Join 3,411 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Imagining the Tenth Dimension
July 4, 2006 5:38 AM   Subscribe

Imagining the Tenth Dimension (Flash). 10th dimensional physics and string theory don't get any easier than this.
posted by Jimbob (76 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
gah! i was just working up a post on this :P

anyway, so you've gone beyond 3d, tesseracts are old hat [viz], solved 5d rubik's cube, and even the 9ds aren't that mysterious anymore... well take a trip to 10d and see if your brain don't splode! btw, i can't vouch for the book, (cuz it's written by a sound engineer?) but it's neat in a powers-of-ten-like way to try and conceptualize higher-dimensions, even if string theory is not even wrong :P [dugg]
posted by kliuless at 5:55 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well when you put it like that....
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:57 AM on July 4, 2006


Yeah, go with kliuless's links. I'm lazy ;)
posted by Jimbob at 5:58 AM on July 4, 2006


Are there any experiments that could falsify or strengthen string theory?
posted by spazzm at 6:01 AM on July 4, 2006


OK, that site has managed to thoroughly confuse me. 'Physicists tell us that our reality is created by superstrings vibrating in the tenth spatial dimension (plus an additional dimension of "time").'

And then he goes and puts time in somewhere round number 4 rather than 11, sticks in more dimensions connecting other times and folds them round before pretty much arbitrarily stopping at 10 just because he didn't put in any more earlier on?

Pretty flash, but I'm unconvinced that it has any relation to strings. Heck, he as much as admits that himself:
'The "theory of reality" that I advance on this website and in the book "Imagining the Tenth Dimension" is not the one that is commonly accepted by today's physicists.'

On preview, what appears in kliuless's links.
posted by edd at 6:09 AM on July 4, 2006


And then he goes and puts time in somewhere round number 4 rather than 11, sticks in more dimensions connecting other times and folds them round before pretty much arbitrarily stopping at 10 just because he didn't put in any more earlier on?

Well the stopping at 10 part was what interested me, because it made sense. By the 10th dimension, we're looking at being able to move between every possible version of reality in every possible universe - unless we come up with some structure above universes, that's dimensions pretty much wrapped up, right?

Although I have to admit being confused about the "10 dimensions plus time" thing as well.
posted by Jimbob at 6:13 AM on July 4, 2006


Oh, and I still don't get the "vibrations" thing. If things are "vibrating" in the 10th dimension - what dimension are they vibrating into? If you pluck a 1-dimensional string, it vibrates back and forth into the 2nd dimension, right? (Hey, maybe that's the elusive 11th dimension he forgot to tell us about!)

But despite these failings, it's made the most sense of these things so far for me.
posted by Jimbob at 6:16 AM on July 4, 2006


So the 5th dimension is choice?
What's the 12th - cosmic love?
posted by spazzm at 6:21 AM on July 4, 2006


Well, he gets up to the standard three just fine, but there's no reason in principle you can't just keep extending that concept to put in a fourth, fifth or sixth standard spatial dimension (going from up-down, left-right, front-back to add ana-kata and other directions) and end up beyond ten.

On the other hand I'm worried that he has superfluous things in there and if you arranged things differently he'd end up with less than ten.

It feels too much like he's trying to get ten, and stops fiddling with things when he gets there.
posted by edd at 6:21 AM on July 4, 2006


It was an interesting presentation, but I think it tries to disguise itself as an explanation of the ten(ish) dimensions that string theory predicts. Which it is not-- in string theory the higher dimensions are all tightly curled up. With three "uncurled" dimensions and the remaining curled dimensions, you can kind of imagine it looks like string. Vibrations of these strings supposedly give all the physical properties we observe. The higher dimensions do not correspond to the things he describes.
posted by justkevin at 6:23 AM on July 4, 2006


I love this stuff, but my head hurts now. I often wonder about the people who can think about space/time/dimensions casually like this, it just seems so unnatural.

For me the only thing that might make this better would be for Kurt Vonnegut to help with the illustrations. ;-)
posted by -t at 6:27 AM on July 4, 2006


On the other hand I'm worried that he has superfluous things in there and if you arranged things differently he'd end up with less than ten.

I felt the systematic way he arranged things:

1. Movement (through time, space, possible universes)
2. Choice (two spaces, two different possible outcomes, two possible universes)
3. Jump (between the two spaces, between the two alternative outcomes in time, between different possible universes)
4. ...repeat at the next scale (space, time, universes).

...accounted for all the dimensions he named well, although in the case of the 3rd dimension could be represented as a "jump" or "fold", like he suggests...or simply as the volume we live in.

So the 5th dimension is choice?

I understood this to be a fairly basic principle of quantum mechanics. But, I'm a biologist, not a physicist, so this is all new to me.
posted by Jimbob at 6:29 AM on July 4, 2006


Jimbomb - Vibrating is confusing, yeah. It'd be better to say "excitation," which just means that the string has more energy than it does in its lowest-energy (or ground) state. An analogy would be a tuning fork, which has a ground state where it sits making no sound, and an excited state where it makes its specific tone. Note that it is a three dimensional object vibrating in three dimensions. The different ways that something can have more internal energy like this are determined by its geometry, and solutions to equations for ten dimensional strings are both self-consistent (a problem that plagues the math of any other choice of dimension) and yeild excitations that have some of the properties of particles we already know and love. His words scheme is a bit wonky, especially as seven of the dimensions need to be extend only a very small distance to match our observations.
posted by Schismatic at 6:39 AM on July 4, 2006


It's pretty clear that this 'dimensionalism' is stretching a concept beyond itself i.e. a metaphor. There are only three 'dimensions.' After that, we're talking about time, possibility, other possible universerses, etc. To call those things dimensions is to take a concept developed in three-dimensional space and push it to apply to something other than space. Even to imagine ana-kata, you've got to assume that there's a change occurring in a non-spatial manner. In 'dimensional' terms, that's just teleportation or transformation. It's not even imaginary, because our imaginations are spatial. (It is imaginary as in not-real, though.) Instead, it's conceptual. It takes the concept of space as a metaphor for other kinds of phenomenon.

Still, this is good.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:43 AM on July 4, 2006


I don't buy this at all, and I'm an idiot.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:43 AM on July 4, 2006


good to know that there are still assets in the big 10D.
posted by moonbird at 6:51 AM on July 4, 2006


snark aside, it's really cool.
posted by moonbird at 6:55 AM on July 4, 2006


These strings, they vibrate!
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:04 AM on July 4, 2006


Metafilter: Folding you through the 9th dimension.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:08 AM on July 4, 2006


These strings, they vibrate!

These assets, they load!
posted by Arch_Stanton at 7:11 AM on July 4, 2006


Help! I got lost in the 6th dimension.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:14 AM on July 4, 2006


I seem to recall, last time I did any reading on dimensional theory (being Hyperspace by Michio Kaku) , that the 10-D thing incorporated four macro-dimensions -- the ones we can experience -- and six micro-dimensions that exist at sizes smaller than the quantum threshold. There was also some positing that the Big Bang occurred at the moment a stable 10-dimensional universe ruptured to form ours -- like an enormous sheet of rubber being stretched out by ten peoeple around its rim, and six of those people letting go all at once.

But that book's more than a decade old. Has the theory changed substantially since then?
posted by Hogshead at 7:14 AM on July 4, 2006


Arrrhhhhhhhhhggg.

That was the best explanation I've heard yet.
posted by 517 at 7:16 AM on July 4, 2006


And, because it's a little on topic to this, Alternate.
posted by WCityMike at 7:27 AM on July 4, 2006


Hogshead - Not by much. As far as I know, CERN hasn't come online, and particle accelerators were responsible for the calculations of ten dimensional space. Smash atoms, analyze the result. CERN is/was supposed to provide a little meat to string theory because, after all, there's almost no evidence, modern scientific equipment is not sensitive enough to tell if certain sub-atomic particles are really just dimensionless "points". But hey, if it's right, mini-black holes could be fun. Human beings never mess up leaps to higher technology...
posted by AdamOddo at 7:56 AM on July 4, 2006


Great post, thanks!
posted by dobie at 7:59 AM on July 4, 2006


I, too, am stuck in the sixth, CunningLinguist. My previous snarkiness must've caused a resursion loop whereby my assets only appear to be fully loaded. It was cool while it lasted, though.
posted by moonbird at 8:12 AM on July 4, 2006


"These assets, they load!"

No, they do not.
posted by majick at 8:19 AM on July 4, 2006


It's a spiffy little flash animation, but it sure as hell ain't string theory, or any other theory of physics I've heard of.
  1. The idea that "choice" is a dimension, on the same footing as length and width, isn't part of quantum mechanics.
  2. The idea that you can "fold things over" in six dimensions implies that there's more than one "time-like" direction — one to travel in, and one to "fold" in. No theory of physics with any currency has more than one "direction" of time.
  3. His jump from seven to eight dimensions isn't consistent — if he's using the analogy of going from a point to a branch, he should jump from seven to nine, just like he jumped from zero to two earlier when he jumped from a conventional point to a conventional "branch". But if he did things consistently, there would be eleven dimensions in the end, and he couldn't quite as easy claim that this is related in any way to string theory.
  4. And if he can't conceive of a way to extend beyond the "tenth dimension", that's a failure of imagination on his part. Why not consider the collection of all "multiverses" of the type he sets up?
I haven't been this irritated by pseudoscientific BS since I watched (part of) What the Bleep Do We Know? If you're going to claim that you have an interesting new way of conceiving of ultimate reality, that's fine; go talk to the philosophers. But if you're going to claim that it's related to physics, with superstrings vibrating in your ten "dimensions", then that dog won't hunt.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:31 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


pretty/slow
pretty slow
I enjoyed it.
posted by pointilist at 8:35 AM on July 4, 2006


This page is absolute garbage. If his analogy holds, there should be no difference between the fourth dimension and the sixth dimension, except that, apparently, human beings are their own dimension, and universes are an extension of human beings in a higher dimension? Huh?

For his explanation to make any sense, the fourth dimension encompasses the universe's timeline, not just of a person's. The fifth dimension would be a hyperdimension containing the entirety of possible multiverses, not the seventh. Johnny Assay is right: this is pseudoscientific gobbledegook.
posted by Mr. Six at 8:50 AM on July 4, 2006


God, this is terrible. Infinity is a point in the seventh dimension? What in the blue hell?

His exposition of the first three dimensions, the one that we should all be familiar with was fatally flawed too--he simply described a one-dimensional object. Just because you've curled it doesn't mean that it's any larger (Granted, that didn't seem to be his point, but I really think that his exposition is highly disingenuous).

And his later analogies are crap, too.

anotherpanacea wrote: It's pretty clear that this 'dimensionalism' is stretching a concept beyond itself i.e. a metaphor. There are only three 'dimensions.'

Also, this is quite false. Picture a wooden block. How could you describe it in space? Well, there are three dimensions to describe its position. But is that really enough? What if you wanted also to describe its orientation? All of a sudden you need six dimensions to properly describe the state of that object at any given instance.

Yes, we can only move in three dimensions. But that doesn't invalidate the notion of higher dimensional objects. They have a perfectly well defined nature; their difficulty to 'see' doesn't make them any less real, or useful.
posted by vernondalhart at 8:56 AM on July 4, 2006


No Lectroids?

Totally bogus.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:13 AM on July 4, 2006


Clearly once you reach the 5th Dimension, and the moon is in the seventh house you'll find that Jupiter aligns with Mars. Then you'll see that peace will guide the planet, and love will steer the stars.
posted by longbaugh at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2006


As someone who has actually taken a class on string theory, this is garbage. "Choice" is not a dimension, any more than "savings" or "puppy-love" are dimensions. The extra dimensions in string theory are spatial dimensions that are so small in extent that we don't notice them. In principle, there could be more than six extras, or less. The number of extra dimensions is fixed by trying to do quantum mechanics, and finding that you get contradictory results unless you choose a certain number.

Also, in regard to strings vibrating: strings are one-dimensional objects. If you laid a string out straight along one dimension, it could vibrate along all the other dimensions. The effect of all these extra dimensions is to give strings additional ways of vibrating.

Finally, no, string theory is not expected to be testable any time soon. For starters, it's an incomplete theory at the moment (the implications haven't been worked out). The one "test" that is potentially imminent would be observation of super-symmetric particles. String theory predicts super-symmetry, although super-symmetry doesn't imply string theory. Some people think that LHC may have a chance at seeing super-symmetric particles. I don't know if anyone expects it to.
posted by Humanzee at 9:48 AM on July 4, 2006


God, this is terrible. Infinity is a point in the seventh dimension?


Yeah, that's why I'm still stuck in the sixth. I'm calling it limbo and planning to redecorate.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:48 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Picture a wooden block. How could you describe it in space? Well, there are three dimensions to describe its position. But is that really enough? What if you wanted also to describe its orientation? All of a sudden you need six dimensions to properly describe the state of that object at any given instance.


Well no. All you need is the position of any three points on the block in our conventional three dimensions. You don't need additional dimensions.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:53 AM on July 4, 2006


His use of 'choice' for the fifth dimension is clearly an attempt to differentiate various possible events in a given dimension from the various possible unverses. He's using human events because they're easier to understand and express than other chaotic variables. 'Choice' is a silly word in this context, but it helps get the point across. Changes in the interaction of various laws (a universe without friction, etc.) are another category of differences, so he calls them a separate 'dimension.'

Vernondalhart: From within the three dimensions, we need many variables to describe things, but they all reference 'space' in its length, width, and height. Or, what weapons-grade panemonium said. The tough questions for metaphysicans after Newton is whether velocity and acceleration truly require time, or can be treated as purely spatial characteristics of objects. (Whether it makes sense to talk about space-without-duration at all. Cf. Kant, Hegel, Marx, Bergson, James, and Heidegger.)

I am not a physicist, but I have found that physicists are generally very good at math and very bad at understanding the meaning of math. Often, they think they are metaphysicists, when they don't know the first thing about metaphysics. The notion that there's only one way to build the dimensional metaphor to describe the various phenomena is exactly what I'm challenging here.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:14 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well no. All you need is the position of any three points on the block in our conventional three dimensions. You don't need additional dimensions.

So you're saying we actually need 3x3=9 dimensions?
posted by vacapinta at 11:08 AM on July 4, 2006


This sounds to me like a mish-mash of every dimensional-travel-related comic-book plot I have ever read.

The most prominent clue that he doesn't know what he's talking about is that he never says "maybe" and he never says "we don't know what that would be." Anyone expressing certainty about the way the world works isn't talking science.
posted by XMLicious at 11:11 AM on July 4, 2006


Anyone expressing certainty about the way the world works isn't talking science.

You don't think the use of the word "imagine" does a lot of that uncertaintizing work?
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:13 AM on July 4, 2006


Having 10 dimensions is proof of the existence of god. He obviously prefers decimal numbers and so gave us 10 digits to go in accord with the 10 dimensions!
posted by hoborg at 11:31 AM on July 4, 2006


This is an amusing thread. Like a bunch of face cards arguing about the existence of the poker players holding them.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:52 AM on July 4, 2006 [2 favorites]


Whoa, dude. Whoa.


You guys ever look at your hand? I mean...really look at it?
posted by graventy at 11:59 AM on July 4, 2006


Da flash! Da flash! It's drivelicious!!!!
posted by hexatron at 12:31 PM on July 4, 2006


Anyone expressing certainty about the way the world works isn't talking science.

You don't think the use of the word "imagine" does a lot of that uncertaintizing work?

No, I don't. Putting the word "imagine" in the title isn't remotely the same disclaimer as saying "I don't know whether the seventh dimension would be space-like or time-like" or "I'm not really sure what the concept of superstrings 'vibrating' means, so I'm not going to talk about that" or "I really have no clue what any of superstring theory actually means, all I got was the number 10."

Did you look at the table of contents of the book? It's like, let's put as many scientific buzzwords as we can find in a blender and press "pureé".

Now, if he'd entitled it something like "A Fairy Tale About Superstring Theory" that might have been appropriate. But this is more likely to confuse someone trying to understand superstring theory or n-dimensional geometry than to help them imagine it.
posted by XMLicious at 12:35 PM on July 4, 2006


In my time we only had three dimensions, and we liked it!

Oh, and your favourite dimension sucks.
posted by qvantamon at 12:52 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Dimensions are an illusion.
posted by HTuttle at 12:59 PM on July 4, 2006


What the hell? His theories about what the fifth and greater dimension are seems rather strange. I was under the impression that we didn't experience higher dimensions because they were folded up tightly, like the size of atoms, etc. String theory then holds that the loops of 'string' vibrate in 10 dimensions, but from what I understand those dimensions have nothing to do with us.

His 'alternate history' stuff is interesting to think about, but I don't think it has any bearing on, like, reality or anything any more then the third dimension represents alternate histories of an ant walking on a two dimensional field.

In reality you can 'imagine' other dimensions as things as simple as color, or density. You could build a cube filled with red-green and blue blinking lights and say it was 7-dimensional if you wanted. (height, width, length, time, redness, blueness and greenness)

I feel stupider for having watched this animation.
posted by Paris Hilton at 1:19 PM on July 4, 2006


this was kind of weak. im glad i wasn't the only one thinking that.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:26 PM on July 4, 2006


These strings, they vibrate!

These assets, they load!

These goggles, they do nothing!
posted by howling fantods at 1:28 PM on July 4, 2006


God, I've never seen somebody more completely filled with shit than this Rob Bryanton. Basically, he's a quack. That's not a value judgement: in physics, all 10 dimensions are spacial, and there's (IIRC) one temporal one added on. That's it. The concept of "dimension" in physics is very specific; it's not a metaphor for anything.

It's pretty clear that this 'dimensionalism' is stretching a concept beyond itself i.e. a metaphor. There are only three 'dimensions.'

And this is where Bryanton does his damage: in convincing people that actual physics is as arbitrary and illogical as his own writing.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:37 PM on July 4, 2006


You guys ever look at your hand? I mean...really look at it?

I've been looking at my hand a lot today, because I just burned it on a fucking pot and it still hurts. Anyway

My red/green/blue cube example above is a way of thinking about extra Cartesian dimensions.

One way to think about dimensions is to think about them as variable axis in Cartesian coordinate space. With one variable X, you have one dimension, a number line. With two variables, you two dimensions. The two dimensions could represent height and width, or they could represent something else (like time vs. pressure) you can represent all kinds of things in these coordinate spaces. Time, width, height, pressure, density, color, current, voltage and on and on.

Imagine a cloud. The cloud can be represented as hundreds of three variable vectors, each one pointing out the location of a water droplet. or it could be represented as a 4-dimensional function where the independent variables are the location and the output of the function is the density at that point. Add in time, and you have five dimensions represented.

But keep in mind that the 'density' dimension is only a 'metaphorical' dimension. It's useful for doing math about clouds (or electron probability distribution around the atom) but it doesn't really 'exist'.

So you can pick whatever metaphors you want, as this guy did. Except his metaphors are quite stupid and useless.

The whole thing with 10 dimensions is that the math works out when you figure that the strings get to vibrate in 10 dimensions, rather then just three.
posted by Paris Hilton at 1:40 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


There seem to be (as far as the physics layman has heard) no experiments that confirm or reject string theory at this time.
posted by sameasthem at 2:03 PM on July 4, 2006


In reality you can 'imagine' other dimensions as things as simple as color, or density.

But that's not the sort of "dimensions" physicists talk about, right? Someone above said "dimension" has a very specific meaning in phyics. The "redness", "greenness" and "blueness" here are just the results of the particular spatial arrangement of atoms and their subatomic particles, in three-dimensional space.

But, if I accept this animation is bunk, and he mis-represents the dimensions - (and I do - hey, like I said, it's not my field) someone had better explain what they really are then.

What, exactly, is the seventh dimension?

What is the ninth?

What do you mean by "curled up" - help us visualize that in the way this animation visualized 10 dimensions under his theory. How is a dimension "small"? In order to call something small, we need to quantitatively examine its size in relation to something else, right? How big is time? How big is "height"? How small is the 8th dimension, and what is that smallness measured in?
posted by Jimbob at 3:13 PM on July 4, 2006


Yeah, pretty much nonsense. Too bad, it started off as a nice, clear presentation.
posted by Robson at 3:15 PM on July 4, 2006


Greetings Earthlings. I am Sparx of what you might call the "Puppy Love Dimension". I have crossed the multiverse at right angles to bring warning. The arrival of our ancient adversaries from the "Savings Dimension" to your humble plane of existence is imminent! They have already conquered eight of the 10 dimensional constructs, with their fearsome false prophecies of a fast approaching "Rainy Day". Your only chance is to spazz out at your parents' lack of understanding of your forlorn hope that you can create a lasting relationship of unparalled epic romance with that cute strawberry-blonde in HomeRoom. That is all.
posted by Sparx at 3:36 PM on July 4, 2006 [2 favorites]


I got lost in the 7th dimension, where I was asked to consider all possible paths between the beginning and end of the universe compressed as a single point, which, right at the beginning, is explained to have no dimension at all. Ergo: everything is nothing.

"Not even wrong?" I'm thinking "Not even a wank."
posted by scarabic at 3:41 PM on July 4, 2006


Oh shit. Everything is nothing in the Tenth dimension again. Or everything is everything. It's the Lauren Hill dimension!
posted by scarabic at 3:55 PM on July 4, 2006


For starters, stop thinking about some sort of strict ordering of dimensions. Consider the three spatial dimensions we're normally familiar with. Where you are right now, you can divide them into "forward-backward", "left-right", and "up-down". Now turn 45 degrees, or tilt your head. Those directions are no longer special. When we talk about three dimensions, we mean that there are three ways to move, but there is no "first dimension".

To understand a small, curled up dimension, it will take an analogy. Take a piece of paper and roll it into a tube with a small diameter. For the sake of analogy, pretend that the tube is infinitely long. What you have now is a two-dimensional surface, with one large (infinite) dimension, and one small dimension that is curled up. Anything confined to the surface of the tube will move freely along the long dimension, but will not be able to go far along the short, curled-up dimension.

The three spatial dimensions that we're used to may be infinite, but they're certainly very big. Any extra dimensions must be small (or else we would have observed a number of funny effects, such as a dramatic strengthening of gravity at small distances. This "smallness" is measured the same way we measure any size --in length. Extra dimensions must have a small diameter. I forget what experimental bounds have been placed on the maximum diameter, let's just say that they're smaller than a bread-box.

Time extends all the way back to the big bang (over 13 billion years ago) and from what we can tell, will have no end in the future. Believe it or not, the relationship between time and space is pretty well-understood by physicists. Minkowski first figured it out, and Einstein helped complete the picture. It is possible (and meaningful) to measure time in meters. Anyway, time is a "large" dimension.
posted by Humanzee at 3:57 PM on July 4, 2006 [2 favorites]


That's Lauryn Hill

I am against after-the-fact spelling corrections unless they are key to meaning. In this case, it's key that you not think me a completely out-of-it white guy, even though I pretty much am. In the 3rd dimension, anyway.

[folds through the dimension above]
posted by scarabic at 3:57 PM on July 4, 2006


Fair enough, Paris; I think I overstepped. But (glad you agree) this guy has nothing coherent to say, partly because he obviously doens't know shit about the science in question.

Jimbob: In our universe dimensions can have a size if they're not infinite. For example, if the length, width, and depth dimensions are not infinite, then going far enough in any direction will bring you back to your starting point.

Think of the arcade game Asteroids: go far enough to the right, and you're back on the left (topologically, the asteroids screen is a doughnut because the left and right edges are the same place and the top and bottom edges are the same place. Fold the screen (think of it as a piece of paper now) so that the left and right edges meet and you have a cylander; fold the cylander so that the top and bottom meet and you have a doughnut (a torus, in math-speak)). The screen has a size: 14 inches wide and 18 tall, or whatever.

The higher dimensions of string theory the same way, but they're unimaginably tiny: go any distance in them at all, almost, and you're where you started. They're therefore only "visible" on subsubsubsubatomic scales, where they have relevance for the behavior of strings, which are also that tiny.
posted by Tlogmer at 4:05 PM on July 4, 2006


In our universe dimensions can have a size if they're not infinite.

Qualifying that: they can have a size if they're infinite, too, but it's harder to think of sizes in terms of infinities.

posted by Tlogmer at 4:07 PM on July 4, 2006


The higher dimensions of string theory the same way, but they're unimaginably tiny: go any distance in them at all, almost, and you're where you started.

That's what I'm talking about, thanks Tlogmer.
posted by Jimbob at 4:33 PM on July 4, 2006


Any extra dimensions must be small (or else we would have observed a number of funny effects, such as a dramatic strengthening of gravity at small distances. This "smallness" is measured the same way we measure any size --in length. Extra dimensions must have a small diameter. I forget what experimental bounds have been placed on the maximum diameter

In 1926 Oskar Klein calculated the size of the fifth dimension as being the Planck length, that is, ten to the power of -33 centimetres. Dimensions six to ten are supposed to be about the same, though if you're buying curtains for them and they're too big don't blame me.
posted by Hogshead at 4:52 PM on July 4, 2006


I do wish I could fold the fourth dimension to make it load faster.
posted by fungible at 5:11 PM on July 4, 2006


Fair enough, Paris; I think I overstepped. But (glad you agree) this guy has nothing coherent to say, partly because he obviously doens't know shit about the science in question.

I didn't mean to disagree with you, in fact when I read what you write I added more to what I said. You can think of other not spatial dimensions in some Cartesian space (like color, density, and so on) but when it comes to real-world space then you're right. There are the 'real' 4 dimensions and then the tiny other real spatial dimensions we don't experience. Obviously you can have as many 'metaphorical/imaginary/virtual' dimensions as you like. Fascinating.
posted by Paris Hilton at 5:23 PM on July 4, 2006


Sounded to me like absolute cuckoo-bird talk.
posted by mrnutty at 7:09 PM on July 4, 2006


Things I learned:
+ One minute in the future, you could be a chef, a doctor, on in a wheelchair. Don't fuck around with the fifth dimension.
+ I was right when I said (early on in high school) that time was the fourth dimension (not my conclusion) and that probability must therefore be the fifth (my conclusion). But I was also wrong.
+ I've been there, but you can't get there from here.

Lingering issues:
- I was always under the presumption that a 2-dimensional creature would see a 1-dimensional surface, the same way we don't see three dimensions (all sides) of an object. We infer a third dimension in our second dimensional perceptions through stereoscopic interferometry.
- What the dickety are these vibrating strings that make up matter themselves made from?
- Of course, the demonstration did nothing to explain how 10 dimensions relates to the everyday matter I know and love, but A) it was just a flash demonstration and B) it only advertised understanding the tenth dimension, not understanding the 10th dimension and how the manipulation thereof can give Eideteker control of all possible universes. My bad for getting my hopes up.
- As an afterthought, it's interesting that photons, the basic particles through which we do all the "observing" this thread talks about, are inherently four-dimensional. They propagate through perpendicular motion of the electric and magnetic field, move along a third vector perpendicular to both over the course of time. Maybe that's a "duh" tautological statement, but is it the case that the unverse exists because of these certain fundamental laws, or is it the case that we perceive the universe in 3+1 dimensions because they're what's convenient for interaction? I mean, it seems duh that we can see what frequencies we can, until you learn that they're part of the very narrow band of e-m radiation our atmosphere allows through. Similarly, a lot of SF just assumes intelligent life will breathe oxygen (not too many Star Trek races use respirators) until you consider that oxygen is a rather caustic chemical that is actively breaking your body down every time you breathe it. But it's plentiful in our particular planet's atmosphere, and allows for more energetic activity than CO2-fueled plants can undertake. Often, what we consider to be fundamental properties of a system turn out to be emergent due to convenience or availability, and, in hindsight, reveal more about our world than we ever imagined.

"Oh, and I still don't get the "vibrations" thing. If things are "vibrating" in the 10th dimension - what dimension are they vibrating into? If you pluck a 1-dimensional string, it vibrates back and forth into the 2nd dimension, right?"

Dimension 10 is to 9 as "time" is to our 3rd. For things to move across the 9th dimensional fold, there must be a time for them to complete the maneuver. So if 4 is time, 7 could be called "hypertime" (possibly allowing for what SF writers call hyperspace travel?), 10 would be something like "metatime," which may or may not be like the metatime encountered in our time travel stories. So, yes, Virginia, time is both the 4th dimension AND the final dimension, which reconciles the two conflicting things I've heard for most of my life. Of course, I'm talking completely out of my ass/arse, but that's what I make of it.

"So the 5th dimension is choice?"

Not so much choice as probability. As I understand it, electrons in their orbits fall into very precise waveforms simply because those waveforms constitute a closed loop. So you have a closed loop of 1, 2, 3, etc. oscillations. If you have 1.278 oscillations, the waveform won't come back to where it started, it collapses, and therefore fails to have ever existed. Think of a sine wave looped into a circle that has to come back to its origin. This creates the discrete (not discreet) quanta that give quantum mechanics its name. You have to have at least enough energy to go from exactly one oscillation to exactly two, or the waveform won't be stable enough to materialize. Of course, the electron can, and often is, in any number of locations, however, the only ones which manifest are the ones stable in our universe. Certain situations create circumstances where more than one waveform is possible, however. Whether or not this constitutes choice on a macroscopic level is still up to the philosophers, I think.

"What's the 12th - cosmic love?"

No, baby, cosmic love is the one where we're all one point in the seventh dimension. It's like a big orgy of all possible orgies. The 8th is the road between those orgies, and the 9th is travelling between them. The 10th is the time it takes to get there, and to get your nut off.

"It's pretty clear that this 'dimensionalism' is stretching a concept beyond itself i.e. a metaphor. There are only three 'dimensions.' After that, we're talking about time, possibility, other possible universerses, etc. To call those things dimensions is to take a concept developed in three-dimensional space and push it to apply to something other than space."

Physical dimensions are not necessarily geometric dimensions. You will never see something that is one or two dimensional (they're too thin, even for photons to interact with), but you can conceptualize it. How is this different? A line drawn on paper has width, and I think an electron microscope would reveal it has depth as well. For you to conceptualize it as a single dimension takes a cognitive leap which, by now, you have learned to take for granted.

"To understand a small, curled up dimension, it will take an analogy. Take a piece of paper and roll it into a tube with a small diameter. For the sake of analogy, pretend that the tube is infinitely long. What you have now is a two-dimensional surface, with one large (infinite) dimension, and one small dimension that is curled up."

I always thought of it the other way. The one dimension around the tube is infinite (or appears so; a circle has no end) whereas the lengthwise direction of a finite tube does indeed end, and so is infinitely shorter. Or am I getting this confused with manifolds?

I was just thinking I need to read Kaku's Hyperspace, and this is an excellent reminder of that fact; as well as a time when this shit fired my imagination on an hourly basis.
posted by Eideteker at 8:32 PM on July 4, 2006


A lot of people are having problems with #7, so I went back and watched it AND #4.

If you took physics at all in high school, you probably mapped motion of an object vs. time. Usually, when graphing this on paper, you have an x for movement, and a t for time. That x, however, can represent motion in three dimensions. Every point on that line is a zero-dimensional representation of a three dimensional happening, and you move to subsequent points through time. From the sound of it, no one got lost there.

Now I blanched the moment the narrator said infinity, because that's a very tricky concept. Imagine, for example, the set of all even whole numbers (counting by twos: 2, 4, 6, 8, etc.). It's infinite, right? But so is the set of all whole numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.). Which is larger? Similarly (and simplistically), you can have levels of infinity of all shapes and sizes, so it's no inconceivable that the infinity of probabilities constituting our set of universes is a subset of a larger array of infinities.

Imagine, then, that you have the entire possible existence of our universe, based on the laws established when our Big Bang supposedly happened (and I don't mean supposedly when, I mean supposedly if Big Bang theory is correct; because I'm not convinced that the "Big Bang" is more than one point on a circle along which we 'travel' in an arbitrary direction called "entropy"). But if you imagine a different Big Bang, based on different conditions and even different physical laws, then an entirely different set of probabilities exists. Some universes might have only lasted a few seconds; maybe the gravitational constant was so great it already had its Big Crunch, for example.

Think of the fifth dimension, or of the second Back to the Future movie. You can't get to the universe where the speed of light is seven times what it is in this universe by travelling in six dimensions, because it resulted from a different Big Bang. The Big Bang is such an important milestone because it is assumed that all useful information was destroyed by it, and all the dimensions, including time, were created by it; therefore it's meaningless to talk about "before" the Big Bang (before involves time, which didn't exist, y'see?), and we can say "initial" conditions because, well, time t = 0, for all intents and/or purposes. So you can't simply travel back to get to that universe, you have to step outside all of your possible universes (based on your particular Big Bang) to get to it.

Why this matters to us is that some folks think that, as I said above, matter does all the possible things it can, all the time; but the only occurances we see are the ones that make sense (from a quantum mechanical standpoint). So when you send a single electron or photon at two parallel slits, you will get an interference pattern as if there were two electrons— or as if the electron went through both slits. Because, technically, it does, since either slit has an equal probability (within the guidelines of the experiment). So this is an observable, spatial representation of the fifth dimension (which some of you called "choice"; though not necessarily conscious choice, just probabilistic). Unfortunately, we cannot measure probabilities outside our set of universes, so we cannot test this in the 8th dimension; however, as a few people have said, the higher dimensions help explain these and other behaviors mathematically. Because just about all of quantum mechanics (according to the Copenhagen Interpretation) boils down to statistical modelling of particles and their behaviors, in terms of probabilities of possible things happening. Of course, if an 8th, 9th, and 10th dimension do exist and do consist of probabilities entirely alien to our infinite set of universes (but only one level of infinity, remember), then a sort of quantum tunnelling (bad term for it, I know) between these infinities may be possible, requiring us to expand exponentially our theory of what's possible (and therefore our math).
posted by Eideteker at 9:15 PM on July 4, 2006 [2 favorites]


Other links I meant to include but forgot:
Quantum decoherence, which is what I mean by collapse (it's an idea which has started to supercede, or at least appears to underlie waveform collapse itself). As stated in the article, the various superpositions (which is what I meant by all the possibilities) do exist, but only the stable one(s) manifests in a measurable fashion (in this universe; other universes may be made up of the states that don't work based on our physical laws, but do work in other universes with different initial conditions, hence our need to take them into account mathematically(?).
posted by Eideteker at 9:46 PM on July 4, 2006


Okay now this thread is just giving me a headache. Where does hypertime fit into all of this? Or all the catalogued Earths that were destroyed by the Anti-Monitor back in 1985? And how can a Crisis be infinite anyway? We all know they'll only keep this up so long as it sells comic books. That's finite, isn't it?
posted by ZachsMind at 10:04 PM on July 4, 2006


Hmmm... this thread is developing nicely. We've got a four-way battle going between the dimensional dogmatists, the dimensional relativists, the comics dimension, and the dimensional professionals, who are sometimes also relativists or dogmatists.

A string-theory question: there's a lot of math that posits 10 dimensions, but what experimental phenomena does this math purport to describe? I'm not asking a falsification question, but rather: what behavior, of which particles, leads us to presume small, folded spaces? (I'm assuming it's the weird jumping, tunneling, and/or time-skipping behavior of subatomic particles like hadrons.) If so, it's simply an explanatory model, and 'getting it right' references this particular model and nothing more. Our sound engineer just slapped some flash animation together to imagine some other "10 dimensional" space; he's mostly just playing with pictures that fold the visual field like the proverbial newspaper.

The problem with-as-yet-unfalsifiable theories is that there's no reason to believe a more interesting theory won't come along. The math looks right, but the real appeal of string theory is the goofy look stoned nineteen year-olds get when you explain it to them. Especially double majors in music theory and physics. Duuude.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:34 AM on July 5, 2006


The weird jumping and time-skipping behavior of quantum mechanics is the result of bad explanations of quantum mechanics (i.e. particles don't jump or time-skip, but bad pop-sci books and articles may describe them as doing so). Tunneling is a real phenomenon, and there is no doubt that tunneling and other phenomena seem very strange; but that is because we're not used to them. They are not illogical or impossible, only different then the behavior that we observe in our everyday life. We have observed them in experiments though. These effects are all explained quantitatively by quantum mechanics, which can work in any number of (spatial) dimensions.

Sadly, the reason that string theory requires many dimensions is complicated. There are many historical, physical, and mathematical reasons for supposing that the fundamental units of matter might not be points. If one takes them to be strings and attempts to use quantum mechanics, one finds that it gives garbage answers in 4D spacetime, yet can be fixed by moving to a spacetime with a specific number of dimensions. These extra dimensions must be small or else we would have detected them. They don't have to be curled up, but that is one way of keeping them small. As for being unverifiable, a least string theory is built upon general relativity and quantum mechanics, which are extremely well-tested. That gives it a chance of being right. If you pull a theory out of your butt, it's unlikely to have that property.
posted by Humanzee at 11:01 AM on July 5, 2006


Isn't the common name for the eight dimension the "Buckaroo Bonzai" dimension?
posted by webnrrd2k at 2:49 PM on July 5, 2006


As for being unverifiable, a least string theory is built upon general relativity and quantum mechanics, which are extremely well-tested. That gives it a chance of being right. If you pull a theory out of your butt, it's unlikely to have that property.

Well, -my- butt is unlikely to be fertile ground for theoretical physics. I take your point, however. Yet, as I understand it, general relativity and quantum mechanics aren't even consistent with each other. So, while they -are- 'extremely well-tested,' any attempt at combining them runs into that basic conflict. Me and my butt will hold out for something less absurd and trendy than multi-dimensional vibrating meta-strings. :-) Or at least, we'll be waiting for someone versed in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason to explain them.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:55 PM on July 8, 2006


« Older Its a rare 1962 Peanuts album recording from Charl...  |  Look, just take some time and ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments