Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Forest

A direct link to the above video is at

This comic is from, a lovely bunch of thought provoking comics are found there. A direct link to this particular one is at . Thank you to my facebook friend Jeffry Sommer for forwarding this one on to me!

Most of the daily emails, facebook messages, and tweets I get surrounding this project are from fans, wanting to discuss the ramifications of all this or just wanting to thank me for opening their minds to new possibilities. In addition, every few weeks I get interesting comments from the occasional teacher. For instance, three weeks ago I heard from Mitchell Daar, a Middle School Math Teacher at Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Chicago. Mitch had this to say:

"...your video has been an excellent catalyst for real, poignant, outside the box conversations in my classroom... the conversations that your movie sparked were some of the best I have ever experienced as a teacher."

Then, at the end of March a visitor to the tenth dimension forum, calling themselves "Redmirian", posted a very nice analogy for visualizing the enfolded nature of spatial dimensions, with each new dimension affording a new degree of freedom that was unavailable from the one before. I emailed Redmirian asking for permission to quote the analogy in this blog and possibly produce an animation of it some day. I received this message back and discovered that "Redmirian" was the handle for yet another teacher, this one from England:

"Thanks for the email and the comments about my analogy.

I would be flattered if you used it in a blog entry and I am quite happy for you to quote it and discuss it and included references to me.

My actual name is Nigel Evans. I am a science teacher (head of chemistry) at an independent co-ed boarding school in Oxfordshire in the UK. The school is Bloxham School.

I have been fascinated by the physical sciences all my life and in particular the ideas of multi-dimensionality. I saw your video on youtube and then visited your website. I found the video truly enlightening as it brought the 10 dimensions to life in a new way. I was discussing it with my wife and children which is how the analogy of forest came about."

Here's the analogy Nigel came up with, see what you think. And once you're done reading this, you can go to his entry at the tenth dimension forum where you'll see that he has proposed some other interesting analogies as well.
The first 3 dimensions are easy for people to understand but then we need some assistance. To imagine the 4th dimension, we think of walking in a forest along a footpath. That could be thought of as being our experience with the footpath being the 4th dimension of duration. We walk along the footpath as we age from the past to the future. We cannot back-track along the path. As we walk along we see there are other paths along the footpath which branch off and we have to make decisions about which route to follow. Once we have passed a junction we cannot go back and choose another path. This is our reality.

The junctions along our path lead to alternative 'parallel' places and so these are in the 5th dimension. We cannot reach these parallel places once we have passed the junction but if we could back-track then we could return to a junction and branch off.
Alternatively, it is possible to leave our foot path and walk through the forest directly to the parallel places. These routes through the forest are in the 6th dimension and allow us to travel directly to the alternative parallel places at the end of the paths which branched off from our path.

So if we can travel in the 4th dimension we can only move along one path in one direction.

If we could travel in the 5th dimension we could back track to a junction and change a decision and head off on another path.

If we could access the 6th dimension then it would be like having a map of the forest which showed us all the paths and where they lead to. This would allow us to move freely through the forest from place to place and get to places which are not directly connected to where we are on our path by using the 6th dimension.

The 7th dimension is our entire forest and through the 7th dimension we connect to other forests via other paths. If we were able to access the 7th dimension we could stand at the edge of our forest and see paths leading to other forests. We follow one path heading for another forest and we are traveling in the 7th dimension. We pass other paths leading off our path which lead to still more forests but we cannot see exactly where they are heading and which forest we are going to. These other paths branching off and leading to the other forests are the 8th dimension.

If we were able to see a much larger map of all the forests and where they were in relation to each other and how to get from one to another directly that would be the 9th dimension. A 9th dimensional being could move to anywhere on the 'map' at will.
The 10th dimension would be all the forests and all the paths all taken as one. I guess a 10th dimensional being would exist in all parts of all the forests simultaneously.
Thank you Nigel for this delightfully simple analogy. And thank you to all the teachers I've heard from in the almost four years since I've launched this project who have enjoyed the "philosophy of physics" discussions with their students that my project has been able to stimulate.

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Next - Magnets and Morality

PS - Here's a demo video for that "Miegakure" video game mentioned in the XKCD comic:

A direct link to the above video is at

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