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At Mind Matters News: Are Extra Dimensions of the Universe Real or Imaginary?

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The human mind can imagine and work with a world that we cannot physically apprehend, that follows the rules of mathematics.

In a classic 2018 essay, republished recently at Aeon, science writer and artist Margaret Wertheim, author of a number of books, including Physics on the Fringe (Walker Books, 2011), asks us to think about what “extra dimensions” really means:

While on the local level we are trained to think of space as having three dimensions, general relativity paints a picture of a four-dimensional universe, and string theory says it has 10 dimensions – or 11 if you take an extended version known as M-Theory. There are variations of the theory in 26 dimensions, and recently pure mathematicians have been electrified by a version describing spaces of 24 dimensions. But what are these ‘dimensions’? And what does it mean to talk about a 10-dimensional space of being?


In the ancient Western world, she tells us, there was no clear idea of space; rather, the ruling concept was of “place.” A cup on the table is in one place and the air surrounding it is in the place surrounding it. The table is in the place underneath it. Everything has its “place. ”That made it difficult, perhaps, to think of space in abstract terms.

It wasn’t until the early 17th century that Galileo and Descartes (1596– 1650) incorporates Euclidean geometry, with its dimensions, into physics. An interesting side note is that artists, not scientists, led the way in this area:

During the late Middle Ages… a view began to percolate in Europe that God had created the world according to the laws of Euclidean geometry. Hence, if artists wished to portray it truly, they should emulate the Creator in their representational strategies. From the 14th to the 16th centuries, artists such as Giotto, Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca developed the techniques of what came to be known as perspective – a style originally termed ‘geometric figuring’.- By consciously exploring geometric principles, these painters gradually learned how to construct images of objects in three-dimensional space. In the process, they reprogrammed European minds to see space in a Euclidean fashion.


In 1905, Albert Einstein added time as a fourth dimension, hence spacetime. It wasn’t just a concept, Wertheim tells us: “Only in a 4D model of the world can electromagnetism be fully and accurately described.”

There is also the concept of a fourth spatial dimension, often pictured as a tesseract, a four-dimensional cube.

Just as the sides of a cube are squares, the sides of a tesseract are cubes. No instances are currently known in nature.

Now, what about, say, a fifth dimension?

Euclidean geometry, unlike the teacup on the table, is an abstract approach to space. We can add a fifth and sixth dimension in mathematics and work with them as with the others. We cannot easily picture them, of course. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t exist. We can’t picture infrared or ultraviolet light either because we can’t see those parts of the light spectrum.

When the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force were discovered in the mid-20th century, some physicists wondered if they could be regarded as the fifth and sixth dimensions. Gradually, controversial string theory began to take shape:

It turns out that in order to encompass both of these two forces, we have to add another five dimensions to our mathematical description. There’s no a priori reason it should be five; and, again, none of these additional dimensions relates directly to our sensory experience. They are just there in the mathematics. So this gets us to the 10 dimensions of string theory. Here there are the four large-scale dimensions of spacetime (described by general relativity), plus an extra six ‘compact’ dimensions (one for electromagnetism and five for the nuclear forces), all curled up in some fiendishly complex, scrunched-up, geometric structure.


Do all these dimensions really exist? Well, that depends on whether the premises of much-disputed string theory, a form of post-modern physics are accepted. Wertheim’s comment could serve equally well as a warning:

So far, we have no evidence for any of these additional dimensions – we are still in the land of swimming physicists dreaming of a miniature landscape we cannot yet access – but string theory has turned out to have powerful implications for mathematics itself. Recently, developments in a version of the theory that has 24 dimensions has shown unexpected interconnections between several major branches of mathematics, which means that, even if string theory doesn’t pan out in physics, it will have proven a richly rewarding source of purely theoretical insight.


This short 2021 interview with theoretical physicist Brian Greene makes clear that, while purely theoretical insight may be richly rewarded, so far, hard evidence is lacking.

That doesn’t stop some hopeful travelers from anticipating a portal to an extra time dimension and or an extra space dimension that will solve the Hard Problem of consciousness.

What all these extra, mathematical space dimensions really show is that the human mind can imagine and work with a world that we cannot physically apprehend. That world is not a free-form fantasy; it follows the rules of mathematics. But it originates in our minds and most of its dimensions may exist there only in theory. Those who seek a simple, reductive explanation for human consciousness should take heed.

Mind Matters News

Although definite proof of the existence of higher spatial dimensions has not yet been obtained, the mathematical sensibility of their existence is compelling. Could our three dimensions of space be embedded within a higher-dimensional reality? Possibly. Could we ever enter into and explore this higher dimensional reality? Not likely, unless we cease to be physical, since physical matter appears to be tied to the fabric of our spacetime. In the context of ID, could the Designer God exist in higher dimensions than the three dimensions of space we can perceive? Something along this line seems reasonable.

About 10 years ago, I published a couple of articles exploring the physical ramifications of five spatial dimension for quantum particles. An amazing number of physical phenomena “fell out” of this theory, including a possible explanation of the central potential of the strong force. Here are the references to the two articles (accessible on arxiv.org):

E. R. Hedin, “Extra-dimensional confinement of quantum particles,”  Physics Essays, Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 177-190, June, 2012. (https://arxiv.org/abs/1605.04249)

E. R. Hedin, “A higher-dimensional model of the nucleon-nucleon central potential,” Frontiers of Physics, 9(2), 234-239 (2014), DOI 10.1007/s11467-013-0393-x. (https://arxiv.org/abs/1712.05260)

This piece mentions multiple time dimensions. Here is a post that attempts to explore that concept: how it might work and how two time dimensions might relate to each other: https://thopid.blogspot.com/2021/06/two-dimensional-time.html Fasteddious
Now that we have outlined the basics of what we know to be mathematically/physically true from special relativity, It is very interesting to note that many of the characteristics found in ‘heavenly’ Near Death Experience testimonies are pretty much exactly what we would expect to see from what we now know to be mathematically/physically true about Special Relativity. But before we get into that comparison, it is important to note that, (although atheists dismiss Near Death testimonies out of hand as not being worthy of consideration), the evidence for the validity of Near Death Experiences turns out to be far more robust and trustworthy than the evidence for Darwinian evolution is. As Dr. Michael Egnor noted, “The most “parsimonious” explanation — the simplest scientific explanation — is that the (Near Death) experience was real. Tens of millions of people have had such experiences. That is tens of millions of more times than we have observed the origin of species , (or the origin of life, or the origin of a protein/gene, or of a molecular machine), which is never.,,,”
Near-Death Experiences: Putting a Darwinist’s Evidentiary Standards to the Test – Dr. Michael Egnor – October 15, 2012 Excerpt: Indeed, about 20 percent of NDE’s are corroborated, which means that there are independent ways of checking about the veracity of the experience. The patients knew of things that they could not have known except by extraordinary perception — such as describing details of surgery that they watched while their heart was stopped, etc. Additionally, many NDE’s have a vividness and a sense of intense reality that one does not generally encounter in dreams or hallucinations.,,, The most “parsimonious” explanation — the simplest scientific explanation — is that the (Near Death) experience was real. Tens of millions of people have had such experiences. That is tens of millions of more times than we have observed the origin of species , (or the origin of life, or the origin of a protein/gene, or of a molecular machine), which is never.,,, The materialist reaction, in short, is unscientific and close-minded. NDE’s show fellows like Coyne at their sneering unscientific irrational worst. Somebody finds a crushed fragment of a fossil and it’s earth-shaking evidence. Tens of million of people have life-changing spiritual experiences and it’s all a big yawn. Note: Dr. Egnor is professor and vice-chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/10/near_death_expe_1065301.html
In short, we have far more ‘observational’ evidence that NDEs are real, and that they are, for the most part, trustworthy, than we do for the Darwinian claim that unguided material processes can generate the immaterial information that is found to be ubiquitous within, and foundational to, life. Now as to how NDEs and special relativity correspond. Many times people who have had a deep Near Death Experience mention that their perception of time was radically altered. In the following video clip, Mickey Robinson gives his Near Death testimony of what it felt like for him to experience a ‘timeless eternity’.
‘In the ‘spirit world,,, instantly, there was no sense of time. See, everything on earth is related to time. You got up this morning, you are going to go to bed tonight. Something is new, it will get old. Something is born, it’s going to die. Everything on the physical plane is relative to time, but everything in the spiritual plane is relative to eternity. Instantly I was in total consciousness and awareness of eternity, and you and I as we live in this earth cannot even comprehend it, because everything that we have here is filled within the veil of the temporal life. In the spirit life that is more real than anything else and it is awesome. Eternity as a concept is awesome. There is no such thing as time. I knew that whatever happened was going to go on and on.’ In The Presence Of Almighty God – The NDE of Mickey Robinson – video (testimony starts at 27:45 minute mark) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voak1RM-pXo
And to get this point across, here are a few more quotes from people who have had deep Near Death Experiences, that speak of how their perception of time was radically altered, i.e. how they experienced ‘eternity’,
‘Earthly time has no meaning in the spirit realm. There is no concept of before or after. Everything – past, present, future – exists simultaneously.’ – Kimberly Clark Sharp – Near Death Experiencer ‘There is no way to tell whether minutes, hours or years go by. Existence is the only reality and it is inseparable from the eternal now.’ – John Star – NDE Experiencer
As well, people who have had deep Near Death Experiences also frequently mention going through a tunnel, towards an extremely brilliant light, to a higher heavenly dimension:
“Very often as they’re moving through the tunnel, there’s a very bright mystical light … not like a light we’re used to in our earthly lives. People call this mystical light, brilliant like a million times a million suns…” – Jeffrey Long M.D. – has studied NDE’s extensively The Tunnel and the Near-Death Experience Excerpt: One of the nine elements that generally occur during NDEs is the tunnel experience. This involves being drawn into darkness through a tunnel, at an extremely high speed, until reaching a realm of radiant golden-white light. https://near-death.com/tunnel/
In the following video, Barbara Springer gives her testimony as to what it felt like for her to go through the tunnel towards ‘the light’:
“I started to move toward the light. The way I moved, the physics, was completely different than it is here on Earth. It was something I had never felt before and never felt since. It was a whole different sensation of motion. I obviously wasn’t walking or skipping or crawling. I was not floating. I was flowing. I was flowing toward the light. I was accelerating and I knew I was accelerating, but then again, I didn’t really feel the acceleration. I just knew I was accelerating toward the light. Again, the physics was different – the physics of motion of time, space, travel. It was completely different in that tunnel, than it is here on Earth. I came out into the light and when I came out into the light, I realized that I was in heaven.” – Barbara Springer – (7:40 minute mark) Near-Death Experience Documentary: “Shadows: Perceptions of Near-Death Experiencers” https://youtu.be/HR0x57aMv-k?t=460
And in the following audio clip, Vicki Noratuk, who has been blind from birth, (besides being able to ‘miraculously” see for the very first time in her life during her Near Death Experience), Vicki also gives testimony of going through a tunnel at a ‘horrifically’ rapid rate of speed:
“I was in a body, and the only way that I can describe it was a body of energy, or of light. And this body had a form. It had a head, it had arms and it had legs. And it was like it was made out of light. And it was everything that was me. All of my memories, my consciousness, everything.”,,, “And then this vehicle formed itself around me. Vehicle is the only thing, or tube, or something, but it was a mode of transportation that’s for sure! And it formed around me. And there was no one in it with me. I was in it alone. But I knew there were other people ahead of me and behind me. What they were doing I don’t know, but there were people ahead of me and people behind me, but I was alone in my particular conveyance. And I could see out of it. And it went at a tremendously, horrifically, rapid rate of speed. But it wasn’t unpleasant. It was beautiful in fact.,, I was reclining in this thing, I wasn’t sitting straight up, but I wasn’t lying down either. I was sitting back. And it was just so fast. I can’t even begin to tell you where it went or whatever it was just fast!” – Vicki’s NDE – Blind since birth – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e65KhcCS5-Y
And in the following quotes, the two Near Death Experiencers both testify that they firmly believe that they were in a higher heavenly dimension that is above this three-dimensional world, and that the reason that they have a very difficult time describing what their Near Death Experiences actually felt like is because we simply don’t currently have the words to properly describe that higher dimension:
“Regardless, it is impossible for me to adequately describe what I saw and felt. When I try to recount my experiences now, the description feels very pale. I feel as though I’m trying to describe a three-dimensional experience while living in a two-dimensional world. The appropriate words, descriptions and concepts don’t even exist in our current language. I have subsequently read the accounts of other people’s near-death experiences and their portrayals of heaven and I able to see the same limitations in their descriptions and vocabulary that I see in my own.” – Mary C. Neal, MD – “To Heaven And Back” pg. 71 “Well, when I was taking geometry, they always told me there were only three dimensions, and I always just accepted that. But they were wrong. There are more… And that is why so hard for me to tell you this. I have to describe with words that are three-dimensional. That’s as close as I can get to it, but it’s really not adequate.” – John Burke – “Imagine Heaven” pg. 51 – quoting a Near Death Experiencer
That what we now know to be physically true from special relativity, (namely that it outlines a ‘timeless’, i.e. eternal, ‘dimension of light’ that exists above this temporal dimension), would fit hand and glove with the personal testimonies of people who have had a deep heavenly NDEs is, needless to say, powerful evidence that their testimonies are, in fact, true, and that they are accurately describing the physical ‘reality’ of a higher heavenly dimension, that they experienced first hand, that really does physically exist above this temporal dimension. I would even go so far as to say that such corroboration from ‘non-physicists’, who, in all likelihood, know nothing about the details of special relativity, substantially adds to the overall validity of their personal NDE testimonies, and thus substantially adds to the Christian’s claim for a heavenly ‘eternal’ paradise that really does exist above this temporal realm.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
As to: "Could we ever enter into and explore this higher dimensional reality?" I hold that, via Near Death experiences, this has been done already, or at least it has been done for the 'higher dimensional reality' of special relativity itself. But before we get into that, first a little background. The mathematics of special relativity is based on a single four-dimensional continuum which is now known as Minkowski space. In fact, the higher dimensional nature of special relativity was a mathematical discovery that was made by one of Einstein math professors, Hermann Minkowski, in 1908 prior to Einstein’s elucidation of General Relativity in 1915. And In 1916 Einstein was gracious enough to fully acknowledged his indebtedness to his former math professor.
Spacetime Excerpt: In 1908, Hermann Minkowski—once one of the math professors of a young Einstein in Zurich—presented a geometric interpretation of special relativity that fused time and the three spatial dimensions of space into a single four-dimensional continuum now known as Minkowski space. A key feature of this interpretation is the definition of a spacetime interval that combines distance and time. Although measurements of distance and time between events differ for measurements made in different reference frames, the spacetime interval is independent of the inertial frame of reference in which they are recorded. Minkowski’s geometric interpretation of relativity was to prove vital to Einstein’s development of his 1915 general theory of relativity, wherein he showed that spacetime becomes curved in the presence of mass or energy.,,, Einstein, for his part, was initially dismissive of Minkowski’s geometric interpretation of special relativity, regarding it as überflüssige Gelehrsamkeit (superfluous learnedness). However, in order to complete his search for general relativity that started in 1907, the geometric interpretation of relativity proved to be vital, and in 1916, Einstein fully acknowledged his indebtedness to Minkowski, whose interpretation greatly facilitated the transition to general relativity.[10]:151–152 Since there are other types of spacetime, such as the curved spacetime of general relativity, the spacetime of special relativity is today known as Minkowski spacetime. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacetime
Moreover, these four dimensional spacetimes that undergird both special relativity and general relativity are also comforting to overall Christian concerns in that they reveal two very different ‘eternities’ to us. One ‘eternity’ is found for a hypothetical observer who is going the speed of light, and another ‘eternity’ is found for a hypothetical observer falling to the event horizon of a black hole.
Time dilation Excerpt: Time dilation: special vs. general theories of relativity: In Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity, time dilation in these two circumstances can be summarized: 1. –In special relativity (or, hypothetically far from all gravitational mass), clocks that are moving with respect to an inertial system of observation are measured to be running slower. (i.e. For any observer accelerating, hypothetically, to the speed of light, time, as we understand it, will come to a complete stop.) 2.–In general relativity, clocks at lower potentials in a gravitational field—such as in closer proximity to a planet—are found to be running slower. (i.e. For any observer falling to the event horizon of a black-hole, time, as we understand it, will come to a complete stop.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_dilation
Specifically, in Einstein’s special relativity we find that time passes differently for different ‘observers’ depending on how fast the observers are moving through space, “with time slowing to a stop as one, (an observer), approaches the speed of light .”
Time dilation caused by a relative velocity Excerpt: Special relativity indicates that, for an observer in an inertial frame of reference, a clock that is moving relative to them will be measured to tick slower than a clock that is at rest in their frame of reference. This case is sometimes called special relativistic time dilation. The faster the relative velocity, the greater the time dilation between one another, with time slowing to a stop as one approaches the speed of light (299,792,458 m/s). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_dilation#Time_dilation_caused_by_a_relative_velocity
To grasp the whole ‘time slowing to a stop as one, (an observer), approaches the speed of light’ concept a little more easily, imagine moving away from the face of a clock at the speed of light. Would not the hands on the clock stay stationary as you moved away from the face of the clock at the speed of light? Moving away from the face of a clock at the speed of light happens to be the exact same ‘thought experiment’ that gave Einstein his breakthrough insight into special relativity.
“In the spring of 1905, Einstein was riding on a bus and he looked back at the famous clock tower that dominates Bern Switzerland. And then he imagined, “What happens if that bus were racing near the speed of light?”, (narrator: “In his imagination, Einstein looks back at the clock tower and what he sees is astonishing. As he reaches the speed of light, the hands of the clock appear frozen in time”), “Einstein would later write, “A storm broke in my mind. All of the sudden everything, everything, kept gushing forward.”, (narrator: “Einstein knows that, back at the clock tower, time is passing normally, but on Einstein’s light speed bus, as he reaches the speed of light, the light from the clock can no longer catch up to him. The faster he races through space, the slower he moves through time. This insight sparks the birth of Einstein’s Special Theory of relativity, which says that space and time are deeply connected. In fact, they are one and the same. A flexible fabric called spacetime.”) – Michio Kaku Einstein: Einstein’s Miracle Year (‘Insight into Eternity’ – Thought Experiment – 6:29 minute mark) – video https://youtu.be/QQ35opgrhNA?t=389
Moreover, the finding that time, as we understand it, comes to a complete stop at the speed of light is very friendly to Theistic presuppositions about ‘eternity’ and/or ‘eternal life’. As Dr. Richard Swenson noted in his book “More Than Meets The Eye”, “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”
“The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.” – Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 11
Even Einstein himself. albeit indirectly, alluded to the Theological significance, even 'spiritual' significance, of the ‘eternity’ of special relativity when he, upon the death of his close friend Michele Besso, stated, “For those of us who believe in physics, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Einstein and Michele Besso Upon Besso’s death in 1955, Einstein wrote a letter of condolence to the Besso family—less than a month before his own death—which contained the following quote “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For those of us who believe in physics, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” http://quotingeinstein.blogspot.com/2013/06/einstein-and-michele-besso.html
That time, as we understand it, comes to a complete stop at the speed of light, and yet light moves from point A to point B in our universe, and thus light is obviously not ‘frozen within time’, has some fairly profound implications. The only way it is possible for time not to pass for light, and yet for light to move from point A to point B in our universe, is if light is of some ‘higher dimensional’ value of time than the temporal time we are currently living in. Otherwise light would simply be ‘frozen within time’ from our temporal frame of reference. And indeed, that is what 4-dimensional space-time reveals. In the first part of the following video clip, entitled ‘Optical Effects of Special Relativity”, a video which was made by two Australian University Physics Professors, we find that the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape as a ‘hypothetical’ observer approaches the ‘higher dimension’ of the ‘four-dimensional continuum’ of the speed of light.
Optical Effects of Special Relativity – video (full relativistic effects shown at 2:40 minute mark) https://youtu.be/JQnHTKZBTI4?t=160
Also please note, as was visualized at the 3:00 minute mark of the preceding video, that all of the light was concentrated into the direction of travel of the observer. This concentration of light in the direction of travel is termed the “searchlight effect” (or headlight effect).
Relativistic aberration Relativistic aberration is the relativistic version of aberration of light, including relativistic corrections that become significant for observers who move with velocities close to the speed of light. It is described by Einstein’s special theory of relativity.,,, One consequence of this is that a forward observer should normally be expected to intercept a greater proportion of the object’s light than a rearward one; this concentration of light in the object’s forward direction is referred to as the “searchlight effect” (or headlight effect). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativistic_aberration
@3 I’m not sure it would be a golf ball after passing through the previous 23 dimensions AaronS1978
Can you imagine trying to hit a golf ball in 26 dimensions? Fore………!! chuckdarwin
I suspect there's more to this Universe than what we are currently aware of. The difficulty with reconciling relativity and quantum theories suggests neither are complete and we need some sort of "umbrella" theory which encompasses them both. The frustrating thing is we have no idea of how long we may have to wait for that to come along. Seversky
I don’t entirely disagree with the OP on many of its points, but M-theory left a very sour taste in my mouth for higher dimensions AaronS1978

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