I have, in the past, ranted about how people abuse the word “dimension”, but it’s been a long time. One of my followers on twitter sent me a link to a remarkable piece of crackpottery which is a great example of how people simply do not understand what dimensions are.
There are several ways of defining “dimension” mathematically, but they all come back to one basic concept. A dimension an abstract concept of a direction. We can use the number of dimensions in a space as a way of measuring properties of that space, but those properties all come back to the concept of direction. A dimension is neither a place nor a state of being: it is a direction.
Imagine that you’re sitting in an abstract space. You’re at one point. There’s another point that I want you to go to. In order to uniquely identify your destination, how many directions do I need to mention?
If the space is a line, you only need one: I need to tell you the distance. There’s only one possible direction that you can go, so all I need to tell you is how far. Since you only need one direction, the line is one-dimensional.
If the line is a plane, then I need to tell you two things. I could do that by saying “go right three steps then up 4 steps”, or I could say “turn 53 degrees clockwise, and then walk forward 5 steps.” But there’s no way I can tell you how to get to your destination with less than two directions. You need two directions, so the plane is two dimensional.
If the space is the interior of a cube, then you’ll need three directions, which means that the cube is three dimensional.
On to the crackpottery!
E=mc2 represents a translation across dimensions, from energy to matter.
No, it does not. Energy and matter are not dimensions. is a statement about the fundamental relation between energy and matter, not a statement about dimensions. Our universe could be 2 dimensional, 3 dimensional, 4 dimensional, or 22 dimensional: relativity would still mean the same thing, and it’s not a statement about a “translation across dimensions”.
Energy can travel at the speed of light, and as Special Relativity tells us, from the perspective of light speed it takes no time to travel any distance. In this way, energy is not bound by time and space the way matter is. Therefore, it is in a way five-dimensional, or beyond time.
Energy does not travel. Light travels, and light can transmit energy, but light isn’t energy. Or, from another perspective, light is energy: but so is everything else. Matter and energy are the same thing.
From the perspective of light speed time most certainly does pass, and it does take plenty of time to travel a distance. Light takes roughly 6 minutes to get from the sun to the earth. What our intrepid author is trying to talk about here is the idea of time dilation. Time dilation describes the behavior of particles with mass when they move at high speeds. As a massive particle moves faster and approaches the speed of light, the mass of the particle increases, and the particle’s experience of time slows. If you could accelerate a massive particle to the speed of light, its mass would become infinite, and time would stop for the particle. “If” is the key word there: it can’t. It would require an infinite amount of energy to accelerate it to the speed of light.
But light has no mass. Relativity describes a strange property of the universe, which is hard to wrap your head around. Light always moves at the same speed, no matter your perspective. Take two spacecraft in outer space, which are completely stationary relative to each other. Shine a laser from one, and measure how long it takes for the light to get to the other. How fast is it going? Roughly 186,000 miles/second. Now, start one ship moving away from the other at half the speed of light. Repeat the experiment. One ship is moving away from the other at a speed of 93,000 miles/second. From the perspective of the moving ship, how fast is the light moving away from it towards the other ship? 186,000 miles/second. From the perspective of the stationary ship, how fast is the laser light approaching it? 186,000 miles/second.
It’s not that there’s some magic thing about light that makes it move while time stops for it. Light is massless, so it can move at the speed of light. Time dilation doesn’t apply because it has no mass.
But even if that weren’t the case, that’s got nothing to do with dimensionality. Dimensionality is a direction: what does this rubbish have to do with the different directions that light can move in? Absolutely nothing: the way he’s using the word “dimension” has nothing to do with what dimensions mean.
All “objects” or instances of matter are time-bound; they change, or die, or dissolve, or evaporate. Because they are subject to time, objects can be called four-dimensional.
Everything in our universe is subject to time, because time is one of the dimensions in our universe. Time is a direction that we move. We don’t have direct control over it – but it’s still a direction. When and where did I write this blog post compared to where I am when you’re reading it? The only way you can specify that is by saying how far my position has changed in four directions: 3 spatial directions, and time. Time is a dimension, and everything in our universe needs to consider it, because you can’t specify anything in our universe without all four dimensions.
The enormous energy that can be released from a tiny object (as in an atomic bomb) demonstrates the role dimensions play in constructing reality.
No: the enormous energy that can be released from a tiny object demonstrates the fact that a small quantity of matter is equivalent to a large quantity of energy. As you’d expect if you look at that original equation: . A gram of mass – something the size of a paperclip – is equivalent to about 25 million kilowatt-hours of energy – or more than the total yearly energy use of 1,200 average americans. That’s damned impressive and profound, without needing to draw in any mangled notions of dimensions or magical dimensional powers.
Higher dimensions are mind-blowingly powerful; even infinitely so. Such power is so expansive that it can’t have form, definition, or identity, like a ball of uranium or a human being, without finding expression in lower dimensions. The limitations of time and space allow infinite power to do something other than constantly annihilate itself.
Do I even need to respond to this?
Einstein’s equation E=mc2 bridges the fourth and the fifth dimensions, expressed as matter and energy. Imagine a discovery that bridges expressions of the fifth and sixth dimensions, such as energy and consciousness. Consciousness has the five-dimensional qualities of energy, but it can’t be “spent” in the way energy can because it doesn’t change form the way energy does. Therefore, it’s limitless.
And now we move from crackpottery to mysticism. Einstein’s mass-energy equation doesn’t bridge dimensions, and dimensionality has nothing do with mass-energy equivalence. And now our crackpot friend suddenly throws in another claim, that consciousness is the sixth dimension? Or consciousness is the bridge between the fifth and sixth dimensions? It’s hard to figure out just what he’s saying here, except for the fact that it’s got nothing to do with actual dimensions.
Is there a sixth dimension? Who knows? According to some modern theories, our universe actually has many more than the 4 dimensions that we directly experience. There could be 6 or 10 or 20 dimensions. But if there are, those dimensions are just other directions that things can move. They’re not abstract concepts like “consciousness”.
And of course, this is also remarkably sloppy logic:
- Consciousness has the 5-dimensional qualities of energy
- Consciousness can’t be spent.
- Consciousness can’t change form.
- Therefore consciousness is unlimited.
The first three statements are just blind assertions, given without evidence or argument. The fourth is presented as a conclusion drawn from the first three – but it’s a non-sequitur. There’s no real way to conclude the last statement given the first three. Even if you give him all the rope in the world, and accept those three statements as axioms – it’s still garbage.