A direct link to the above video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAXzPIjvhUA
I hear from people every day who say the tenth dimension animation has "blown their mind", or words to that effect. I also hear from people who say they've watched the video many times, and that it has changed the way they think about the world. Could my unique approach to visualizing the dimensions really be capable of re-wiring people's neurons?
This is not as far-fetched as you might think. In entries like Changing Your Genes and Changing Your Genes - part 2, we've looked at the startling research showing that changes in lifestyle and attitude can affect not just the way your own genes are expressed, but even what genes you pass on to your offspring. This news flies in the face of the standard twentieth century approach which taught us that the genetic hand of cards we'd been dealt was locked in at conception, putting us on a specific train track defined by whatever genes we had inherited from our parents.
In Placebos Becoming More Effective?, we looked at the difficulties the pharmaceutical industry is encountering, as the placebo effect appears to be becoming stronger over the last twenty years, to the point where even successful drugs such as Prozac (approved by the FDA in 1987), would have difficulty getting approval today. As it said in the Wired Magazine article about Placebos:
I've been suggesting that there could be something about these modern times that is re-wiring people's brains in ways to give them a feeling of greater control over their observed reality (see last entry, The Quantum Observer), and hence the enhanced placebo effect. What do you think is causing this shift?Some products that have been on the market for decades, like Prozac, are faltering in more recent follow-up tests. In many cases, these are the compounds that, in the late '90s, made Big Pharma more profitable than Big Oil. But if these same drugs were vetted now, the FDA might not approve some of them. Two comprehensive analyses of antidepressant trials have uncovered a dramatic increase in placebo response since the 1980s. One estimated that the so-called effect size (a measure of statistical significance) in placebo groups had nearly doubled over that time.
With Changing Your Brain, part of what we're talking about here is the concept of neuroplasticity: the brain is very adaptable, constantly making new connections. There was a BBC article published last year about how singing rewires damaged brains that relates nicely to this discussion. And Science Daily recently published an article about a new study with far-reaching implications. The title of the article really says it all: Mindfulness Meditation Training Changes Brain Structure in Eight Weeks.
With all that in mind, let's return to my new diagram we've been looking at lately and do a little creative meditation on it. As I've said before, if you click on this image it takes you to a higher-resolution version. If you'd like, print the image out and follow along, or just do the following exercise in your mind.
1. In Einstein's view of the universe, gravity is pictured as a bending of the "rubber sheet" of our spacetime. If our "sheet" was a 2D plane, similar to the piece of paper you've printed your image out on, we'd see this bending as being through the 3rd dimension. But since the "rubber sheet" of our spacetime is four-dimensional, my assertion is that this shows us gravity comes from the 5th dimension.
2. In Light Has No Speed, we looked at physicist Peter Russell's persuasive argument for why, from a photon's point of view, it takes no time or distance for light from a distant star to reach our eye. We can help to visualize this by folding our piece of paper horizontally, so that the upper half and lower half of the image are now touching. Now, the vertical line representing "light" in this diagram has converged, so that any point on the line is in direct contact with any other point. From light's point of view, past, present and future are one and the same.
3. Stephen Hawking has said "there's another kind of time, at right angles to real time, in which the universe has no beginning or end". If our paper image represents 4D spacetime, then when we folded it we were folding it through a space which is at "right angles to spacetime": the fifth dimension, which would be where Hawking's "another kind of time" resides. Since, as Peter Russell says, a photon experiences itself traveling no distance in no time, and its birth and death are the same moment, this also leads me to say that "light is at right angles to spacetime".
4. Spread your paper out flat again. Now, fold the paper the other way, vertically, so that all points on the horizontal line are touching. This is the quantum point of view, where any particle can have an instantaneous effect on another, no matter how far apart they are from each other in the universe. But again, because these effects defy the logic of our observed reality, they are usually portrayed as being unimaginably strange. I would say that imagining how these effects come from the additional degree of freedom afforded by the fifth dimension shows how these "spooky" quantum effects occur.
5. So which is it? Which fold represents the fifth dimension? Well, they both do. And if there was a way to fold our paper so that both folds are happening simultaneously, in the same way that Schrödinger's Cat is both alive and dead, then we would be visualizing the fifth dimension: where Kaluza proved to Einstein that the field effects for gravity and light are resolved.
WHEN Max Planck came up with the notion of the quantum at the turn of the 20th century, he couldn't justify it. Nevertheless, the idea that energy couldn't be split infinitely many times - that there was an indivisible quantum of energy - was the only way he could fit the observed spectrum of radiation from a hot body to a mathematical law. This ruse was, he later said, "an act of despair".
- editorial from January 24 2011 edition of New Scientist Magazine
Does that understanding change our brains? It certainly has changed mine. Next time, we're going to look at how language changes our brains: the entry will be called Language and the Mind.
Enjoy the journey!