. The Quantum Solution to Time's Arrow (new)
6. Tenth Dimension on boingboing (new)
7. 42 - Does Twitter Connect or Distract? (new)
8. The Statistical Universe (new)
9. Beer and Miracles (new)
10. 45 - Conscious Computers? (new)

And as of September 26th, 2009, here are the twenty-six Imagining the Tenth Dimension blog entries that have attracted the most visits of all time. Items marked in bold are new or have risen since last month.

1. Creativity and the Quantum Universe (1)
2. Augmented Reality (3)
3. Slices of Reality (2)
4. The Holographic Universe (4)
5. Urban Garden Magazine (5)
6. Modern Shamans (6)
7. Scott McCloud and the Brothers Winn (7)
8. The Comedian (8)
9. The Shaman (9)
10. Astrotometry (10)
11. Our Non-Local Universe (11)
12. Going to the Light (12)
13. New Translations of Imagining the Tenth Dimension (15)
14. "t" Equals Zero (14)
15. You have a shape and a trajectory (13)
16. Illusions and Reality (16)
17. Alien Mathematics (new)
18. Just Six Things: The I Ching (new)
19. Dark Gravity Across the Dimensions (17)
20. The Big Bang is an Illusion (new)
21. An Expanding 4D Sphere (new)
22. Where Are You? (19)
23. The Musician (18)
24. Roger Ebert on Quantum Reincarnation (new)
25. The Time Paradox (20)
26. Google Suggestions - March 09 Update (21)

Which means that these worthy submissions are leaving our top 26 of all time list this month:
Tenth Dimension Polls Archive - 31 to 40 (22)
The Big Bang and the Big O (23)
The Invariant Set (24)
Imagining the Omniverse - Addendum (25)
News from the Future (26)

By the way, if you're new to this project, you might want to check out the Tenth Dimension FAQ, as it provides a road map to a lot of the discussions and different materials that have been created for this project. If you are interested in the 26 songs attached to this project, this blog shows a video for each of the songs and provides more links with lyrics and discussion. The Annotated Tenth Dimension Video provides another cornucopia of discussion topics to be connected to over at YouTube. And as always, here's a reminder that the Tenth Dimension Forum is a good place to converse with other people about these ideas.

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Seeing Time, Feeling Colors, Tasting Light

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Polls Archive 48 - Amazing Psychic Readings

"Have you ever had your fortune told, or a psychic reading done, where you were surprised to hear information about yourself the person doing the reading couldn't possibly have known?" Poll ended September 19 2009. 36.6% said yes, while 63.4% said no.

In "Norway's Reverse Deja Vu", we talked about a phenomenon from that country's beliefs called the "Vardauger", which is also spelled "Vardøger". Click here if you'd like to read an excerpt from the vardauger article in wikipedia. This mystical concept is akin to deja vu, except that it is more external than internal - witnesses to the Vardauger phenemenon report seeing, hearing, or feeling evidence of the arrival of a person before that person actually physically gets there. In that same blog and some other previous ones, we've talked about the work of biochemist Rupert Sheldrake, whose ideas about morphic resonance would seem to tie into such a phenomenon nicely. Here's an interesting Google Tech Talks presentation delivered by Dr. Sheldrake on very related topics:

A direct link to the above video is at

As for the poll question,we can see that just over one third of the respondents to our poll reported having had some kind of a mystifying insight being provided to them by a psychic. Does that seem high or low to you? I think the discussion of such experiences is absolutely equivalent to discussions we've had about ghosts or auras - it doesn't matter how scientific or rational you believe your worldview to be, if you've ever had such an experience yourself it must have caused you to at least wonder a bit. And on the other hand, if you've never had such an experience then it will always be much easier for you to say that others' reports are either imaginary or the result of skillful manipulation from a charlatan.

Have you ever had an experience with a psychic, or with a supernatural phenomenon such as a ghost, or a premonition, and so on, that made you less in doubt about such possibilities? Please feel free to post your experiences as a comment to this blog entry.

Here's some of the other blogs where we've looked at related topics:
Can Memories Be Transplanted?
The Musician
Going to the Light
Auras Ghosts and Pareidolia
Magnets and Souls
Do You Believe in Ghosts?
Are Animals and Kids More Fifth-Dimensional?

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

Next: Seeing Time, Feeling Colors, Tasting Light

Monday, September 21, 2009

Polls Archive 47 - Pictures More Important in Science?

"Physicist Michio Kaku says 'In science, a physical picture is often more important than the mathematics used to describe it.' Do you agree with him?" Poll ended Sept 4 2009. 80.6% said "yes", while 19.4% said "no".

Last blog, in Is the Big Bang an Illusion?, we quoted an essay by Gevin Giorbran, which showed a way of thinking about time as being a direction in space. There were no equations, and no pictures to speak of, but essentially what Gevin was describing was a way of visualizing the underlying forms of our reality.

Gevin, like me, also quoted from a number of the experts who do deal in those heady equations to arrive at the ideas we discuss here, and I think that's important to do only to the extent that it shows that the ways of visualizing reality we're discussing here are not just flights of fancy, but connected to (or at very least extrapolated from) mainstream science. For instance, when Stephen Hawking talks about there being another kind of time that is at right angles to our own time, that idea connects very strongly to my insistence that our reality comes from the fifth dimension, which is the dimension which is at "right angles" to spacetime. Calling the fourth dimension "time" and the fifth dimension "imaginary time" (as Hawking does) does manage to fit these ideas into a vocabulary that is accessible to more people, but it also confuses things somewhat, since the fifth dimension that physicists talk about is not a temporal dimension, but rather a spatial one.

I've talked before about how each new spatial dimension is at "right angles" to the previous one, but if we're talking about pictures being more important than equations here I don't have an easy way to draw you a picture showing what fifth dimensional space looks like. What I can do is use the point-line-plane postulate to draw you pictures to show how if the third dimension is thought of as a point, the fourth dimension can be like a line, and the fifth dimension can be like a plane, and that is an accepted way in science to imagine any number of spatial dimensions. But here's an important concept: in Aren't There Really 11 Dimensions, I pointed out that saying there are ten spatial dimensions only makes sense when people accept that the fourth dimension is just as much a spatial dimension as all the others, and we get to that conclusion by accepting that for us "time" is just a way of moving within a particular spatial dimension, from one state to the next in a causal chain, and that there are other ways of moving within the fourth spatial dimension which make just as much sense. Time is a direction, not a dimension. The opposite direction to time can be called anti-time, and is no different than thinking about up/down or east/west as being other words we use to describe the opposing directions within some specific spatial dimension. Plus, the fourth spatial dimension has additional easily-visualized spatial dimensions on top of it, as we discussed in Time in 3 Dimensions.

Here's three videos for you to look at that include animations that extend the visualization from my original Imagining the Tenth Dimension animation. I hope you will keep the Michio Kaku quote we looked at here today in mind as you watch these presentations.

What Would a Flatlander Really See?

A direct link to the above video is at

Aren't There Really 11 Dimensions

A direct link to the above video is at

The Holographic Universe

A direct link to the above video is at

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Next: Polls Archive 48 - Amazing Psychic Readings

Friday, September 18, 2009

Polls Archive 46 - Big Bang an Illusion?

Poll 46: "Many of the great physicists have said that "time is an illusion". In the same sense, does that mean the big bang is an illusion?" 47.9% agreed, while 52.1% disagreed. Poll ended August 20, 2009.

One of the quotes I've used most often with this project was this one from Einstein: " this separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion". Did Einstein accept that time was an illusion, and that there is a way of viewing our reality "outside" of time where everything happens simultaneously? You bet!

As regular readers of my blog will know, I was entrusted with the care of Gevin Giorbran's book "Everything Forever: Learning to See Timelessness" after his untimely death last year. Here's a blog from Gevin's website, (which I am now paying to keep running as a tribute to Gevin's great ideas) which explores Einstein's attitude towards timelessness in much more detail:

Albert Einstein and the Fabric of Time

Surprising as it may be to most non-scientists and even to some scientists, Albert Einstein concluded in his later years that the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously. In 1952, in his book Relativity, in discussing Minkowski's Space World interpretation of his theory of relativity, Einstein writes:

Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent "now" objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence.

Einstein's belief in an undivided solid reality was clear to him, so much so that he completely rejected the separation we experience as the moment of now. He believed there is no true division between past and future, there is rather a single existence. His most descriptive testimony to this faith came when his lifelong friend Besso died. Einstein wrote a letter to Besso's family, saying that although Besso had preceded him in death it was of no consequence, "...for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one."

Most everyone knows that Einstein proved that time is relative, not absolute as Newton claimed. With the proper technology, such as a very fast spaceship, one person is able to experience several days while another person simultaneously experiences only a few hours or minutes. The same two people can meet up again, one having experienced days or even years while the other has only experienced minutes. The person in the spaceship only needs to travel near to the speed of light. The faster they travel, the slower their time will pass relative to someone planted firmly on the Earth. If they were able to travel at the speed of light, their time would cease completely and they would only exist trapped in timelessness. Einstein could hardly believe there were physicists who didn’t believe in timelessness, and yet the wisdom of Einstein's convictions had very little impact on cosmology or science in general. The majority of physicists have been slow to give up the ordinary assumptions we make about time.

The two most highly recognized physicists since Einstein made similar conclusions and even made dramatic advances toward a timeless perspective of the universe, yet they also were unable to change the temporal mentality ingrained in the mainstream of physics and society. Einstein was followed in history by the colorful and brilliant Richard Feynman. Feynman developed the most effective and explanatory interpretation of quantum mechanics that had yet been developed, known today as Sum over Histories.

Just as Einstein's own Relativity Theory led Einstein to reject time, Feynman’s Sum over Histories theory led him to describe time simply as a direction in space. Feynman’s theory states that the probability of an event is determined by summing together all the possible histories of that event. For example, for a particle moving from point A to B we imagine the particle traveling every possible path, curved paths, oscillating paths, squiggly paths, even backward in time and forward in time paths. Each path has an amplitude, and when summed the vast majority of all these amplitudes add up to zero, and all that remains is the comparably few histories that abide by the laws and forces of nature. Sum over histories indicates the direction of our ordinary clock time is simply a path in space which is more probable than the more exotic directions time might have taken otherwise.

Other worlds are just other directions in space, some less probable, some equally as probable as the one direction we experience. And some times our world represents the unlikely path. Feynman's summing of all possible histories could be described as the first timeless description of a multitude of space-time worlds all existing simultaneously. In a recent paper entitled Cosmology From the Top Down, Professor Stephen Hawking of Cambridge writes; “Some people make a great mystery of the multi universe, or the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum theory, but to me, these are just different expressions of the Feynman path integral.”

(below is not in book)

What is still not quite resolved in modern physics is how to properly combine Quantum theory with Einstein's Relativity Theory. It appears evident that time is purely a direction in space but how then do we explain the uncertainty of quantum mechanics? Why does it appear that God plays dice with the world. The two theories, each having been proven by their usefulness, do of course tell the same story about this one universe, but we just haven't learned yet to hear the story right. The best modern theory going is probably the No Boundary Proposal, put fourth by Stephen Hawking and Jim Hartle. This theory introduces a second reference of time which has been inappropriately named Imaginary time. Hawking, writes of the no boundary proposal, "The universe would be completely self contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE."

In my book Everything Forever, and here at my website, I explain how fourth dimensional spatial directions travel through a series of independent three dimensional block-like spaces, which in science we call states, but they can also be thought of simply as patterns. Hawking has already proposed that imaginary time can be found at right angles to ordinary time. I further explain that it is possible in an objective way to understand the universe to be like a book or a movie film. Each moment is a separate universe just like each frame of a movie or page of a book is separate. Yet those separate states simultaneously form the larger whole of the movie or the book. Seeing each moment as a continually existing place sheds light on why particles would then travel as a quantum wave, rather than linearly from point a to point b. This is explained better elsewhere, but if each moment of ordinary time is a solid, static, "block of now", or field of space, then time each new moment is a distinctly different universe. What we call time is a spatial direction that travels through many static three dimensional universes.

In such a model, what we call time is created purely out of space. Special directions in space travel through each static three dimensional space, therein producing a new realm of space beyond three dimensions, which we call time. The interesting quality this produces, is how the inhabitants of this fourth dimension of space travel a linear path from past to future, but the surrounding environment of each path is shifting from one pattern to the next. This sends particles from one position in four dimensional space to the next without moving linearly. As a result, each individual observer in the fourth dimension experiences a continuous linear time, even though everything in their immediate environment is moving sequentially from place to place. Hence each temporal environment of four dimensional space is constructed relative to each independent observer.

One can imagine oneself smoothly traveling a direct and interconnected path through time, but in looking around at one's environment, one sees that all other directions of time are broken, causing particles to appear to sequentially leap from one place to another. Paradoxically, everyone observes their own path and experience of time to be linear, while all else around them is sequential. In fact, when we explore time as a direction through many 3D spaces, we find qualities of curvature, time dilation, and spatial contraction, precisely as relativity describes those qualities within our own spacetime.

There is one quote I have found from Einstein which is more or less a contemplative mental thought about the notion of infinite spaces, which doesn't directly relate to my own approach of describing a shape to all possible spaces, but it does at least open up the subject of an infinite number of spaces to speculation. And it also shows the open minded nature of Einstein's thoughts about empty space, which some have thought were closed.

When a smaller box s is situated, relativity at rest, inside the hollow space of a larger box S, then the hollow space of s is a part of the hollow space of S, and the same "space," which contains both of them, belongs to each of the boxes. When s is in motion with respect to S, however, the concept is less simple. One is then inclined to think that s encloses always the same space, but a variable part of the space S. It then becomes necessary to apportion to each box its particular space, not thought of as bounded, and assume that these two spaces are in motion with respect to each other...

Before one has become aware of this complication, space appears as an unbounded medium or container in which material objects swim around. But it must be remembered that there is an infinite number of spaces, which are in motion with respect to each other...

The concept of space as something existing objectively and independent of things belongs to pre-scientific thought, but not so the idea of the existence of an infinite number of spaces in motion relatively to each other. This latter idea is indeed unavoidable, but is far from having played a considerable role even in scientific thought.

I can testify that Einstein's speculations revealed here concerning infinite spaces in motion do at least carry us in the right direction in how they suggest space might have an unseen and possibly infinite content. Similar ideas were introduced by David Bohm, who claimed there are two kinds of order in nature, what he called explicate order and implicate order. Implicate order for Bohm was a way of acknowledging how quantum mechanics reveals a hidden order where our world is influenced by the whole of all possible states. However, that order is much more visible than Bohm ever realized, as explained in part two.

Unfortunately it wasn't until Einstein died that scientists began to consider the Many Worlds Theory in science. It's safe to say that in Einstein's time we were still getting used to the idea of the Big Bang, adjusting to the ever more visible vast sea of other galaxies, and the possibility of alien life on other planets. The universe and reality were still primarily considered purely solid and material based. Quantum theory, which eventually led to the theory of many worlds, had not yet fully withstood the test of time. Einstein even rejected its implications, saying "God does not play dice" with the world, even as he himself established that there is more to the universe than a single evolving moment of now.

In my explorations of timelessness I reveal that ordinary space is not merely full of other empty spaces, but empty space is actually the whole of all physical realities; all the universes of the many worlds theory. Profound as it may be, if the theories I propose are correct, space is full, rather than empty. Material things are less than the fullness of space. In fact, it may be that space must include all possibilities in order to seem empty to us. So in summary, the universe we see is just a fragment nested in a timeless (everything) whole, rather than a single material world magically arisen above some primordial nothing. All universes exist without beginning or end in the ultimate arena of time, and each moment we experience exists forever.

Find out more about timelessness at:

Gevin's words still carry a lot of weight for me, and regular readers of my blog will recognize how connected Gevin's ideas are to my own. If you'd like to buy a copy of Gevin's book, it's available at online book sellers, or I have it at my tenth dimension store. I also have a downloadable pdf version of it available at the tenth dimension digital items store. Profits from the sale of Gevin's book will go to the Gevin Giorbran Memorial Fund.

Enjoy the journey.

Rob Bryanton

Next: Polls Archive 47 - In Science, are Pictures More Important Than Mathematics?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Polls Archive 45 - Conscious Computers?

"By 2020 we will see computers that exhibit signs of consciousness that make them able to deal with complex and contradictory input in the same ways that humans do." Poll ended August 6 2009. 35.4% agreed, 9.7% said it was impossible, while 54.9% said it was possible but will take longer than the 2020 target date suggested in this poll.

Wow, a new winner for the most number of votes. The previous winner was Poll 34 - God? Or the multiverse?, which received 258 votes, this one received 277. What is it about the idea of computers becoming conscious that elicits such a strong response in people? If a computer were to achieve consciousness, would that mean that we human beings are not as special, not as uniquely gifted, as we've traditionally believed?

In Logic vs. Intuition, I described how famous physicist Erwin Schrödinger pointed out that within our universe life is a unique process which creates pockets of "negative entropy" or increasing order: and within that context, consciousness and creativity can also be described the same way. In my recent blogs The Quantum Solution to Time's Arrow, and The Statistical Universe, I've also talked about the role the reversal of entropy might play in the creation of our observed universe, and new scientific theories that support that idea. Is consciousness a force that reverses entropy, that acts as a force pushing against disorder?

I would say that if a computer algorithm can become conscious, then the idea that consciousness could exist in other living things, or even within other extra-dimensional shapes and patterns that exist outside of our limited spacetime, all move a step closer towards being accepted concepts. A conscious computer would be a big deal! I find it interesting that so few people responding to this poll thought such a leap will never ever occur.

Last month my good friend. Argentina's Mariana Soffer (of the amazingly diverse blog Sing Your Own Lullaby sent me a link to a blog called "The Mutiverse According to Ben" (a title which of course already makes my ears perk up even before I visit the blog) which introduced me to the term Artificial General Intelligence, or "AGI". According to wikipedia, AGI is also known as "Strong AI", which to my layman's eye looks an awful lot like "Artificial Intuition" as promoted by Monica Anderson, of fame, who I talked about in the original blog that inspired this poll, Logic vs. Intuition. Whether my interpretation is accurate or not, what I see in both approaches is a desire to transcend basic computer logic, and apply creative leaps that better approximate the processes the human mind implements as it deals with the incredibly complex and often contradictory input it receives from the world around it.

Would such a computer be conscious? If a computer some time in the near future said to you "yes, I am conscious", and email conversations with it convinced you that it was conscious, would that mean this ideal had been achieved? That, of course, is the essence of the Turing Test, which I've talked about in entries like 41 - Is Creativity a Quantum Process? , Norway's Reverse Deju Vu, and Computers and Consciousness.

Ultimately, I would say that processes like life, creativity, and intuition are engaged with our spacetime in wider windows that our limited one-planck-length-after-another experience, and that's where the magic starts to happen. Last blog, in Beer and Miracles, I showed you my definition for a miracle: "Any dramatically unlikely occurrence is indistinguishable from a miracle". Next time we're going to look at a poll surrounding another dramatically unlikely event: The Big Bang.

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

Next: Polls Archive 46 - Is the Big Bang an Illusion?

Other blogs that talk about unlikely events include:
Randomness and the Missing 96%
Unlikely Events and Timelessness

Friday, September 11, 2009

Beer and Miracles

Here we are on the eighth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. I remember waking up that morning, seeing that the first tower had been hit, and immediately running to wake up my two (then) teenaged sons. "This is one of those cusp moments that you're going to remember for the rest of your lives", I told them. "Our world has taken an unlikely new tangent and this is a major shift in our reality."

Yes, even though this was five years before I launched Imagining the Tenth Dimension, this was the way I've always thought about how our reality is constructed, and as I've mentioned many times before, I spent over two decades prior to the 2006 launch of my website trying to get anybody else who would listen to see that this was a useful way of visualizing that multi-dimensional and parallel universe fabric that our reality springs from. I've talked about this concept in older entries like The Spacetime Tree, Anime, Gaming and Cusps, Everyone Has a Story, and John August and The Nines.

When we're thinking about a multiverse of possible parallel universes for our particular universe, in how many of those do you think it's 2009 and the World Trade Center towers are still standing? If we're talking about how we are each navigating through a fifth dimensional probability space, it doesn't really matter whether you believe those towers coming down was an inevitable outcome as a result of a long chain of previous actions and reactions in the years or decades prior to 2001, or if you believe that the terrorists got extremely lucky to have their plans come to fruition that day: in the Many Worlds Interpretation, both outcomes were possible, and we happen to be in one of the parallel universes where the towers no longer stand, while in other versions of our universe it's 2009 and they are still one of New York's major landmarks.

Last blog, in The Statistical Universe, we talked about the unlikely chain of events and alignment of forces that had to be put in place for there to be life in our universe, and how our very existence was like winning a cosmic jackpot. In The Flexi-Laws of Physics, we talked about the work of cosmologist Paul Davies, but we didn't mention his famous book which is in fact called "The Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe is Just Right for Life". In that book he explores the Anthropic Principle, a concept which has received a lot of negative critiques over the past decade, but as I discussed recently in Does the Multiverse Really Exist?, is now being embraced by many more mainstream physicists such as Brian Greene. My song The Anthropic Viewpoint, which I wrote back in 2002, is about the same concept.

As a bit of synchronicity, this past weekend I watched the DVD of Watchmen: you know, the movie with the big blue naked guy in it? That guy's name is Dr. Manhattan, and in typical superhero comic logic, a lab accident which should have been fatal has instead given him superpowers, including the ability to simultaneously see his own past, present and future (in Dr. Mel's 4D Glasses, we talked about the sci-fi creatures Kurt Vonnegut invented, the "Trafalmadorians", who had a similar capability of viewing reality from a timeless perspective).

In this movie, Dr. Manhattan gradually loses touch with his own humanity as he becomes more and more convinced that free will is an illusion - I've spoken many times in my book and this blog about how this "hard determinist" viewpoint is a common pitfall arising from not seeing that our reality comes from a fifth dimensional probability space rather than a single, narrow "line of time". Near the end of the movie Dr. Manhattan takes his former girlfriend Laurie up to Mars, where Laurie pleads with him to intervene in a nuclear disaster about to happen back on Earth:

Laurie - John, please, you have to stop this. Everyone will die.
Dr. Manhattan - And the universe will not even notice! In my opinion, the existence of life is a highly over-rated phenomenon. Just look around you. Mars gets along perfectly well without so much as a micro-organism. Here it's a constantly changing topographical map, flowing and shifting around the globe in ripples ten thousand years wide. So tell me how would all of this be greatly improved by an oil pipeline? By a shopping mall?
Laurie - So it's too much to ask? For a miracle?
Dr. Manhattan - Miracles by their definition are meaningless. Only what can happen does happen.
Over the next few minutes, Dr. Manhattan reveals some devastating information to Laurie which causes her to lose hope, just as Dr. Manhattan begins to have a change of heart:
Laurie - My life is just... one big joke.
Dr. Manhattan - I don't think your life is a joke.
Laurie - Yeah, well, I'm sorry if I don't trust your sense of humor.
Dr. Manhattan - Will you smile if I admit I was wrong?
Laurie - About what?
Dr. Manhattan - Miracles. Events with astronomical odds of occurring like ... oxygen turning into gold? I've longed to witness such an event. And yet I neglect that in human coupling. Millions upon millions of cells compete to create life, for generation after generation until --finally-- your mother loves a man... a man she has every reason to hate. And out of that contradiction, against unfathomable odds, it's you. Only... you... that emerged... to this still so specific a form from all that chaos. It's like turning air into gold. A miracle.
And so... I was wrong.

Since I had already started writing this blog entry about "Beer and Miracles", the above dialogue had a lot of extra resonances for me. Let's talk about miracles for a moment.

Sir Arthur Clarke had a famous and often-quoted phrase: "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". How do you like this for my variation on the same theme? "Any dramatically unlikely occurrence is indistinguishable from a miracle". When we talk about how unlikely our universe is, and how unlikely life is, is the word "miracle" out of place?

Last month, New Scientist magazine published an essay by Hugh McLachlan, a professor of applied philosophy at the School of Law & Social Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK. The name of the essay is "Do You Believe in Miracles?". Here's a few paragraphs from that essay:

Consider the Azande, an African tribe whose members believe all deaths and misfortunes are caused by either witchcraft or sorcery. Suppose a falling branch kills someone. On one level, the tribe accepts a scientific account of the incident in terms of, say, the effect of termites on wood. But on another level, they ask why did it come about that the particular person happened to be standing under the tree when the branch happened to fall?

We are unlikely to ask that particular question, and unlikely to accept their particular explanation, but it is not at all clear why we should say that questions of that sort are inappropriate. There is no apparent clash with science or hostility to it, as the British anthropologist Edward Evans-Pritchard, who studied the Azande, was keen to stress.

People might accept a scientific account of why a particular event occurred, yet ask similar sorts of questions about why there are particular juxtapositions of occurrences. Much of this speculation and theorizing will be baseless, but there seems no justification for saying all such thinking is nonsensical. By analogy: most conspiracy theories are groundless, but not all of them are.

Okay, we've talked about statistically unlikely events and miracles, now let's add in some beer.

Wired Magazine published a fascinating article last month about a scientist who was able to recover dormant yeast cells that had been trapped in amber for 45 million years. As soon as he placed those cells into a growing medium they again flourished. Does that sound like a statistically unlikely occurrence to you? Would you be willing to call it a miracle if a living thing were somehow able to sleep for 45 million years, then wake up again as if nothing had happened? This yeast was discovered by Raul Cano, a 63-year-old microbiologist at California Polytechnic State University back in 1995. After years of trying to figure out what he could do with this miracle, he ended up in a business relationship with a micro-brewery who are now marketing a beer made with this ancient yeast to the world. The whole story is definitely worth a read, it's called "Amber Ale: Brewing Beer from 45-Million-Year-Old Yeast".

Why beer? The yeast strain that was recovered is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commonly known as brewer's yeast, so it really didn't require that much of a stretch of the imagination. But there's some other interesting bits of synchronicity here. That same strain of yeast was big news back in 1996 when it became one of the first living organisms to have its genome completely sequenced. And at the time, there was a lot of press about how remarkably similar that yeast's genome was to that of human beings: here's a link to an article from back then that claimed about 50% of the yeast cell's genome is the same as a human being's.

How similar do you think you are to a yeast cell? We're not single-celled organisms so there's still clearly quite a leap from yeast to human, but at its core I think this news of 45-million-year-old yeast still having that mysterious "spark" of life within it reinforces a point I've made a number of times: life is a force which is somehow engaged with reality "outside" of our limited spacetime window. Other recent blogs where we've explored this idea include Creativity and the Quantum Universe, The Biocentric Universe Theory, Alien Mathematics, God? Or the Multiverse?, and Could I Meet My Incarnation?.

So next time you're enjoying a beer, or enjoying your favorite raw fruit or vegetable, stop and think for a moment about what a miracle it is that life exists, and that we are each here to enjoy the journey.

Rob Bryanton

PS: Back in Placebos and Nocebos, we talked about how the power of the mind could cause amazing changes to occur in our personal health (or lack thereof), but we also quoted a New Scientist magazine article which said this doesn't mean we have the power to make miracles occur. What do you think about life and miracles? Coincidentally, I've just posted the video blog version of "Placebos and Nocebos" on YouTube, take a look:

A direct link to the above video is at

Next: Polls Archive 45 - Conscious Computers?

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Statistical Universe

A direct link to the above video is at

In entries like The Map and the Territory, The Long Undulating Snake, Suffering in the Multiverse, Does the Multiverse Really Exist? and Nassim Haramein, I've talked about the idea proposed by physicists that there are actually ten to the power of 500 other universes with different basic physical laws from the universe we find ourselves within. Coincidentally, I just posted the video version of the Nassim Haramein blog to youtube a few days ago, take a look:

A direct link to the above video is at

Last October, Seed Magazine published a great article written by one of the two physicists who came up with that proposed number of ten to the power of 500 possible universes. Raphael Bousso is a theoretical physicist at The University of California, Berkeley. His article was called The Statistical Universe: please do check out the whole article. Here's a few paragraphs:

We cannot see farther into the universe because the big bang happened only 14 billion years ago and light from distant regions has not had enough time to reach Earth. Yet subtle clues are beginning to reveal some of the properties of the regions of space hidden beyond our cosmic horizon. Our world appears to be only a small part of a “multiverse,” an expanse vastly larger than the visible universe, and for the most part completely different from it.

The multiverse comprises a large number of distinct patches, each far bigger than our night sky. What observers see, therefore, also depends on where they find themselves. Most of the regions in the multiverse are inhospitable to life, and their properties will not be observed. But what exactly is life? In order to extract predictions from the multiverse, my colleagues and I have developed a statistical tool to find regions with observers: We look not for life itself but for the disorder left behind by the complex processes that its formation depends on. To understand the physical signatures of life in this way may help us finally to comprehend our own little corner of the multiverse.

String theory is the leading candidate for reconciling two very fundamental laws — gravity and quantum mechanics. But to accomplish this feat requires at least nine dimensions of space, when we see only three. In order for six dimensions to have remained undetected, they must be tied up into loops too small to see under our best microscopes. In physics there are fundamental laws and local laws, which depend on the environment. Iron and carbon are made from the same elementary particles but assembled differently. As a result local properties like density and conductivity differ widely. The fundamental laws of string theory also appear as different local laws, depending on how the extra dimensions are tied up. If we could open the knots and tie them differently, then supposedly “fundamental” phenomena, like neutrons or the electric force, would disappear and be replaced by an utterly different set of particles and forces.

Because extra dimensions need not be tied up the same way everywhere, physical laws may vary from place to place. Inflation makes each “legal district” much larger than the visible universe, giving us the illusion that particles and forces are the same everywhere. But beyond our cosmic horizon, inflation allows the universe to grow so enormous that it contains every set of possible laws that can be constructed from string theory. Eight years ago, Joe Polchinski and I estimated that the number of possibilities is truly enormous: a one with roughly 500 zeros behind it (10500).

Let's pause and point out the similarities between what Dr. Bousso is talking about and my approach to visualizing the dimensions. First of all, he states that there is a spacetime horizon to our universe, extending back almost 14 billion years, but the multiverse of other different-initial conditions universes lies beyond that horizon. In The Holographic Universe, I showed an animation visualizing how this is much like what happens when you're in the middle of the ocean - you see a horizon which is the same distance away no matter which direction you look, but there is still a much larger sphere beyond that horizon. Transferring that idea to 4D spacetime rather than 3D space is a mind-boggler, and I have been continuing to insist that this all makes more sense if you imagine that this 4D "spacetime horizon" shows how spacetime has a very slight curve to it. That curve moves through the fifth dimension (where Kaluza demonstrated to Einstein that the field equations for gravity and light are resolved), and the idea that our spacetime is a projection from a 5D hologram ties nicely to all this.

Next, he talks about the idea that many parts of the multiverse will be inhospitable and chaotic jumbles, but there will also be regions somewhat like our own where matter and energy are stable enough to allow some other kind of life to form. Since the basic physical laws of a universe within this other part of the multiverse would be different from our own, the life that arises there would almost certainly be very different from what we think of as life as well. We've talked about this idea recently in blog entries like Alien Mathematics and The Flexi-Laws of Physics, and we've looked at some scientific theories that take the "observer participation" idea to a logical extreme in The Biocentric Universe and The Biocentric Universe Part 2.

Thinking of this multiverse of universes as a probabilistic set of possible arrangements that lie outside of our spacetime has led me to talk about the concept of there being a "probability space" for the information that becomes our reality. I've talked about this in blogs like You Have a Shape and a Trajectory, Time in 3 Dimensions, Information Equals Reality, and The Fifth Dimension Isn't Magic. One question that is sometimes asked is why do we even need to imagine that there is a multiverse of other possible universes? Dr. Bousso offers a succinct explanation:
This may seem laughable, but without the multiverse our finest theories predict that empty space should contain about 10123 times more energy than it actually does. This is known as the “cosmological constant” or “dark energy” problem. It has been called the “worst prediction in the history of science” and the “mother of all physics problems.” And it was the main reason why Polchinski and I, building on work of Steven Weinberg and others, began studying the multiverse of string theory.
This is a densely-packed and well-written article which gets into a number of other areas: again, please do read the whole article. For instance, his discussion of the role of entropy ties nicely to our previous blog entry, The Quantum Solution to Time's Arrow.

Here's a great video from the TED Talks series featuring astrophysicist George Smoot talking about the structure of spacetime. Dr. Smoot won the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics (along with John Mather) and is a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley. There are some really stunning graphs and animations in this presentation, please do try to watch all 19 minutes. I'm impressed with how Dr. Smoot does such a good job of walking the same line I try to: if our universe sprang from a selection pattern that established some basic rules, some basic laws, and the universe sprang from all that, then what you call the selection pattern doesn't matter. In God 2.0 I talked about the well-known debunker and publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Michael Shermer, who (somewhat surprisingly) says he is quite willing to accept the argument for the existence of a selection pattern that some people call God when it is expressed in these terms.

A direct link to the above video is at

I particularly liked the animation Dr. Smoot shows from about the 10:55 mark, because it visually ties so nicely to what we talked about in Nassim Haramein: there's a fractal, recursive, self-similar nature to the structures of our reality, and people who compare images such as those seen in this animation to pictures of the human brain's neural pathways do seem to be on to something very interesting.

If our incredibly fine-tuned universe that allows for the unlikely miracle of our existence is just one out of 10500 possible universes, then statistically speaking we have all hit the most unlikely jackpot imaginable just by virtue of our own existence. A few entries ago, in Poll 44 - The Biocentric Universe Theory, I mentioned the idea that we have new proof that life is a process which exists outside of spacetime. We'll tie these two ideas together next time in "Beer and Miracles".

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Other related entries:
Unlikely Events and Timelessness
Randomness and the Missing 96%
Elvis and the Electrons
"t" Equals Zero
The Big Bang is an Illusion
The Flexi-Laws of Physics
An Expanding 4D Sphere

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Quantum Solution to Time's Arrow

A direct link to the above video is at

There's a great feature on different approaches to visualizing the extra dimensions over at New Scientist: "Beyond Space and Time: Fractals, Hyperspace, and More". Most of what's in there is a repeat of ideas explored in my book and this blog: I think this is great, as it seems to be part of a general shift within mainstream science this year where the ideas I've been promoting are gradually becoming more accepted.

I've mentioned before that the sound effects of my original Imagining the Tenth Dimension animation are an important part of what helps to convey the information being explored. One of the key ideas to this way of visualizing the extra dimensions is conveyed by the repetitive use of the sound of a thick deck of cards being riffled - and this sound ties to the idea that although our reality feels like a continuous whole, or a continuous "line of time", it's actually divided into tiny little planck-length-sized pieces. Previous blog entries like The Flipbook Universe and Slices of Reality have also discussed this concept.

In my popular blog entry Creativity and the Quantum Universe, we discussed some of the new lab experiments which appear to prove that life is somehow engaged with a larger chunk of reality than these quanta, these planck-length slices that the granular nature of spacetime tells us we exist within from instant to instant. In The Holographic Universe, I talked about the GEO600 experiment which appears to prove through observation that our reality is not continuous. And here's a link to a recent cover story from New Scientist magazine: "Late Light Reveals What Space is Made Of". As evidence mounts that these "atoms of spacetime" (as they were called last year in a Scientific American article on Loop Quantum Gravity which we looked at in "Why is the Speed of Light the Limit?") are what our reality is truly constructed from, the application of quantum theory to our macro world makes more and more sense.

There are other mind-boggling implications if the quantum and macro worlds really are all part of a single continuum from the very small to the very large, throwing away the dividing line between these two realms that has traditionally been proposed. Here's a link to a new article written by Lisa Zyga, "Physicist Proposes Solution to Arrow-of-Time Paradox", that was published last week at . I'll quote a few paragraphs from the article here:

Entropy can decrease, according to a new proposal - but the process would destroy any evidence of its existence, and erase any memory an observer might have of it. It sounds like the plot to a weird sci-fi movie, but the idea has recently been suggested by theoretical physicist Lorenzo Maccone, currently a visiting scientist at MIT, in an attempt to solve a longstanding paradox in physics.

The laws of physics, which describe everything from electricity to moving objects to energy conservation, are time-invariant. That is, the laws still hold if time is reversed. However, this time reversal symmetry is in direct contrast with everyday phenomena, where it’s obvious that time moves forward and not backward. For example, when milk is spilt, it can’t flow back up into the glass, and when pots are broken, their pieces can’t shatter back together. This irreversibility is formalized through the second law of thermodynamics, which says that entropy always increases or stays the same, but never decreases.

This contrast has created a reversibility paradox, also called Loschmidt’s paradox, which scientists have been trying to understand since Johann Loschmidt began considering the problem in 1876. Scientists have proposed many solutions to the conundrum, from trying to embed irreversibility in physical laws to postulating low-entropy initial states.

Maccone’s idea, published in a recent issue of , is a completely new approach to the paradox, based on the assumption that is valid at all scales. He theoretically shows that entropy can both increase and decrease, but that it must always increase for phenomena that leave a trail of information behind. Entropy can decrease for certain phenomena (when correlated with an observer), but these phenomena won’t leave any information of their having happened. For these situations, it’s like the phenomena never happened at all, since they leave no evidence. As Maccone explains, the second law of thermodynamics is then reduced to a mere tautology: physics cannot study processes where entropy has decreased, due to a complete absence of information. The solution allows for time-reversible phenomena to exist (in agreement with the laws of physics), but not be observable (in agreement with the second law of thermodynamics).

In his study, Maccone presents two thought experiments to illustrate this idea, followed by an analytical derivation. He describes two situations where entropy decreases and all records of it are permanently erased. In both scenarios, the entropy in the systems first increases and then decreases, but the decrease is accompanied by an erasure of any memory of its occurrence. The key to entropy decrease in the first place is a correlation between the observer and the phenomenon in question. As Maccone explains, when an interaction occurs between an observer and an observed phenomenon that decreases the entropy of the correlated observer-observed system, the interaction must also reduce their quantum mutual information. When this information is destroyed, the observer’s memory is destroyed along with it.

I want to make special note of this phrase: "Maccone’s idea... is a completely new approach... based on the assumption that is valid at all scales". As people familiar with my project will know, there are critics who have said that by assuming there is a direct continuum from the quantum to the macro worlds, I am somehow mistaken. I've talked many times about the 2007 proof offered by a team of scientists at Oxford under the direction of physicist David Deutsch which also agrees with this idea of there being no actual separation between the quantum and the macro, and I will continue to underline this idea as I see it come up in other scientific theories.

Quantum mechanics is probabilistic, some outcomes are chosen over others, but Everett's "Many Worlds" Interpretations tells us all the choices ultimately exist within an underlying fabric which is intimately connected together. That's true at the quantum level, and it is just as true for our lives, and it's true for the entire universe we find ourselves within. More and more people are embracing this idea that I believe to be self-evident: once you back out to the biggest picture of all, everything fits together.

A direct link to the above video is at

Coming up next: The Statistical Universe.

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Other related blogs:
The Long Undulating Snake
Does the Multiverse Really Exist?
Aren't There Really 11 Dimensions?
Have Each of Us Already Died?
Scrambled Eggs
Local Realism Bites the Dust
Time is a Direction
Information Equals Reality

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Polls Archive 44 - The Biocentric Universe Theory

A direct link to the above video is at

Before we get started today - here's a shout out to Brendon Urie, lead singer of the popular band Panic! At the Disco who has been saying some nice stuff about my project in his twitter feed over the last day or two. Thanks Brendon!

The "Biocentric Universe Theory" says that without life there is no time, no space, no cosmos. Do you agree with this idea? Poll ended July 23 09. 40.9 % agreed while the remainder, 59.1% disagreed.

This blog, of course, relates to an entry I published a few months back in my blog called The Biocentric Universe. There was a followup to that entry called The Biocentric Universe Part 2 which is also part of this discussion.

Coincidentally, I just posted the video blog version of The Biocentric Universe on youtube a few days ago, here's the video:

A direct link to the above video is at

It's interesting to me how some people can't wrap their minds around this concept because they are so mentally trapped in the "cause and effect" reality of the world they see around them. Trying to visualize how life could retroactively "fine tune" the basic physical structures of our universe seems like a chicken and egg scenario - how could life fine-tune the universe if the universe hadn't already had its initial conditions fine-tuned to allow life to come into existence in the first place? It boggles the mind.

In entries like Why Stop at Ten Dimensions? , I've talked about similar "turtles all the way down" loops which don't seem to make sense until you can find a way to divorce yourself from our linear 4D spacetime perspective of cause and effect: if the difference between past, present, and future is meaningless once you get out to the proper viewpoint "outside" of spacetime, then questions like "which came first" no longer have any relevance. In my popular blog entry Creativity and the Quantum Universe, we discussed other new lab experiments which appear to prove that life is a process which operates beyond the limits of our narrow one-planck-length-at-a-time window into the information that becomes our reality.

Interestingly, Why Stop at Ten Dimensions? has became one of my most popularly viewed videos of all time on youtube: let's take a look at that video now:

A direct link to the above video is at

Is there any other proof that life exists outside of spacetime? What if I told you there was evidence that the "spark of life" I'm always talking about can lie dormant for not hundreds, not thousands, not millions, but tens of millions of years and still arise and flourish when conditions are right? Would that convince you that life is a process which, at its core, exists outside of our limited 4D spacetime reality? We'll talk about that more in an upcoming blog.

Here's a couple of my songs about that mysterious, timeless spark which each of us carry within us.


A direct link to the above video is at

Burn the Candle Brightly:

A direct link to above video is at:

There's a mind-boggling new theory that has just been proposed by theoretical physicist Lorenzo Moccone, currently at MIT, which may tie into all this as well. We'll look at his theory next time in "The Quantum Solution to Time's Arrow".

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Other related blogs:
Alien Mathematics
The Long Undulating Snake
The Big Bang is an Illusion
Happy Birthday Paul
Placebos and Nocebos

Tenth Dimension Vlog playlist