Tuesday 20 January 2009


One of those rather mindbending things I sometimes like to contemplate is Hyperspace. And beyond.
As in, what our universe really is. As opposed to the one we think we experience.

Suffice to say, the likelihood is, our perception is- flat.

The universe doesn't actually fit together the way we think it does.

We experience three spatial dimensions, whereas in fact there are- according to string theory- eleven.

And I'm sure you're confused by this. And no, we don't understand them. But it seems pretty clear that the difference between what we see and what is actually the case, probably explains most of what we don't yet understand. In other words we are perceiving eleven dimensional reality through a flat three dimensional perception.

Why do we only perceive three dimensions? My guess is because there really is no advantage in us doing so. Perhaps if we had three eyes, we would see space in four dimensions, I don't know. But clearly there is no advantage in us doing so. Clearly whatever four dimensional reality looks like, there are no practical advantages to be gained by lifeforms having a third eye. Whereas the difference between seeing in three dimensions and seeing in two is quite marked.

Or perhaps it wouldn't make a difference. Either way, our senses tell us there are three spatial dimensions. In fact, our senses fail to spot eight.

And because the space we understand is understood in three dimensional terms we are grasping at the multitude of particles that apparently exist in our three dimensional universe, struggling to understand what is the underlying difference between them. And ultimately, it can only boil down to one thing. The true structure of space that we don't yet understand. There is almost certainly only one particle in 11 dimensional space, it is merely when translated to our flat perception of three dimensional space that we have photons and quarks and neutrinos, surely.

There are two obvious analogies to use here. The first is that of radiation. Not all animals see the same radiation. In fact, many mammals are colour blind, or can't see all colours. There are parts of the light spectrum they can't see. Whereas snakes can see radiation that we can't see; infra red for instance. The colour spectrum we see is only a tiny part of the radiation spectrum. We see the bit it is useful for us to see. Our eyes have evolved to pick up the bits that might be useful to us. Everything between red and blue. Seeing anything outside that would be useless to us in many ways. So we don't waste energy picking it up.

I suppose the only logical conclusion one can draw from this is that to all intents and purposes, matter is three dimensional. That whilst space might well be multidimensional, and indeed matter is in reality eleven dimensional, the eight dimensions we do not see make no difference at our scale. Some scientists suggest they all of them only have effect on the sub atomic level, but I'm not sure why they believe this. It could be that our familiar dimensions are the ones bang in the middle. That there are four which only effect the universe at sub atomic levels and four which only effect it above the galactic level.

When of course we say effect the universe at these levels, what we actually mean is that it is only at these levels that you can spot the difference between a universe of three dimensions and one of eleven dimensions. In theory. Because of course, it is all just theory.

The second analogy I'm going to use, is to demonstrate exactly the mindbending wierdness this might entail and why geometry as we understand it completely breaks down at the macro level (with facts like in the real universe any straight line eventually goes back to it's starting point).

Imagine you live in a comic book. You're a comic book Egyptian. And you live by a comic book pyramid. You see the comic book pyramid every day. You see it in comic book form. Flat.
To you, it has three points. Joined by three edges. And it has one surface. You are, of course, unaware of the concept of solids. Surfaces is about as far as it goes for you. You live in a two dimensional world.
If you lived in a one dimensional world, even surfaces would be beyond you. Your pyramid would now be down to just two points, joined by a line. And lines really would be the limit.

You are unaware that a three dimensional world exists where pyramids have a FOURTH point. And not three, but six edges. And that one surface isn't the finality; there are four surfaces, which together make up one solid, the complete three dimensional pyramid.
You are unaware, because your comic book existence doesn't need you to comprehend three dimensional reality.

Well, let's say our existence can be seen in the same light. Let us hypothesise a fourth spatial dimension.
In this a fifth point is added to the pyramid; this four dimensional hypersolid has twelve edges and twelve surfaces. It also has five adjacent solids, adjacent to eachother in the way the four surfaces are in the three dimensional pyramid.

The point is is that where you in your comic book existence see one surface, there are three others you can't see. Where you see three edges you can't see. So in fact, if space is three dimensional and you only see in two dimensions, your understanding of the two you can see is limited also.
Because if space is four dimensional, when we look at a hypersolid, we'd would see it as a regular pyramid, just as comic book you sees the pyramid as a triangle. We'd see only see one sold and miss the four adjacent solids. We'd see four surfaces and miss out on eight.

And we've only advanced here to thinking in four dimensions.

Think of how much we can't see, if space is eleven dimensional.

Now don't go looking at your desk now and wondering if there really are surfaces you can't see. In the sense it actually matters, clearly not.
What it means, quite simply is the space it's actually in is more complex than you think. It's more than just up or down, backwards or forwards, left or right. You can't conceive of what that means and nor to be honest can I.

I don't think right now that many people can.

But at some point we will almost certainly learn how to do something that we are only able to do BECAUSE space is eleven dimensional and not three dimensional.

One day it won't seem mindbending.
Any more than the size of the sun does to us now.


Anonymous said...

as they say, the universe is not only strange, but perhaps far stranger than we can imagine, or ever hope to understand.

Anonymous said...

My universe has 12 dimensions, because I refuse to be a conformist.

Anonymous said...

"Why do we only perceive three dimensions? My guess is because there really is no advantage in us doing so"

Why do you figure that Crushed?

Isn't time a dimension?

Wouldn't it be useful to be able to see where a truck was going to be occupying space and not be there?

Or to be able to step out of/through a collapsing building?

Winter time? no apples in the tree to eat, well try last fall...

Hunting? Just step out with a big rock at the exact moment dinner was underneath and whack it...

Need I say more?

Anonymous said...

(ooh I love Prodigy)

I love to think about these things too. One of my favourite writers to read...difficult to find translations but Giordano Bruno believed we would find alternate universe...in the 15th century!

Check out Bruno when you get a chance...you will dig!