Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What's Beyond "Everything"?

I've always argued that by the time we get to the tenth dimension there's no need to keep counting past that, because "there's no place left to go": but the fact is that many people embrace M-Theory's idea that there are eleven dimensions, one of which is "time". So here we are, visualizing ten spatial dimensions, plus an eleventh dimension as the point of indeterminate size that we start from, the point that moves within those other dimensions to create change from state to state, and that is what we can equate to the moving point that we know of as the "arrow of time".

No Place Left to Go
Here's the question though: if we've described, through logical application of simple principles, a way to get to "everything", then what created the everything?

I prefer to think that there is something within this everything, a universal creative force that is an emergent property within the information that becomes reality. Whether we call this force (which is the spark that drives all living things, from a primitive bacterium to you and I, to want to continue) "God" or some other word makes no difference: this organizing pattern exists, there is a specific pattern that causes our unique universe to exist, there are specific patterns elsewhere within the multiverse that cause other completely different universes to exist. Call those patterns whatever you like, changing names doesn't change their existence. The idea that the multiverse allows for the existence of what some have argued is a highly unlikely combination of factors to create the universe we find ourselves to be in has always been central to my way of thinking about the dimensions.

Likewise, consciousness can be looked upon as an emergent property, but I disagree with those who say only humans have consciousness: I think all living things have their own degree of consciousness. In the same way I think some human beings are more conscious: more immersed and engaged in their reality, more aware of the other possibilities that exist outside the moving "point" of their tiny space-time window... than others.

Are There Really Fourteen Dimensions?
Earlier this month there were news stories about a new "theory of everything" that encompasses fourteen dimensions: here's a brief article which includes links to other more in-depth reporting. How's this for an interesting thought: with this project I've always argued that "time" is a way of thinking about change from state to state within any dimension, and that's why it works to acknowledge there are ten spatial dimensions plus time. But it's also useful to think that for our unique situation, living in a universe with physical atoms and molecules that are embedded within a 3D membrane, there is definitely something about our own experience of time which makes it appear to only be a function of 4D space-time. Would my dimensional analysis make any more sense if we accept that we have our own unique viewpoint of that concept of "time"? Perhaps it's better if we acknowledge the fact that from our perspective time and space are most definitely intimately intertwined.

Where does that lead us? Suddenly we find ourselves with a way of thinking about ten spatial dimensions plus the moving 4D point we call the arrow of time. Is this a way to accomodate fourteen dimensions? Perhaps. By counting our 4D Minkowski "Block Universe" space separately (since that is what our unique experience within the multiverse reveals itself to be, as its own self-contained structure), the whole discussion of temporal vs spatial dimensions might be less confusing for some: in doing so, the ten spatial dimensions all become nothing more than patterns of information that are orthogonal to one another, and our movement is just that: movement through those patterns of information. Moving through a map doesn't change the map, but moving through a map does provide different experiences as we move from position to position.

Still, no matter how you slice and dice it, the concept of "everything" remains as our goal line. So to the question of "what's beyond everything?" I would say the answer is this: nothing. For more about how that connects to the underlying symmetry from which our universe or any other springs, here's one of my favorite videos from this project: Imagining the Zeroth Dimension.

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Just what IS a dimension?

A direct link to the above video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmQqDJwnmAw

The above video is about a meme that has risen in popularity this year: "it's incorrect to talk about imagining the fourth dimension, one should instead talk about 'imagining four dimensions' because these dimensions are all intertwined". My response is that's at best a semantics discussion, and at worse leads to the faulty conclusion that there is no difference between the degrees of freedom available to a 1D line versus a 2D plane and so on. Would I be saying different things if my project were called Imagining Ten Dimensions instead of Imagining the Tenth Dimension? No. Both are different ways of talking about the same idea. So, while it's all well and good to say "let's imagine ten dimensions", perhaps there's an even more basic question to ask before we begin:

"Just what IS a dimension?"! 

Let's take a look.

Very generally, if you wanted to describe all the possible states for a certain quality of something, that would be a dimension. We could create a database of temperature for a given location, and all possible temperatures for that location would be a dimension. But we would need to add a dimension if we also wanted to plot windspeed. And so, if this is the approach we are using to define the word "dimension", then there is no reason to assume there are only ten: couldn't there potentially be an infinite number of ways to describe something, and therefore an infinite number of dimensions?

Theorists have said our reality comes from ten spatial (or "space-like") dimensions. How can we imagine them? Well, the point-line-plane postulate is the accepted way to visualize any number of spatial dimensions. Please note, though, those two important words: "any number". This means that we can easily say that this postulate results in an infinite number of spatial dimensions, because there's no reason to stop at any particular number.

But with this project, I do indeed say that we can stop at a number, and that there are really only ten dimensions... or eleven if you count the "zeroth" dimension, the point that we start from. Wow, isn't that quite a jump, from the mind-boggling realm of infinity down to a measly ten dimensions? And yet with this project, I insist that because we are assigning meaning to each of these dimensions rather than just abstractly adding one upon another, we really have reached an infinite "everything" by the time we get to ten.

As I've said elsewhere, the point-line-plane postulate and the line/branch/fold visualization that Imagining the Tenth Dimension uses are very related concepts, two different ways of describing the same idea. Both say there is a repeating logical structure we can use to extend from our intuitive knowledge of the first three spatial dimensions into the extra spatial dimensions that lie beyond.

One of the words used to describe spatial dimensions is that each is orthogonal to the next. "Orthogonal", as defined in the Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary, means "intersecting or lying at right angles". "Perpendicular" has much the same definition, and the two words are often used interchangeably.

Let's go back to our windspeed/temperature example for one way to think about dimensions. What if we were to add an additional dimension which plotted the elevation above sea level? Now we have three dimensions for our given location, two of which are constantly changing, one which stays the same. In this way we can see how with multiple dimensions, some can be "pinned in place" so to speak, while others change. With my approach to visualizing the dimensions, I suggest that our universe is "pinned in place" at a position within the seventh dimension and above, with the sixth dimension and below allowing for the phase space of all possible states for a unique universe such as ours to be expressed. (String theorists have said our universe is embedded within a seven-dimensional "brane", or membrane, which could be another way of expressing the same idea).

Are windspeed and temperature "orthogonal" to one another? Only in one sense of the word. If you read through the entire Mirriam-Webster definition for orthogonal, the last interpretation listed is "statistically independent". Does temperature have to go up when windspeed goes down, or do both have to go up and down in lockstep? No. In other words, they are statistically independent. One could even say that windspeed, temperature, and elevation above sea level are at right angles to each other, in that you could plot these values on a three dimensional graph, with each axis at right angles to the others.

But how can we visualize a four-dimensional, a five-dimensional graph (and so on), where each axis is at right angles to the others? This is very hard for our monkey brains to envision, and that's the beauty of the point-line-postulate: it gives us a way to keep building the idea of spatial dimensions one upon another in our minds. 

So, we've established what dimensions are, but have we established what spatial dimensions are yet? Here's how I would define the difference between elevation/wind speed/temperature as a set of three dimensions, as opposed to three spatial dimensions such as length, width, and height:

1. wind speed does not require temperature to exist, or vice versa: so those are not spatial dimensions. The third dimension that you and I are within, on the other hand, can't exist without the first and second, because they are all spatial dimensions.
2. The third dimension, like any of the spatial dimensions, is really a set of dimensions that are intertwined. Because of this interdependence, it doesn't matter what label you put on the third dimension: so while height or depth are different ways of thinking about what gets added by the third dimension, any term you use is dependent upon your reference frame. As I've often said, changing labels doesn't change what we're talking about, and "a rose is still a rose by any other name". On the other hand, you can't take your values for wind speed and say they are now temperature: the labels are not interchangeable, so those are not spatial dimensions.

That's it in a nutshell. There are many dimensional systems which can lay claim to an unlimited number, and that includes spatial dimensions if you're speaking in abstract terms. But with this project, we discuss the quality that gets added with each spatial dimension, and that's how we end up with the bold statement that there are really only ten spatial dimensions.

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Tenth Dimension Vlog playlist