(inspired by Robert Bryanton, creator of the video “Imagining the Tenth Dimension”)
I’ve watched Bryanton’s video quite some time ago, and I was amazed at how he managed to explain the concept of the tenth dimension without touching string theory or any other complex physical concepts.
Within the next few paragraphs, I’ll see if I can explain the ten dimensions to everyone in an ultra-simplified and condensed version of what was explained in Bryanton’s video.
Zeroth Dimension – The Point
A point is defined as a position in space. It has no length, width, or depth.
First Dimension – The Line
Take two points and draw a line between them, and you’ve established the first dimension. The line has length, but no width or depth.
Second Dimension – The Plane
Take a third point and place it where it is not collinear with the first two points. Connect this point to the line and you’ve unlocked the second dimension. This dimension possesses length and breadth, and opens up the idea of area on the newly created plane.
Third Dimension – The Volume (and us)
Now that you’ve a plane, create a new point that resides above/below this plane, and subsequently link the two together. This creates the third dimension, and introduces the concepts of depth and volume. The third dimension is the dimension which our physical bodies reside in, since we possess length, breadth, and depth.
Another way to open up the third dimension, is by “folding” your plane to bring any two points on it together. Imagine having a square napkin and rolling this napkin to paste the two corners of the square together, thereby forcing your plane (2-D) to transit into a cylindrical (3-D) shape.
Fourth Dimension – Time
Photo by doug88888 (Flickr)
The visualization of time as a dimension is a tricky one, but is not extremely abstract whatsoever. Imagine taking a photograph of ourselves at this moment, and again one second later. What you see, is two separate 3D versions of yourself, separated by one second of time. Time is merely a connector between these two moments. As such, using an analogy, we can visualize each and every moment of our existence as “points” in time, and time is a line that connects these moments together.
Fifth Dimension – Time + Other possible Experiences
As we know, in our lives we are confronted with many options, many decisions to make. Each time we make a decision, we decide for ourselves the fate and future we will experience. This path that we travel through can be summarized as the fourth dimension “timeline” that we draw through all moments in our lives.
But beyond this “timeline” of experience, there are also many other possible “timelines” we could have traveled through, if we had made different decisions at different points in our lives. This opens up the possibility of alternate “timelines” that branch out from the one that we have traveled, into a network that resembles a “plane of possibilites”. By analogy, we can picture this fifth dimension to be similar to how a 1-D line (representing the fourth dimension) can branch out into a 2-D area plane (representing the fifth dimension).
Sixth Dimension – Time + Other Possible Experiences + Other Impossible Experiences
So we’ve included other possibilities of our lives and summarized everything in the fifth dimension. But there also exist other “impossible” experiences that can never be reached by the decisions you make. This may be due to conditions you have been constrained within that limits the number of possible outcomes. For instance, someone who went deaf from an early age would never have know how a modern song in his adult years would sound like. In order to “access” these impossible experiences that lie beyond the “plane of possibilities”, we need to link that experience to the plane, just like how we create the third dimension by “folding” the 2-D plane through the third dimension.
Seventh Dimension – The Infinity of our Universe
Now this dimension starts becoming harder to conceptualize. In the sixth dimension, we’ve covered all possible experiences that is possible and impossible, so how do we introduce the concept of the seventh dimension? Imagine the sixth dimension as being collapsed into a single point, and we call that the point of “your experiences”. Your sixth dimension resides within the lifetime of the universe, which starts off with the big bang and ends in one outcome of the universe (theories include the big freeze, the big crunch, etc). In order to perceive the seventh dimension, you’ll need to imagine the big bang linked to all possible outcomes of the fate of the universe, and squeeze that all into a single point, which we call Infinity – the total summation of all possibilities that can arise from the big bang.
Is your mind quite messed up yet?
Eighth Dimension – Worlds beyond Infinity
So now we’ve a new problem: How can there exist anything beyond infinity? Actually, this is quite easy to see. The big bang was created with certain initial conditions, and these initial conditions go on to determine the physical world which our universe is cast in, such as the gravitational constant, or the speed of light. With that said, there could also exist other big bangs with completely different initial conditions, and each of these big bangs would give rise to entirely different universes within their individual infinities. Hence, by drawing lines to connect these infinities together, we create a plane of all our infinities which we call the eighth dimension!
Ninth Dimension – folding the plane again
Now with the eight dimension in place, what if we want to travel through one point of the eighth dimension directly to another point instantaneously? Once again, we can borrow the idea of “folding” the dimension below into the next higher dimension to achieve this effect. Remember how we folded our 2-D plane to achieve a 3-D space? Similarly, we can fold points residing along our eighth dimensional plane into the ninth dimension, and connect points across this plane directly. Hence, the ninth dimension is born.
Tenth Dimension – The End…?
OK so our minds have been completely torn asunder by now with the analogies. The tenth dimension is the end of our (painful) journey. Take the ninth dimension and collapse everything into a single point. Try imagining how we can draw a line beyond this point, and you’ll realize that it is not possible for us to conceive. As such, our tenth dimension has been constrained to a single point that describes “all the branches of all the possible timelines of all the possible universes”.
Don’t worry if you can’t get any of the above explanations. You can watch Robert Bryanton’s videos on Youtube for his examination of the 10 dimensions.
For those of you who are more well-versed with physics, I recommend you watch the annotated version, since there’s a lot of comments related to higher-level physics for your consideration:
Footnote: I initially targeted this post to be under 600 words, but it seems that I’ve almost doubled that word limit for this post.