This is my brain on physics.
“Method for getting high: Learn some quantum physics theory, then think about it, and the implications.” ~ Me two days ago on Facebook.
I was reading “The Elegant Universe“, by Brian Greene today at breakfast. I set of ideas slammed together, and as Stephen King says, that’s the the mixture for a good story.
So, I wanted to share that story with you.
Without getting too deep into superstring theory, I’d like to toss out a little illustration Brian uses to get you into thinking about what the implications might be if there are (as super-string theory suggest) more dimensions to reality than the three spatial (and one temporal) dimensions we normally deal with.
In this theory, part of the math depends on the idea that there are super-microscopic dimensions functioning at extremely small lengths where some of the action of our reality takes place. This scale is below what we can get at with current technology, but like a lot of the story of physics we often “discover” things in the implications of the mathematical models we use to explore reality which are subsequently proven through experiment.
To get a feel for these extra dimensions, Brian takes us through a little story/thought experiment that I will paraphrase here.
Imagine what life might be like in a one dimensional reality. A one dimensional reality would be a line with only two directions, back and forth, to it. This is a sharp contrast to our everyday reality of three spatial dimensions, forward-backward, left-right, up-down, plus the temporal dimension of before-after.
In a one dimensional world there would only be forward-backward. If we imagine little line creatures living in such a reality, they would only be able to move along that one direction. Since no side-to-side, or up-down would be available they would never be able to pass each other. Likewise, if they had eyes, they could only be on either end of their body. As one line being looked forward, and back, they would see the same two neighbors as a dot of an eye, for all of their life. They would not be able to see past these two neighbors, ever.
Now, if we imagine an Einstein like line person, he might realize that certain characteristics of reality depend on their being a super-microscopic second dimension, curling back on itself, operating on their reality. If that second dimension were to expand to the point where it was observable, the effects on the line people would be dramatic. Instead of living on a line they would now live on the surface of long tube. They would then, suddenly, be able to move not only forward-backward, they would now also be able to move left-right along the new surface of their reality.
The line beings could now pass around each other and meet all the other line people they could never access before. Even more dramatically, they would now be able to see each other’s lengths. In the old one dimensional reference, their eyes were effectively their skins, the boundaries between their insides and the outside. Now, being able to look at the exposed new side of each other, they would be looking into the inside directly.
The danger would be that everything else in the new two dimensional reality would have immediate access to the line people’s guts. In order to survive they would need to develop/evolve protective surfacing along their length’s and they would become two dimensional creatures. Once again sealed off from the environment in a protective casing as they lived their lives as newly two dimensional creatures.
You can see the same thing happen if you imagine a third dimension suddenly unfurling in the now flatland people’s world. Their insides would be exposed from the up-down directions until they developed new skin in that direction.
Here is where we come into collision with some of the other ideas that float around in my brain.
One of the areas that fascinates me is evolutionary theory. Another is linguistics theory, in particular the work of Alfred Korzybski on General Semantic and non-Aristotelean language.
What if the event we call the “big bang” at the start of the story of our reality was an unfurling (like above) of super-microscopic dimensions into the macroscopic world we occupy. I can imagine some sudden energy arriving to puff up our four dimensions into a form that would allow evolution to start up and eventually for life to form. In this thinking whatever other dimensions may need to exist for all of reality to work would still be present and functioning. They would just be a scale too small for us to interact with.
Well, what if that has not stopped. What if the noosphere is a new expanding dimension?
The noosphere is an idea put forth by Vladimir Vernadsky, Teilhard de Chardin, and Édouard Le Roy. The name denotes the “sphere of human thought.” In their theoretical work, the noosphere is to consciousness what the atmosphere is to biology. It’s the space in which human thought moves, develops, and is sustained.
The leap forward for this space seems to be when consciousness became conscious of consciousness in the unique evolutionary form of the human being. Korzybski refers to the seemingly unique human trait of “time binding”, the capacity to carry events forward in the form of history which allows for our explosive development, the invention of tools, and our unprecedented capacity for altering our environment.
What if that self-referencing loop is analogous to the super-microscopic dimensions of superstring theory?
In this idea, the capacity of humans to be aware that we are aware is not just a trick of four dimensional physics, but could be the result of new motion being possible along an expanding fifth dimensional space. Our exploration of thinking could be something like the exploration of the line beings moving about their new two dimensional space in the example above.
It has often been said that the language we have dictates the thinking we are capable of, and in a sense co-creates the world we see around us. The words we are taught become habitual ways of interacting with reality at large. In a sense they limit what we see in the world around us.
Language is also how we get our thinking across to each other. Until I take the time to use language (of one type or another) to get my thinking across to you, you have no chance of knowing what I am thinking.
“Writing is telepathy…” ~ Stephen King
As human beings have struggled to come to terms with what it means to be self-aware, the implications of the language, and thinking we use, have been explored more and more. Under normal cultural conditioning we don’t give this much attention. Looking at this phenomenon is more the purview of various academic traditions and advanced studies.
Just like when you expand a one dimensional universe into two dimensions the one dimensional creatures will be able to see each other’s insides, maybe the arising of self referencing consciousness allows us (through psychology and social-somatic awareness) to see the “insides” of each other. We go to psychologists and behavioral specialists, and trade language symbols with them to get at our internal mental/emotional functioning.
By moving in the dimension of thought/word we get a look “inside” our skins.
To get a feel for this you can meditate for five years, study psychology for three years, read the works on General Semantics for a month, or take LSD once.
By getting your awareness out of the “skin” installed by society, you get a glimpse into the “guts” of yourself and others. You can start to see the “hidden” context in the words people habitually use. Once you get the new “eyes” of thought open by looking in a different “direction” in this opening dimension you can get some interesting insight into what makes people tick.
Just like those line beings suddenly finding themselves living on a two dimensional tube, our “eyes” of thought are not exactly sharp yet. We still blunder a lot in this new space. The line beings, having been ram rod straight along only one direction for so long will take a while to get enough flexibility to see into themselves. Until that time we, like them, have to depend on each other for a look “inside.”
Looking at reality in this way, the old adage that “words can hurt” takes on a new meaning. It makes sense how school yard bullying can cause teens to reach for suicide. We can see the awesome responsibility we have towards each other with the language we choose to use.
Our words have impact. Our words can hurt. Our words can kill.
Likewise our words can also heal and help.
If this line of thinking has anything to it, we are like people stumbling around in the dark with barely working eyes with new limbs bumping into the places on each other with no skin for protection. A reason for caution if ever there was one.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” ~ Tony Robbins
This theory might shed some light on how strongly social we are as creatures. By banding together we can get feedback on how our insides are doing in ways we can’t see ourselves. We also have strong influence on each other as our insides bump into each other in this new space while we work on effective protection and new sensory capacity. Perhaps our strong tendency for conformity and socialization is an attempt to get our new “skins” in place.
Maybe this provides a glimpse into what evolution has been doing the whole time. Maybe it’s not just a matter of tendency towards organization in four dimensional space, but instead it’s the effect of the initial expansion of reality slowly unfurling the super-microscopic dimensions into macroscopic space.
This reminds me of Timothy Leary’s research into the 8 circuits of human development. He posited that the first four were firmly in place, and commonly available and actualized through currently common cultural conditioning. The next four were the emergent circuits, slowly opening and showing where evolution was headed in human form.
Of course that could imply that rather than just one “new” dimension currently unfurling, we could be dealing with four new ones unfurling concurrently. But, that’s way too much of a head trip for me to tackle now…
What do you think? (Pun intended.) Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!