Friday, September 17, 2010

Perception and Dimension

I was reminded recently of an idea I thought I'd share here.

Perception is a funny thing.

Because it is processed by brains and minds various things arise. One is illusions which tend to be more about how the brain processes the input from the sense organs but our minds - our experience, expectations, memory - affect what we see too - another kind of illusion if you will. Externalizing this idea of how our minds affect perception and you get things like the Matrix and Dark City and other ideas of being trapped in a world of unreality. But it can also be shared in a culture - "manifest destiny" "first nations"…. How many of you saw the word sex before reading this far down?

But I want to explore this in another direction (!) and with another goal eventually.

Perceiving things we don't often see - it's hard - there aren't many right angles in some cultures and big buffalos far away may look like an insect if you're not used to distances.

We talk about 5 senses, some know there are more. But when you read up on astronomy or other sciences you recognize there are diverse phenomena that can be used as input to tell you about the world we live in. Each tells you something about the world and has unique qualities and yet it's all in the world. Philosophically this gets into analogies of blind people touching elephant parts and getting very different views. But let's explore a bit.

If we used sonar instead of sight…. well then skin color race issues wouldn't exist. So Dolphins and Bats don't much care what color they are. But they do very much care if you are part of their group or an interloper. And pregnancies would be different - imagine we all could take sonograms of eachother every time we hugged! Babies and other body changes - feeling bloated, having a tumor, even being hungry with an empty stomach would all be things we would see in eachother. Clouds might show up alittle but there would be no moon, no stars, no space, no Sun - at least from a sonar sense. But maybe the heat of the sun would cause a shimmering air which would bend sound and we'd see around things.

There is a phenomena called neutrinos. Super elusive (hmm - illusive?) particles affected by almost nothing. If we did have neutrino sight instead of light then… the Earth would be nearly transparent and the sky would be filled with flash of light lasting several seconds. Turns out supernovae put out MUCH more energy in neutrinos than they do in light. Supernova generally match the total visual output of a galaxy, but since we don't see many galaxies in the sky every night we don't notice this much. But since supernovae put out MUCH more energy in neutrinos then we really would see them going off in all the galaxies - in all directions, like camera flashes in a sports stadium or concert. On the other hand regular stars would be dim - even the sun. While brighter than the background it would still be a fairly tiny moving spot in the sky - we'd be seeing the fusion reaction core of the sun - not the photosphere, against the background haze of neutrinos released in the Big Bang. But there's no clouds, hardly an Earth at all, no solar eclipses; you'd never see your spouse or parents or children.

And yet through science we can reconcile these world views. Because we know something of how neutrinos and sonar works I can describe this to you.

Alittle bigger bend is to consider interdimensional perception. Eyes allow us to see in three dimensions and frankly potentially across the entire universe. But work in another dimension and it's very limiting. As a working frame to use for your imagination, consider Flatland, a book from 1884. The world is 2 dimensional - what we would call a surface. And then you have a 3d interaction with the 2d world. Your finger touches the surface so a flatlander sees a spot appear - it gets bigger without being filled in from it's edges. A 3-der can pick up a 2der and move it to another place on the surface and from it's pov it didn't travel anywhere in between - the world kind of squeezed and distorted and got distant and then jumped into view from another direction and unsqueezed back - kind of like at sections of this Star Trek NG Episode. But you can extrapolate in a 4d world to us 3ders too. There was a conference of a 4d world where a paper was presented "Navigation in 4D Virtual Environments ". I quote:

In a first experiment, we tested whether people can learn to move efficiently from one location to some remote location in a rich, immersive 4D VE (Virtual Environment.) All participants in this experiment improved their search and navigation skills dramatically. Yet it was clear that they used landmarks to select efficient routes, a navigation technique common in the real world (“turn left at the Shell station”), rather than some high-dimensional map of the environment. In a second experiment, we used non-immersive, maze-like VEs to test whether people can learn to point towards an unseen, remote location in 4D space and to estimate its straight-line distance. Ability to perform such tasks is often taken as evidence, when working in 2D and 3D environments, for use of a more global, map-like representation of space. Results depended on the individual participants. While all improved their performance in what are initially extremely difficult tasks, at the end of training only some were able to point immediately and accurately towards a remote location. Interestingly, certain participants in these experiments, particularly the first, immersive one, reported a strong feeling , when walking about afterwards, that the real world was but a 3D cross-section of a 4D one and that they should have been able to move their bodies to explore the missing dimension.

Physicists are working on a theory that might make one rule of math to explain all the natural forces we know - but it takes 11 dimensions plus time. That's a really complex universe. An 11 dimensional view of our world of 3d folks… it's beyond my comprehension to bridge it. But I too get a sense of a direction about it. A Lakota story may illustrate.

Science and math takes some things very seriously. Other things it says little about and many in that world don't take other worlds seriously at all. Angels, souls, these are words of worlds far away from neutrinos and 10d branes vibrating in 11d space creating 3d existences as we know it. But if we start with crediting eachother's experiences, then angels save lives too. Near death experiences are diverse and also overlapping. Maybe they are just brain chemistry doing weird things. Writing this stuff is doing weird things to my brain chemistry right now. But Reinee Pasarow has presented her experiences and an extended talk which was filmed (Part 1, Part 2, (may have to hit "reload") with a partial transcript,) and analyzed from a religious point of view in a commentary and analyzed as part of the paper The Exploration of Life After Death. Doesn't seem like just brain chemistry to me.

But one way to reconcile some of life, as well as physics, might be to view it as a limited part of a world that is wider than we see. Maybe those in the next world are invested in what's going on here. So in sum, (knock on wood) perhaps we would be well served by taking moments to simply witness moments in all the ways we can. Miracles are not in our everyday experience so it's hard to even see them but keep in mind that all the religions want us to be good to eachother and use your heart as much as your mind. Grok me? Or did I take the long way around for a really really short trip? Maybe just take a moment and breath and feel that belly button move. Knowledge is a single point after all….