Thursday, November 27, 2014

The New Science of Psychedelics

What happens when a pattern becomes aware of its own existence?

Back in 1963, it was Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time that started me thinking about the dimensions that lie beyond the 3D world we see around us. Now, since 2006, Imagining the Tenth Dimension has been introducing budding thinkers to a way of imagining how our bendy/stretchy space-time could be derived from the timeless “everything” of Max Tegmark's Mathematical Universe concept, or the beautifully symmetrical zero of Gevin Giorbran's Everything Forever: Learning to See Timelessness. Last entry we looked at Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, and the participation in that project of mainstream physicist Kip Thorne, who endorses and explains the scientific underpinnings of the wormholes and time dilation depicted in that film: the "bendy/stretchy space-time" I just referred to. Nolan's film encourages us to think about a "block universe" as Minkowski described it, where different events are merely positions within a timeless 4D structure that becomes easier to imagine when we consider it from the outside vantage point of the fifth dimension.

Here's the question we are asking: what is the source, the background pattern, the underlying process, from which our observed universe emerges? Some theorists ascribe meaning to that pattern, while others call it chaos, or "just a bunch of stuff that happened" (a useful phrase from Homer Simpson). But however we think about them, those underlying patterns exist, and modern research in a wide variety of disciplines inches us ever closer to understanding their nature.

If all I am, if all you are, is a space-time pattern, a spime if you prefer, then that pattern exists within the realm Einstein liked to talk about, where the distinction between past, present, and future is an illusion. I began this entry asking this: what happens when a pattern recognizes itself?

Life Happens
Life recognizes life. Awareness is drawn to awareness. Patterns of similar nature congregate together because of their structural similarities, and order really does sometimes arise from chaos. With Imagining the Tenth Dimension, the 400+ YouTube videos, 26 songs, animations and of course the book have all provided people from around the world with a new way of thinking about how their reality is created. But it's more than that: it's because so many people see patterns within my approach which easily tie to their own observations. Case in point: psychobiologist and science writer David Jay Brown said this about my project in his recent book The New Science of Psychedelics:
Physicist Michio Kaku's book Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension and Rob Bryanton's Imagining the Tenth Dimension both seem to provide uncanny maps of the territory that one encounters after smoking salvia or DMT. Like the two-dimensional character in Edwin Abbott's book Flatland, we seem just as limited in our three-dimensional perspective.
Being mentioned in the same sentence as Kaku is remarkable indeed, particularly since I've stated from the outset of this project that I'm not a physicist and I'm not pretending to be one. Clearly, anyone who calls me a “pseudo-scientist” is ignoring that fact, and that should be the end of the discussion. David knows this, and I'm grateful to him for his vote of confidence. But let's keep this straight: I'm simply a creative thinker who has come up with an intuitive way to organize the information that becomes our observed reality, or any other. My project uses the logic of the point-line-postulate (the accepted methodology for visualizing any number of spatial dimensions) to imagine the ten spatial dimensions which, coincidentally, string theory has told us our reality is derived from. But it also turns out that my approach is very useful for analyzing lots of other kinds of information, and that's why the fan-base of Imagining the Tenth Dimension has been so widely varied: because it gives so many people a way of organizing their thinking that helps them see the patterns that lead to one outcome or another, to one universe or another.

Patterns happen
Do psychedelics provide a way of "lifting the veil", so to speak, to allow us to see the hidden connections that we all share across the extra dimensions? Since I have no personal experience with psychedelics, I'm not the best person to answer that question, but here's what I believe: researchers are finding commonalities across cultures, across widely separated geography, and across the ages, that indicate there is something more than just random misfiring of neurons embedded within aspects of the psychedelic experience, and other meditative or trance-based states of the mind. Here's how David finishes the above-quoted paragraph:
From a three-dimensional point of view it seems like there aren't any other directions to go besides backward and forward, right and left, up and down. But there is another direction that we can move into, another dimension that contains this one within it, and the way to get there is by going directly into the center of our own minds.
My approach to visualizing the dimensions helps us to see those patterns as existing within the timeless background that lies beyond the observed limits of our constantly evolving 4D space-time bubble. And David Jay Brown, who has written for Wired, Discover, and Scientific American on the subject of modern psychedelics research, and who has published a number of books exploring the interesting outer fringes of science, has given his enthusiastic support to my project. For that I am very grateful. Unfortunately, though, these zen-like concepts of "everything and nothingness" also happen to have been a popular line of questioning for mystics and the enlightened (of whatever definition you care to associate with that term) throughout the ages, a  fact that makes those intent upon an atheistic, free-will-is-an-illusion point of view likely to dismiss these discussions outright. Be that as it may, I stand firm in my belief that there are things about this approach that speak directly to the underlying truth of where our reality comes from, so I will continue to fight the good fight for these ideas.

Now that we're holding within our minds the idea of there being a version of 4D space-time where everything happens at once,  let's go back and look at one of my most popular videos: Imagining the Fourth Dimension.  
A direct link to the above video is at 

Enjoy the journey,


P.S. - Ultimately, finding a way to imagine what the big beautiful zero our reality comes from could be like brings with it a certain peace, as Terry Gilliam reminds us in his current film, The Zero Theorem. We'll talk about that film next.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Interstellar - the Fifth Dimension

Interstellar, the new hit film for Christopher Nolan, is re-awakening interest in a topic I've talked about many times with this project: the fifth dimension. Nolan has done a fascinating job of helping us to visualize how our 4D spacetime could really be directly interacting with an additional spatial dimension, where multiple outcomes exist as a landscape which we are navigating within. Persons familiar with my project will know that this seems directly connected to the ideas I've been portraying since I first published Imagining the Tenth Dimension in 2006.

Sometimes science fiction movies deliver crazy ideas that have no connection to real science, and we are asked as an audience to simply suspend our disbelief and enjoy the ride. Interstellar has a much more interesting pedigree though, since world-renowned physicist Kip Thorne was heavily involved with the film: Thorne is the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at Caltech, and he acted as an executive producer for Interstellar. As an author, his books include the bestselling Black Holes and Time Warps. Here's what Thorne has to say about the fifth dimension in a Mashable interview published a few days ago:
That tesseract is not inside the black hole — it’s a four-dimensional cube, with four space dimensions and time — it lives in the Fifth Dimension. One of the faces is in our universe. Cooper is scooped up in the face of that tesseract and carried into the bulk.

In the Fifth Dimension, the distance between Gargantua and Earth is quite short; about the same as the Earth and the sun … whereas in our universe it’s 10 billion light years. So [the tesseract] can take him into our universe and docks beside the bedroom.”

This is really all based on some beautiful ideas; what I talk about is a ‘complexified tesseract. It fits with our understanding of what a tesseract is … [it] fits with ‘brane worlds’ of science … [or] what I call the Fifth Dimension. There is so much science that is in there that people have puzzled about, and I don’t know any way for people to get un-puzzled other than to read the book.
Thorne is referring to his just-released book, The Science of Interstellar, where he talks about the mind-bending science of wormholes, black holes, and tesseracts and the underlying connections possible from beyond our observed 4D space-time that were used in Nolan's film. While no-one is pretending that everything portrayed in Interstellar should be interpreted as mainstream science, the internet nay-sayers who have tried to dismiss Interstellar as total bunk would be well-served to examine Professor Thorne's book.

This is not the first time the fifth dimension has been portrayed in films as our "probability space", as I like to call it. For instance, Men in Black 3, released in 2012, featured an alien who had the special ability of being able to see into the fifth dimension, seeing the different possible timelines (or "world lines" as some physicists prefer) that surrounded him. I've talked previously about Watchmen, the 2009 film featuring a character who develops the ability to see past, present, and future simultaneously,  and in my book and this blog I've paid tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, who invented an alien race with similar abilities, the "Trafalmadorians", in such novels as his 1969 classic Slaughterhouse-Five.  But with the Trafalmadorians we are definitely only thinking of the fourth dimension as an unchanging block, where the one possible outcome for our universe, set into inevitable motion by the big bang, means that free will is an illusion and there is therefore no need to bring a fifth dimension into the discussion.

A surprisingly good film that doesn't explicitly say "fifth dimension" but is obviously talking about the same "probability space" concept came out earlier this year: Edge of Tomorrow.  Here's the key: just as the first dimension can only contain a line, but that could be any line, the fourth dimension only has room for one version of space-time. In order to consider two 1D lines, you need to move to the second dimension. To see more than one version of space-time, a power attributed to the aliens in Edge of Tomorrow, those fictional creatures must logically be navigating within the fifth dimension.

In my 2011 video below, Imagining the Fifth Dimension,  I talk about the evidence I've collected for thinking of the fifth dimension as our probability space, and how that so easily connects to well-known theories such as Everett's Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics. At the end of the video I mention some very kind conversations I've had with Oxford University's Professor of Physics David Deutsch. Why do I say "very kind"? I've always made it clear that I'm not a physicist and I'm not pretending to be one: I'm simply a creative person who came up with a methodology for visualizing ten spatial dimensions, and as a hobby I've published over 400 videos about the ramifications of that concept on my youtube channel which has just surpassed the 12 million views mark (!).  I'm sure Professor Deutsch is a very busy man, and even though ultimately his response was to say he didn't accept my interpretation of the fifth dimension, I'm still very grateful that he was generous enough to respond. Imagine how exciting it is for me now to see Professor Thorne gently moving mainstream consciousness towards considering an idea which I've pursued so passionately for almost a decade.

A direct link to the above video is at

Curious? You might enjoy some of the other videos/blogs in this series:

Imagining the Tenth Dimension, 2012 version
Imagining the "Zeroth" Dimension
Imagining the First Dimension
Imagining the Second Dimension
Imagining the Third Dimension
Imagining the Fourth Dimension
Imagining the Fifth Dimension
Imagining the Sixth Dimension
Imagining the Seventh Dimension
Imagining the Eighth Dimension
Imagining the Ninth Dimension
Wrapping It Up in the Tenth Dimension

Next entry, I'm going to look at a recent book published by Psychobiologist and author David Jay Brown (you may have seen his articles in magazines like Wired, Discover, and Scientific American), in which he mentions my approach to visualizing the dimensions as having a direct connection to his own research. Thanks for your support, David!

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

Tenth Dimension Vlog playlist