Friday, November 30, 2012

The Power of No

Here's a paragraph from my book. I wrote these words in 2005, but if anything they feel even more relevant today:

The “Power of No” should never be underestimated. Any time a connection fails to be made, or an acquaintance is ignored, or an opportunity is not taken, potential fifth-dimensional paths are being closed off. Discussions of “free will” often focus on the paths that a person deliberately takes, but paths that are not taken due to choice, or indifference, or ignorance have effects that can be just as far-reaching in a person’s life.

A direct link to the above video is at

With this project, and most recently with my vlog entry "Imagining the Fifth Dimension", I've tried to show how, for each of us, our unique "now" is really a moving point within a fifth-dimensional probability space. Imagine, if you will, that this probability space is like when you're in a building with spotty cell-phone coverage: sometimes moving just a few feet to the left or right is all it takes to get a good connection. Likewise, sometimes all it takes is a small attitude adjustment to change your trajectory within your probability space, to make connections that move you to a better or more fortuitous version of "you".

Attitude affects outcome. Is that phrase just wishful thinking? Creative visualization is a technique used in competitive sports all the time, because it really works. Business consultants advise their clients to project confidence and optimism, even when things are not going so well, because attitude affects outcome in establishing new business connections. Healthcare professionals know that the patient with a negative or depressed attitude is less likely to recover quickly.

Here's an article published in the New York Times a few months ago that puts an interesting nuance on this idea: "The Positive Power of Negative Thinking". It talks about studies that show people who have visualized themselves as already having reached their goals can actually become less motivated! If that's the case then there are an awful lot of self-help programs out there that have not been as successful as their creators would want us to believe.

But what we're talking about here does align with those studies. Saying "No" to something is fine if it's really not a path we want to travel. However, when we realize that sometimes we exercise the Power of No through inaction or failure to understand the implications, we begin to see how we could be closing doors and windows that would have taken us to important opportunities.

And how many times in a day do we miss the little synchronicities, the surprise connections, the golden circumstance because we weren't paying attention, we were distracted, we were bogged down in the day-to-day problems that never seem to end? Finding ways to become more engaged, more excited by the wonder and novelty of this world and the universe around us has always been one of the central themes of this project.

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

P.S.: Speaking of making connections, I'm thrilled to report that my YouTube channel has now passed 28,000 subscribers and is about to hit 8 million total views. Thank you all for your kind support for this project.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Draped Across the Fifth

One of the common arguments used in the last few years to disprove the existence of free will is the evidence that the conscious awareness of making a decision to take an action is preceded by a number of seconds of neurochemical activity which is occurring without us being aware of it happening. Amazingly, this means scientists can have a subject hooked up to monitoring equipment, and be able to tell what response the subject is going to give to a simple test well before the subject is aware of having made their decision to respond.

Here's a video some of you will already have seen. It shows Marcus Du Sautoy (Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and current Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science) participating in an experiment conducted by John-Dylan Haynes (Professor at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin). This particular experiment shows that Du Sautoy's mind is made up about six seconds before he himself is aware of having made a decision!

A direct link to the above video can be found at

After the demonstration, Professor Haynes sums up the conclusion that I hear from critics of my project all the time: "It seems that what our experiments reveal is that it's like there's a mechanism unfolding, a deterministic mechanism that leads up to your decision at a later point in time, and that it was inevitable, it could only go one way."

My response to this has been to say that rather than disproving free will, this proves that our consciousness is better thought of as being "smeared" across more than the tiny spacetime window that we observe from instant to instant. This is another way of describing our fifth-dimensional selves. Now, here's a fascinating news story about what I would say is the same concept viewed from the opposite perspective: it talks about new scientific evidence that subjects are able to predict what question is going to be asked in controlled experiments where even the scientists running the experiment don't know what the question is about to be.

What I've been trying to get people to visualize then, is that while our awareness is necessarily centered on the physical "here and now" of our flipbook universe, the space-time frames occurring one planck unit after another that give us the illusion of a continuous reality, our minds are also constantly engaged at lesser or greater degrees with something larger, something that is outside that fourth dimensional "now" our physical bodies are moving within.

In other words, you and I are not just a moving point following the "arrow of time" in the fourth dimension: we are draped across the fifth.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Something from Nothing

In October 2012 New Scientist Magazine published a special issue that was devoted to this burning question - "what is reality?".

Having published a video called "Imagining the 'Zeroth' Dimension" in late August, there were definitely some quotes from that issue that caught my eye:

"These are very difficult issues," says philosopher of science James Ladyman of the University of Bristol, UK, "but it might be less misleading to say that the universe is made of maths than to say it is made of matter."

Difficult indeed. What does it mean to say that the universe is "made of mathematics"? An obvious starting point is to ask what mathematics is made of. The late physicist John Wheeler said that the "basis of all mathematics is 0 = 0". All mathematical structures can be derived from something called "the empty set", the set that contains no elements. Say this set corresponds to zero; you can then define the number 1 as the set that contains only the empty set, 2 as the set containing the sets corresponding to 0 and 1, and so on. Keep nesting the nothingness like invisible Russian dolls and eventually all of mathematics appears. Mathematician Ian Stewart of the University of Warwick, UK, calls this "the dreadful secret of mathematics: it's all based on nothing" (New Scientist, 19 November 2011, p 44). Reality may come down to mathematics, but mathematics comes down to nothing at all.
  - from the article "Reality: Is Everything Made of Numbers?", by writer and New Scientist consultant Amanda Gefter

So a question that is often asked is how do we get "something" from the "nothing" of the unobserved quantum fabric?
According to prevailing wisdom, a quantum particle such as an electron or photon can only be properly described as a mathematical entity known as a wave function. Wave functions can exist as "superpositions" of many states at once. A photon, for instance, can circulate in two different directions around an optical fibre; or an electron can simultaneously spin clockwise and anticlockwise or be in two positions at once.

When any attempt is made to observe these simultaneous existences, however, something odd happens: we see only one. How do many possibilities become one physical reality?

This is the central question in quantum mechanics...
  - from the article "Reality: How Does Consciousness Fit In?", by writer and New Scientist consultant Michael Brooks

If reality is ultimately math, and math is ultimately derived from "nothing", or zero, then this quote from Jan Westerhoff can have a very interesting interpretation.
In our search for foundations, we have gone round in a circle, from the mind, via various components of matter, back to the mind - or, in the case of the Copenhagen interpretation, from the macroscopic to the microscopic, and then back to the macroscopic. But this just means that nothing is fundamental, in the same way there is no first or last stop on London Underground's Circle Line. The moral to draw from the reductionist scenario seems to be that either what is fundamental is not material, or that nothing at all is fundamental.
- from the article "Reality: Is Matter Real?", by Jan Westerhoff, a philosopher at the University of Durham and the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, both in the UK

Which takes us back to Imagining the "Zeroth" Dimension, and the lovely mind flip that Gevin Giorbran described for us - if everything is ultimately derived from an underlying symmetry state, and a universe such as ours is derived from a breaking of that symmetry, then that can lead us to a way of imagining how there is an underlying "nothing" of all possibilities in perfect balance, and zero becomes the biggest number of all. Please watch this video for more on this fascinating idea.

A direct link to the above video can be found at

Tenth Dimension Vlog playlist