Perception in the Fourth Dimension

I am intrigued by the notion that there is a limit to what we as humans can perceive about the universe.

Consider our dimensional space. The first dimension can be thought of as a line with no other features. The second dimension is perpendicular to the first and it also can be described as a single line, but by combining the first and second dimensions we get a plane, any point on which can be described with 2 numbers (x,y). By adding a third dimension at right angles to the first two, and combining all three, we get a cube-shaped space, in which the location of any point can be described with three numbers (x,y,z). We conceive of the universe as having three spatial dimensions and one time dimension. We can feel in three dimensions, but we only see in two dimensions and our brain deduces the third dimension visually by using other clues such as relative size, motion, juxtaposition of three dimensional objects etc. If we could actually see in three dimensions we would be able to see around and through objects, just as we can feel around and through objects.

To illustrate the difference between “seeing” in two dimensions and “feeling” in three dimensions, hold up an an empty mug. You cannot see the back of the mug and you cannot see the inside of the mug. You can only see one “plane” of the mug (even though your brain knows it is a three-dimensional object). Now take your free hand and explore the back of the mug (no peeking), the bottom of the mug, and the inside of the mug. With your hand you actually directly sense all three dimensions and you can describe the object’s shape fully. If someone had played a trick on you and given you a mug that was different on each side, your hand would detect the trick but your eyes would not. Next, tilt the mug towards you so the “plane” of observation allows you to see inside the mug. By doing this from many different planar angles, you end up with a very good “conceptual” three-dimensional idea of what the mug is like, but you did it by integrating a series of two dimensional plane views. One more quick example; your eyes are fooled by a good representational painting – seeming to see three dimensions. Running your fingers over the painting will, however, reveal the trick of the eye, and correctly determine that the painting is in fact a flat plane.

Suppose the universe is actually four dimensional but we are only living in, or at least only aware of, three of those dimensions. There is no mathematical reason why there cannot be a fourth spatial dimension and the location of any point within that space would be defined as (x,y,z,a). We at present have no way to see or feel along that fourth dimension. To understand the idea, imagine we lived in a two-dimensional space – a plane. The plane is the limit of our perception, up down and sideways, but not depth. Now imagine a small three-dimensional object astride our plane of existence and perception. We can see one slice of the object. If it moves along the third dimension, we will see new slices of the object until it no longer crosses our plane of existence and disappears from view. It might remain quite close to us but just off our two-dimensional plane and we would never know it was there.

Now let’s suppose we actually live in a three-dimensional space (as opposed to a two-dimensional plane) but that a fourth dimension exists. Now imagine a small four-dimensional object crosses our cube-shaped space of perception and existence. We can perceive only the three-dimensional part of the four-dimensional object. If it moves along the fourth dimension, we will see new three-dimensional parts of the object until it no longer crosses our cube-shaped space of existence and disappears from view. It might remain quite close to us but just off our three-dimensional cube-shaped space and we would never know it was there. Now we can also play tricks if we knew there was a two-dimensional organism. We could choose to wink in and out of the perception of that two-dimensional organism just by shifting position along the third dimension (the depth dimension) perpendicular to the plane until none of our three-dimensional parts cross the plane.

Let’s further suppose that our universe really does have four spatial dimensions. What if two independent origins of life began on our earth – one a three-dimensional chemical process and the other a four-dimensional chemical process? We, as three-dimensional organisms will only interact with the four-dimensional organisms when they are in a position on the fourth dimension that crosses our cube of existence. They might look quite ordinary in three dimensions, or they might be quite different. But whatever their appearance, they would (or could) wink in and out of our perception as they moved along their fourth dimension. What might their evolution have been like? Would it have been a parallel evolution to our own – or perhaps not quite the same, but close, except that they have this extra dimension to their actual shape?

Speculative science (fiction?) might allow us to imagine that there are four-dimensional micro-organisms, equally wild ancient types like 4-D trilobites and huge 4-D trap-jaw fish. Perhaps as 4-D evolution proceeded many of the so-called mythical beasts were not so mythical. The bible for example mentions the Behemoth, the unicorn (nine times), the cockatrice (a rooster-headed dragon), Lilith (a female demon), and satyrs (half-man, half-goat creatures). Abaddon’s locusts resemble war horses, have the stinging tails of scorpions, the faces of men, long hair like a woman’s, and wear crowns of gold and armored breastplates. Their scorpion’s tails are used to sting their victims, an experience that’s apparently so painful that ‘men shall seek death, and shall not find it.’ The 200 million horsemen whose horses have the heads of lions, tails like serpents, and spit smoke, fire, and brimstone out of their mouths, are eventually responsible for the deaths of a third of all mankind. There are lots of references to dragons and angels, and of course, the ultimate Leviathan. Almost all of these beasts and angels are immune to human weapons (slipping in and out of the fourth dimension?). Similar stories abound in almost all legends from around the world. Many such beliefs (real or imagined) are current today: fairies, sprites, pixies, elves, imps, brownies, pucks, and leprechauns. Are they actually 4-D sprites? And what about 4-D aliens who can wink in and out of existence, even taking our three-dimensional bodies with them for experimentation before returning them alive to our three-dimensional world!

There are times when I think I must set my pen or my glasses down on a spot that moves in and out of the fourth dimension, I’m sure it can’t be that I am forgetful.

How about some other ideas. My assumption (may not be true) is that the time dimension is common to all dimensions. Suppose however that time is also multidimensional and we experience only the first dimension of time. In an exact parallel to a single spatial dimension we only know time as forwards (or theoretically) backwards. Imagine a second time dimension so that “time” would be a plane and time would have two coordinates, not just one as it does now. This would allow experiencing time in one direction while not experiencing time in the other direction (I imagine myself stepping away from the office at ten o’clock, and moving along the perpendicular time-line to enjoy the sunshine. Then after an hour in that dimension, I step back into the office at the same time I left in the other time dimension. And with some fear that my brain will break, we could imagine a three-dimensional time-frame in which any point of time would require three numbers (t1, t2, t3) to determine what time it is.

It is not very useful scientifically to suggest a theoretical reality that cannot be tested. Fortunately there is a test to determine if our a universe has four spatial and one time dimension. The current theory (Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity) predicts only three spatial and one time dimension. However, the development of string theory, which has morphed into superstring then into M or membrane theory of the universe (popularly known as braneworld) is helpful. This theory requires at least four spatial dimensions and one time dimension. In a three dimensional universe, black holes would lose enough energy so that only large black holes would remain at this time in our cosmological history. By contrast in the braneworld of four or more dimensions, very small black holes should exist. If mini-black holes are detected this would confirm the existence of a fourth spatial dimension and as a corollary, the existence of multiple universes. Those tests are currently underway using the Large Hadron Collider. None have yet been detected, so at least for now we can’t say for certain if there is a fourth dimension or not.

Charles R. Keeton of Rutgers and Arlie O. Petters of Duke base their work on a recent theory called the type II Randall-Sundrum braneworld gravity model. The theory holds that the visible universe is a membrane (hence “braneworld”) embedded within a larger universe, much like a strand of filmy seaweed floating in the ocean. The “braneworld universe” has five dimensions — four spatial dimensions plus time — compared with the four dimensions — three spatial, plus time — laid out in the General Theory of Relativity.

Just to make things a little more complicated, M theory (braneworld) predicts 10 spatial dimensions and one time dimension. Now that is mind-boggling!

Human Population Increase – How Are We Doing?

Population is a critically important variable in the quest for a sustainable and healthy world. Population dynamics of natural populations is relatively well-understood. Introducing an exotic species into a new habitat where it faces little competition and has rich resources results in a steeply rising curve usually with pronounced exponential rates of increase. Here is the curve for human population increase (I used world bank and UN data) which looks more-or-less identical to a normal natural population of an introduced species with little competition and rich resources.

Over time the resource level and/or competitive factors or disease from overly dense populations begin to tip the curve so that the slope of population increase is decreased. Here is a chart of the recent changes in human population growth and a projection to 2050.
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Ecomodernist Manifesto

The idea of an ecomodern view point makes eminent good sense. Take the best of modern technology combined with modern understanding of global ecology, human societies, human needs and desires and put them all together in a winning package. The purpose of this Ecomodernist Manifesto, authored by some 26 scholars is essentially to propose an economic strategy (although the authors categorize it as a strategy to improve ecological and human well-being):

“We offer this statement in the belief that both human prosperity and an ecologically vibrant planet are not only possible, but also inseparable. By committing to the real processes, already underway, that have begun to decouple human well-being from environmental destruction, we believe that such a future might be achieved. As such, we embrace an optimistic view toward human capacities and the future.”

WOW! That is to say, they believe that continuing on the path we currently have embarked on will save the day if we emphasize technological innovation to provide limitless energy and intensive primary production that will not limit the population growth of humans for the foreseeable future (centuries or thousands of years).
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More on Ecomodernist Snakeoil

The Ecomodernist Manifesto is, in my opinion, a cleverly designed marketing tool to allow continued exploitation of extractive energy and mineral resources while encouraging damaging intensive agricultural practices that ignore the limits of soil recovery. There are many messages about how technology will save us all, but on climate change and global ecological challenges, they espouse the following: “Climate change and other global ecological challenges are not the most important immediate concerns for the majority of the world’s people. Nor should they be. A new coal-fired power station in Bangladesh may bring air pollution and rising carbon dioxide emissions but will also save lives

At least some of the authors of the manifesto have serious doubts that the current scientific conclusions from climate studies are accurate enough to warrant spending money on mitigation. They base this uncertainty on a variety of ideas, but primarily that the variability of observations combined with the probability predictions in climate models suggest the sensitivity of the planet is much lower than most climate scientists claim. In addition, they argue that the various scenarios of catastrophic melting or increased temperatures are either unlikely or in the distant future when new innovative technology will come to the rescue – just as it always has in the past.
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The Eco-Modernist Paradox: Snakeoil?


An Ecomodernist Manifestodemands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world.” The eco-modernists argue that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while human societies must not harmonize with nature because in their opinion that will not avoid economic or ecological collapse. They claim that as a general rule, natural systems will not be be protected or enhanced by the expansion of humankind’s dependence upon them for sustenance and well-being.

Instead they claim that “intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts. These socioeconomic and technological processes are central to economic modernization and environmental protection. Together they allow people to mitigate climate change, to spare nature, and to alleviate global poverty.” I am not certain how you can intensify forestry without being extractive unless you turn the forests into wood farms. Nor am I certain how one can extract fuels more intensely without extracting them…
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The Holocene began about 11,700 years ago, after the end of the ice age. The term is a geological term. That happened to be just about the same time that people began to shift from a nomadic hunter-gatherer society to one that investigated and eventually established agriculture. In that brief 12,000 years since then people have made an enormous impact on the planet. Nobel laureate and atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen popularized the term Anthropocene in 2000 and it now has appeared in some 200 scientific articles. Geologists tend to object to the term and remark that the taxonomy is geological and there is no obvious geological evidence as to the start of a new era. Because this is a nebulous term and not yet completely established in the scientific literature, the exact beginning is unclear.

Whatever is the actual case, the term has caught on and in a new study by Will Steffen and others, 16 Jan 2015, Science, on planetary boundaries, the scope of the human impact is illustrated in a graphic that depicts the outer limits of a number of potentially limiting factors on human survival.
Planetary boundaries

Increasingly the accelerated growth we are currently undergoing in a wide range of variables adds to the concept that the Anthropocene is an era of human dimensions that hare having a singularly strong impact on the resource base of the human civilization. This slideshow is from the IGBP Secretariat and depicts a series of changes since 1750.

The long-term implications of these changes in an economic and ecological environment are ominous. For more information, this site is intriguing:

Capitalism Without Employees

As John Locke pointed out centuries ago, capitalism is a self-initiating strategic response to the possibility of becoming independently wealthy once the state lost or diminished its ability to arbitrarily assume ownership of individual wealth. The idea is simple enough: combine the assets of several people into a single corporate body so that each contributes capital making it more possible for the single corporation to control production and distribution to dominate the market and thus maximize the amount of wealth that can be shared amongst the owners of capital (so-called capitalists) within the corporation. Because it is an economic system, not a social system, the corporations (thus the capitalists in the system) are nothing more than strategic constructs. They have no inherent mechanism of exhibiting social consciousness or social responsibility for people beyond the ownership of the corporation. Many corporations require employees, but many do not, they can be operated completely with owners and no one else. Employees in a capitalist corporation are really just packages of energy and skills. If the “person” part of the employee can be more inexpensively replaced by a machine, the corporation “feels” no compunction about making that replacement.
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Developing Anthropogenic Global Warming Policy Options

Background of Policy Development for Anthropogenic Global Warming

Policies are rules of laws imposed to ensure the implementations of tactics chosen to fulfill the needs of a strategy that is support of a goal or objective. A goal or objective is often part of a project or a solution to a problem. A suite of policies or tactics comprise the means by which the strategy will be carried out. Single policies rarely are sufficient to cover the entire scope of a strategy. Finally it may also take several strategies to achieve the goals need to solve a particularly difficult problem or complex project.

In this case the problem we are going to tackle is the not-so-recent rise in greenhouse gas concentrations (especially CO2 from human activities) that appears to be causing significant imbalance in the heat flux of the planet resulting in a net warming of the atmosphere, ocean, and ultimately of the earth. This warming is a problem because it is insidious. The warming is very slow on a human time scale, so slow that most people who are younger than about 50 years old really are unable to say they have any experience of a warming trend. This means that the understanding of global warming is essentially from being told that it is happening, not from being able to personally say that it has been obvious in their lifetimes. Furthermore, the defined danger from global warming is a creeping danger that will last generations if not brought under control fairly quickly. So the danger for most people is not personal and certainly not perceived to be personally life-threatening. This makes it easy to stand by and debate what should or should not be done. For our children and grandchildren, who have not yet really felt the effects, it is not going to be so impersonal.

Most of the children being born today will see well into the 2100s and will be strongly affected by the social upheaval that will result from rising sea level causing human migrations on a grand scale, increased disease vectors, increased loss of agricultural and forest crops from pests, more extremes of storms, rainfall and droughts depending on where you happen to live, salt intrusion into coastal water supplies, melting ice off mountains that normally supply water to millions of people, and many more effects. These will be combined with other problems the world faces from increased pollution, overuse of many resources, increased burden of population increase and dwindling agricultural land areas. Finally, although many animals and plants will be able to adapt to the changes, still many more will not be able to do so, and the continuing drop of biodiversity which lessens our resilience to natural disasters will accelerate. Resource wars are already starting to become apparent and may be linked to rising ethnic intolerance in areas short of water and food. These are likely to increase in intensity. So while most adults today won’t be that much affected, their grandchildren certainly will have to face serious problems of our making if we do not act to control the anthropogenically caused global warming.
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Global Warming Policy Formulation

Global Warming Policy Concepts

Strategies flow from goals, and tactics flow from strategies. Policies are essentially political implementations of tactics by setting up rules. The political agents setting the rules in the policies can be government, corporate, or organizational.

Think about how the goals set the stage for the strategies. For example, if the goal is to understand the causes of global warming, the strategy will be different than if the goal is to avoid global warming, and different again if the goal is to reduce the effects on humans of global warming.
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Red Flag Review – Social Norms and Global Environmental Challenges: The Complex Interaction of Behaviors, Values, and Policy. Kinzig et al

When learned people publish a serious proposal to gain special access to public policy makers to promote their specific perspective, they have a responsibility to establish proper rationale and safeguards in their proposal. This is especially true in today’s digital world where anyone with a computer linked to the Internet – not just the intended specialist experts – can read at least part of the paper free of charge. Authors Kinzig, Ehrlich, Alston, Arrow, Barrow, Buchman, Daily, B. Levin, S. Levin, Oppenheimer, Ostrom, and Saari present a case for narrowing the gap between science, scientific discoveries and insights, and the development and delivery of public policies (policies created and implemented by government). They offer no mechanism for their accountability as scientific advisers in the proposed special committee to advise non-scientist policy makers. They make a bland statement that their proposed improvements in modification of social norms and the messages they wish to promote can be carried out in a transparent, fair, and representative democracy, while at the same time acknowledging that some of the recommendations will carry a burden that even a majority of society would not want.
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For my Twitter conversations to clarify my use of terms.

OBSERVATIONS. Examples for climate change include temperature, temperature changes, circulation patterns of atmosphere and ocean, energy input from sun, energy losses, back radiation, energy distribution, changes in atmospheric and ocean chemistry and heat content, etc.

DATA. Any series of observations or measurements that are used to create descriptions of trends, relationships, models, cause and effect relationships, or test hypotheses. This example is a series of CO2 atmospheric concentration data from the Mauna Loa observatory shown plotted over time.

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Criminals Don’t Obey the Law

The US is struggling to find the moral compass needed to reduce the horrific gun violence and death rates. Ideological, financial/business, political, and practical interests all seem to be competing and advocating for specific positions with regard to gun policy. Virtually none are interested in addressing the actual problem of gun violence. Some advocate ramping up the presence of guns as if stepping backwards in time to the days of the US wild wild west as depicted in cartoons and movies where everyone walked around with a gun strapped to their hip ready to take on anyone who challenged them. Here is one perhaps not-so-surprising comment that arises from this warrior macho attitude:

“Criminals don’t obey the law so there is no point to passing more laws!”

What an asinine comment. What on earth could they be thinking? One becomes a criminal by intentionally breaking the law. Are they suggesting no laws? Are they thinking that if there are no laws there would be no criminals? Do they want a society where anything goes? Are they advocating anarchy in which everyone is on their own? What madness runs through their minds when they suggest we don’t need laws because criminals don’t obey them anyway? Continue reading

Guns, Crime, Homicide, Gun Ownership: Statistical Trends


Some surprising results from a seat-of-the-pants statistical analysis on a global basis of guns, gun ownership, gun-related deaths, overall crime rate, and the effect of being in a rich or poor country on the likelihood of being involved in a crime or homicide, whether as a perpetrator or victim. I also offer a couple of workable steps to significantly reduce homicides and gun deaths backed up by the results of the surveys.
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Caribbean Reef Sharks Posing for the Movies

I was scanning some slides to preserve the images and found some nice shots of Caribbean Reef sharks.

In the first two, the shark is a lady and she was feeling a bit grumpy so would swim right at us then slide by quite close to us testing our reactions. The place was off Nassau and we were doing a TV show about sharks and their behaviour for the Canadian Discovery Channel.

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