Monday, November 12, 2007

How to Make a Universe

A link to this video can be found at

A link to this video can be found at

We start with the unobserved quantum wave function: this is where (as quantum physicists say) information and reality are equivalent. Although quantum physics has no specific requirement for there to be ten spatial dimensions in order for us to imagine this unobserved state, what we are talking about here is the multiverse (or even "the omniverse"): the timeless place where the potential for all possible and impossible universes exists simultaneously.

Now we make our first observation. Quantum computing expert Seth Lloyd, in his book Programming the Universe, suggests that we can think of the big bang as the very first yes/no, and that is what we are thinking about here. Out of all potential expressions of reality contained within the timeless multiverse, we place the very first point, which begins the creation of a universe.

Physicists tell us the only force that exists across all dimensions is gravity. So one of the things that we are likely to have already done with that very first yes/no point of entry is to choose a value (or at least define a range of values) for what gravity is going to be in the universe we are planning to make.

Let's call that first point the beginning of time. With our first point, we are narrowing down what the force of gravity can be for the universe we want to create. But before we can define a second point, we need to choose a value for the speed of light.

No matter what dimension we are thinking about, or how many dimensions we are imagining, "time" is the way that we change from one state to the next. But time is not a continuous line, it's actually a series of points, one after the other. For our own universe, those points are each one planck length away from the next: so, much the same as a movie is made up of frames that are being shown at a certain number of frames per second, we know that our universe is also being observed at a certain number of frames per second, and in quantum physics those frames are called quanta. The length of time between those frames is entwined with the specific speed of light for our universe, and the idea that our universe is being created one frame at a time at the speed of light gives us a way to explain why it's impossible to exceed the speed of light within our universe. This also explains why it's impossible to observe anything smaller than the planck length, which is about 1.6 times 10 to the minus thirty-five metres: attempting to do so puts us back to where we started, between those frames of time and back into indeterminacy and the timeless multiverse landscape.

Back in 1919, Kaluza sent a startling proof to Einstein, stating that the field equations for gravity and light can be resolved if they are calculated in the fifth dimension. Einstein ruminated on this idea for two years, then gave it his full endorsement. Here's what this tells us about our own universe then: it is being defined at the fifth dimension by the specific values it has for the strength of gravity and the speed of light.

What if we wanted to create some other universe that had a different value for gravity and the speed of light? We would back all the way out to the indeterminate quantum field, choose a different point of entry, and choose a different frame rate for some other universe to be observed. We could even try making universes that had gradually changing, or oscillating values for gravity and the speed of light, although most of those universes would not be nearly as stable as the one we live in.

There could be other values that are also being determined by our point of entry, but just how many of the finely tuned constants that create any specific universe and its specific distribution of matter are a result of nothing more than the push and pull between the strength of gravity and the speed of light, and how many of those other constants are not related to these two basic values is a debate better left to the experts. Still, this leads us to an important question: how did we get so lucky as to be in a universe specifically tuned to create life as we know it? String theory is sometimes criticized because it can be used to explain not just the universe we live in, but ten to the power of 500 other universes as well, each with their own collection of particles and forces. But if all those possible universes we're imagining really do exist out there in the multiverse, just as real as the one we're living in, then there are no doubt organized collections of information or expressions of matter in some of those other universes that are asking themselves the very same questions. In any particular universe, we can imagine "life" as being the stuff that becomes interested in "what happens next" as their universe is moving along its own line of time, being created one quantum frame after another: and that leaves us with a very open definition of life that works well for our own universe, but allows us to imagine a great many other things that also could be called life in those other universes.

In September 2007, a team of scientists at Oxford University, under the leadership of physicist David Deutsch, published a proof equating the bush-like branching structure of possible quantum states with the branching choices that each of us within our own physical universe are making as we move through time. This means that whether we realize it or not, at both the quantum level of frames that are one planck length away from each other, and out here in our physical reality, the actions of chance, choice, and circumstance are moving us down what we think of as a fourth dimensional line of time. But curled up down at the planck length, we are actually twisting and turning through the available paths that the Deutsch team have proved really do exist. Imagining that there are parallel universes where each of us make decisions that are different from the ones we make in this one is the outcome of that proof that some physicists are simply not comfortable with, but it is an implication that I have been promoting since I first came up with this way of imagining the dimensions twenty years ago.

In my book Imagining the Tenth Dimension, I have suggested a way to blend the concepts of the multiverse, quantum indeterminacy, Kaluza's idea that we are in the fifth dimension, and the M-theory idea that our reality comes from ten spatial dimensions plus one of time. Mainstream physics tends to keep these ideas separate from each other, so my idea of mashing them up into one big concept is not what you would be taught in a university physics class. That's why I call my book "Imagining" the Tenth Dimension, subtitle it "a new way of thinking" about time and space, and say in promotion for the book that it is "not about mainstream physics".

What I do say about my new way of thinking though, is that it's "a mind-expanding journey that could change the way you view this incredible universe in which we live". And a great many people around the world seem to agree: the tenth dimension website, launched in July 2006, continues to grow in popularity, and at the end of 2007 is now averaging 2 million hits a month.

"Let there be light!": it's fun to think about all of the possible universes that started from a point in the void, then defined a value for the speed of light and that's what caused those universes to spring into existence. While it's true that the echoes of these ideas in ancient philosophy and spirituality may be coincidence, I believe this is showing us that human beings have intuitively believed basic truths about the nature of reality long before modern science was able to demonstrate their inner workings. This is why my book deals with so many more "out there" topics that most scientists are not comfortable with, but the general public are more willing to embrace: this includes ideas about consciousness and spirit, memes and creativity, conspiracies and the end of the world, and so on. Since I'm a composer, not a physicist, I also have 26 songs about the nature of reality attached to the project, most of which are now available as videos on youtube and .

By the time you have this way of imagining the dimensions in mind, you have a way to see how everything fits together within the timeless multiverse. People who have worked through this set of ideas most commonly call it "mind blowing", which is flattering. For those purists who dislike any blending of disciplines outside your own area of interest, I appreciate your criticism but that is not what we are pursuing here... and despite the best efforts of those critics, my tenth dimension meme that was set in motion in the summer of 2006 is continuing to grow as a result of the increasingly connected world that we live in.

No matter what universe we imagine ourselves making, it has the potential to be expressed in unique ways from the tenth dimension down to the first, with a "point" moving through it that we can think of as time, or the quantum observer. Let's work through the hierarchy of dimensions as I've portrayed them, this time moving from the "top" down:

10. The timeless multiverse/quantum indeterminacy/the unobserved quantum "information" that is potentially energy and mass
9. Big-picture memes, ways of organizing/grouping/subdividing the "information", including those which cannot be expressed as physical realities
8. Ways of expressing mass/energy that encompass multiple fine structure constants
7. Ways of expressing mass/energy that encompass only one sliding variable (the seventh dimension as a line), or ways of expressing mass/energy where all fine structure constants are locked in (which would be the seventh dimension as a point, with our universe being one example). When we say that our universe is "locked in" at the seventh dimension then (one of the ideas that are unique to this way of imagining the dimensions), we are also saying that it is locked in from the seventh dimension all the way up to the tenth. The fact that string theory says our universe is created by the interaction of a seven dimensional brane interacting with a three dimensional brane within a Calabi-Yau manifold is probably just a coincidence, but an entertaining sidebar to this discussion.
6. All possible timelines for the universe we have created, including ones that may never actually be observed but which remain as potential.
5. All branching timelines both forward and backward from the particular point that we call "now". Thinking back to how we created our universe, the branches from the very first "point", then, would be the same in both the fifth and sixth dimension, but for every other quantum frame the fifth dimension would not be able to include every possible expression contained within the sixth because of the limitations introduced by choices that had already occurred.
4. One very specific set of frames, from the big bang to "now", or in the biggest picture of all, one very specific timeline out of all of the possible timelines from the beginning to the end of the universe we created.
3. A specific expression of the 3D space that is a quantum frame as per our description above.
2. A specific expression of one of the 2D planes that can be contained within the quantum frame we're examining.
1. A specific expression of one of the 1D lines that can be contained within the quantum frame we're examining.
0. Not a dimension, but a point of indeterminate size, which could be infinitely small as in geometry, or could be infinitely large, encompassing in the most extreme case all of the dimensions. Some people like to think of the "0" as time, some like to call it the quantum observer, some people like to think of it as being nothing more than the way that you move to a specific subset of the dimensions below the tenth. All of these, I believe, are different ways of expressing the same idea.

Each additional dimension adds a degree of freedom, and each additional dimension is only a subset of the remaining ones above it. So a 1D line can be drawn within any dimension, a 2D plane can be a slice out of the other dimensions but can't exist within the first, a 3D space can be part of the probability space of the 4D line of time and above but can't be expressed in the first and second, and so on. The logical hierarchy of what is being imagined here is what keeps people wanting to explore these ideas, and for that I am very grateful.

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton


Unknown said...

"time is the way that we change from one state to the next"
Perhaps, time is the relationship between state's changes of different vectorial subspaces.
My question is, why there are change of states?

Unknown said...

"The length of time between those frames is entwined with the specific
speed of light for our universe, and the idea that our universe is being
created one frame at a time at the speed of light gives us a way to explain
why it's impossible to exceed the speed of light within our universe"

1.- "our universe is being created one frame at a time at the speed of light"
2.- it means all points in our universe are not created at the same time
3.- All points are created one after other on each frame
4.- The difference of time where each point is created depend of the quantity
of points existing in the universe at a given time and the speed of light
5.- The quantity of points at instant t0 is less than instant t1 and less
than instant t2 and so on while the universe is in expansion
6.- We can asume all points are created randomly while the quantiy of points is small
7.- Randomly means for example: first point position created (3,5,8) , second point
position created(9,3,2) and so on
8.- Ordered means: first point position created (0,0,1), second point position
created(0,0,2) and so on
9.- When the quantity of points is big you need create the points more efficiently
because of speed of light is limited.
10.- To do this you need to order the sequence of creation of points
11.- It means you move from one system with great indeterminacy to another with less
indeterminacy while the universe expands
12.- It means the value of quantum indeterminacy is the value of current order and
current size of our universe

Rob Bryanton said...

Hi jorge, thanks for your notes. I think it's important to keep in mind that Everett's Many Worlds interpretation says we don't actually "collapse" the wave function, we merely "observe" it in one state or another. So while the language I'm using in this entry is talking about "making" and "creating" a universe from out of the background of quantum indeterminacy, that process is still intimately tied with the act of observation.

This means all possible states for our universe are not observed at the same time, but are observed one after other within each quantum frame.

In the way I'm describing this, then, t0 is indeterminacy, all possible states existing simultaneously. t1 is beginning to select some part of the wavefunction, which means beginning to observe some part of the possibilities and not observe some other parts of the possibilities.

The randomness of quantum mechanics is still probabilistic: so that t1 point already limits the set of what t2 can contain, and the observation of some outcome in t2 limits what t3 can contain, and so on. In this sense what we're talking about relates to Bohm's ideas of moving from implicate to explicate order.

Where this gets really interesting to me is when you accept that timelessness doesn't limit where that t1 is coming from or heading towards: so ultimately we can move from t0 to the "now" of this instant you and I are observing, but that t0 is not really "before" our universe, rather it's "outside" of our spacetime.

Outside the "now" that we are in is a probabilistic cloud of possible causal chains:
- not truly random, but constrained by the wave function of possible paths leading to this moment and leading away from this moment, as per Feynman's "sum over histories" idea.
- not deterministic, because there are many ways to get to "now" and there are many ways to proceed from "now"
- not limitless possibilities, but still a great many to choose from from down here in our atoms and molecules universe.
In a more recent blog, Time and Music, I do the calculation for the number of possible frames per second and relate it to this idea of us observing the wave function:

"...let's look at the equally non-continuous nature of consciousness and pick a number - let's say that on average we operate at about 50 frames per second (as we've been discussing, this number is generally thought to be between 30 and 90 frames per second and may vary for individuals during their day, and will also vary according to their current state of health and their overall state of mind). This would mean that we can divide those planck frames by 50 and end up with this astonishing fact: for every "frame" of our consciousness, there are about .0371 ×1043 different branches of possible outcomes encapsulated into that "frame" of your consciousness.

Next time you're feeling like you're trapped into a situation where there's no possible way out, think about that number. That's 371,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible choices encapsulated within every observed frame of consciousness! Wow."

Thanks for writing,


Unknown said...

13.- All points created has a life cycle.
14.- It life cycle has a rise and fall.
15.- All points are created in a sequence inside each frame.
16.- When one point created is rising other point is created
17.- All points has different states
18.- Because of this the universe is not uniform
19.- The difference among states of each point create the gravity value
20.- Because of this the space is deformed and produces the grouping of its points

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