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Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1991-97); and Writer (Part Three)

October 22, 2014

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 6.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Two)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: October 22, 2014

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2015

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 5,987

ISSN 2369-6885

Mr. Rick G. Rosner


Part three of eleven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: arguing for reinstatement of metaphysics into physics, their present estranged relationship, necessary relationship between logic and metaphysics, formal argument for the derivations from logic to physics and connection to metaphysics, unsuccessful attempts at metaphysical thinking, ancient Greece’s lack of experimental science, the opposite trend today with much experimental science, the depth of understanding the business transactions of the universe on a macro scale, possible purposes for these transactions for the universe, brief overview of the universe’s development, related objectives of organisms, purpose of laughter illuminated by George Saunders, and effective economy of thought for a possible grounding for the universe; methodology of science, derived facts from the methodology, and constructed systems of knowledge, a determined universe, free will as an internal sense of willing something, compatibilist and non-compatibilist free will, quantum mechanics, moral axiologists, free will and ethics implying moral accountability, considerations of this with an increased understanding of the world through science, framing the appropriate question for an accurate answer to the free will question, some peoples’ arguments for the ability of free will based on quantum indeterminacy, impetus behind free will appearing to be not wanting restrictions “by genes, by creeds or institutions, by mental limitations,” a better question for understanding the free will issue, evolved creatures not necessarily constructing the most accurate views of reality, evolutionary examples of hijacked thought, Plato’s Cave, the ‘freakout’ over determinism based on Newtonian mechanics, technical rather than transcendent aspect of thinking, and lack of determinacy of the universe based on quantum mechanics; free will intrinsic to an individual consciousness, free will for the penultimate armature of the universe, derived-from-armature free will for an individual consciousness (or set of them), the more important angle of informed will, and targeted thinking; and set of mainstream physicists considering the universe to exist in 11-dimensional hyperspace in string theory, constraints of the universe’s structure based on the specification of dimensions, implied limitations of a three dimensional universe, analogy of Donald Rumsfeld and Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known, origin of the phrase with John Wesley Powell, John Keats and Robert Browning mentioning the phrase too, the universe as an optimized information map, commonalities of the universe exist close to one another while those far apart have less in common, 30% of the speed of light (.3c) of objects moving away from us equating to ~4 billion light years away, forming a sphere of that radius about twice the radius of everything moving away at 15% the speed of light (.15c) away from us with four times the area, further considerations and calculations with the reciprocal Lorentz factor from special relativity, redshift and information in common, Big Bang universe, size proportional to age of universe (look farther away, the universe appears smaller because younger, or larger because older), Hubble redshift, a non-Big Bang universe having lack of uniformity with an active and burned-out center with collapsed outskirts clustered to T = 0 (Time equates to zero or absolute beginning of the cosmos), inverse-square law, and an economy of dimensions likely defeating an 11-dimensional universe posited out of string theoretic constructions.

Keywords: Apple, armature, Big Bang universe, Dave Damashek, determinism, Donald Rumsfeld, Donald Trump, Dyson spheres, Errol Morris, economy of dimensions, ethics, evolution, experimental science, fields, fixed orbits, free will, galaxies, George Saunders, Giga Society, gravitational wells, Greece, Hubble redshift, hypersphere, indeterminate, infinity, informed will, inverse-square law, John Keats, John Wesley Powell, laughter, life, logic, long-distance particles, Lorentz factor, mathematics, Mega Society, metaphysics, Michael Scott, Microwave background radiation, moral axiologists, morality, neutrinos, particle physics, photons, physics, Plato’s Cave, principles of existence, quantum mechanics, Rick G. Rosner, Robert Browning, science, ‘The Unknown Known’, thought, toxoplasmosis, unconscious biases, universe, unpredictable, writer.

24. You think metaphysics needs to be reinstated into physics. Yet, they have an estrangement.  You mean physics and metaphysics together.  Indeed, I would reason much further than this.  Metaphysics needs logic; logic needs metaphysics.  Furthermore, mathematics derives from logic, physics derives from mathematics, and hence – for a more comprehensive framework – physics needs metaphysics and vice versa.  At root, we have a deep relation between physics and metaphysics.  This estrangement seemed temporary before someone directed appropriate attention to the need for conscious reunification of the two.

Compared to science, metaphysics has been very unsuccessful, to the extent that few people, scientists included, do much metaphysical thinking. Science has helped us build the modern world. Metaphysics can’t even definitively answer its own questions. Pondering “What is being?” doesn’t bring us Apple products. Our era is kind of the reverse of ancient Greece, which was all “Why is everything the way it is?” and not much for doing experimental science. The Greeks should’ve performed some experiments. It’s hard to do effective metaphysics if you don’t have sufficient information about how the universe works. It’s like solving a crime without evidence.

But perhaps by now, we have almost enough information, via physics, to come up with a system which has some “whys” as well as “hows.” We’ve learned a lot of “hows” about the universe: how it transacts much of its business – on a macro scale, via fields and long-distance particles such as photons and neutrinos. We should be able to use our knowledge of these transactions to propose theories of how the universe might benefit from these transactions, asking “Why? – What does the universe gain?”

Via these processes, the universe becomes simpler in some ways – over billions of years, stars boil down – and more complex in others – across billions of years, life arises. The universe becomes more stable in some ways – matter accretes into galaxies and stars which are cradled in fixed orbits and gravitational wells and the universe clusters on a range of scales, adding to stability and informational compactness. As my friend Dave Dameshek likes to ask, “To what end? To what end?!”

Take a look at a business model for a system with “whys” – with goals we kind of understand – thought.

Thought has several related objectives – manage an organism’s normal activities, look for exploitable regularities, and avoid error, all within the context of constructing a model of reality. The brain has a finite capacity, so it wants to compress information to reduce the chance for error and make room for more information. The brain likes finding analogies and shortcuts – they help compactify information.

Thought involves risk. If the brain can figure out how to make knowing fewer things as helpful as knowing more things, it can know those few things with greater certainty and less distraction and chance of confusion. Think of it in terms of sending a message – if you have a 15-word message but can compress it to 5 words, better to send the shorter message 3 times to increase the likelihood the message gets through.

I view laughter as delight at finding a shortcut and as a signal to other people that a shortcut has been found. George Saunders has the same theory. “Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to.” ― George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone

So we have a rough idea of the brain’s informational priorities and procedures. Similarly, we can speculate about what the universe is up to with regard to information.

The universe does what it does, which I believe is information processing – thinking, even – within some context. It’s grappling with – thinking about – some world beyond itself – a world that includes the physical structure that makes the universe’s information-processing possible. We can assume that the universe has objectives in that world. We can assume that the universe has an economy of thought – that its thinking is effective because some rules of information are in place. We can try to figure out those rules, dagnabbit.

25. You think that people may be better able to answer philosophical questions today than in the past because of more accurate depictions of reality through the methodology of science, derived facts from the methodology, and constructed systems of knowledge: quantum mechanics, particle physics, chemical sciences, biological sciences, psychological sciences, and economic sciences onward with inclusion of every relevant discipline and subdiscipline.  Of note, traditional ‘great’ questions can have placement in complementary scientific frameworks.  For instance, in a determined universe, freedom of the will, ‘free will’, does not exist because determinacy reigns supreme.  Either branch of determinism, compatibilist or non-compatibilist, bears little or no proper fruits.  Why? Quantum mechanics shows either deterministic branch of the tree to be barren. Therefore, zero factual streams to hydrate and nourish the roots.  Unless individuals defy the larger systemic laws (they would not) behind the hypothetical determinate universe.  Furthermore, in an indeterminate universe, free will does not exist due to 1) no genuine point of contact for free will and 2) any utility of free will dissipates into meaningless randomness and noise.  Peoples’ ability to freely will represents the fulcrum for each stream of reasoning, which makes intuitive and immediate experiential sense. Our universal, internal sense of willing something, of choosing one thought or act over another.  Moreover, free will implicates ethics, morals, and legal systems, which binds upon bearers with the ability to freely choose right over wrong.  Moral axiologists connect “right over wrong” to value systems.  Value systems found in theological and non-theological contexts.  Therefore, an important question for most people to consider with due ratiocination. In short, free will and ethics implies moral accountability. With increased understanding of the world through science, what do you think of this issue? What evidence and argument most convinces you of this answer/these answers?

We can use physics to start to address whether we’ve even been asking the right metaphysical questions, such as, “Is there free will?” Free from what, exactly? From being trapped in determinism? Thanks to quantum mechanics, we know that the world isn’t pre-determined. (However, it’s easy to imagine that, even with quantum indeterminacy, our thoughts in any given situation could pretty much be pre-determined (unless we explicitly build in randomness just to be contrary). I don’t think that quantum indeterminacy has much to do with whether we think one thought or another. Other people disagree.)

“Free will” can mean “thought that is independent from material constraints.” Under this definition, if thought takes place in the material world, then it’s materially constrained. Material constraint doesn’t bother me. I believe a more important question is, “Can we make decisions free of unconscious biases?” Are our conscious minds running the show, or are we puppets of our selfish genes? And can we overcome this puppetry?

In the past, some people thought there was ordinary matter, the tangible stuff that comprises the world and there was mind-stuff – special, as-yet-undetected twinkly stuff that does your thinking. (But even with two forms of stuff, there’s still the question, is this mind-stuff free of material constraints? Are we free to think what we want to think without the material world constraining our mind-stuff?)

I think today, the situation is clearer. Our thinking consists of the information in our awareness and how we manipulate it with our hardware – our brains. We are our information. There’s no mind-stuff that freely thinks independent of information.

When you ask the question, “Why am I me?” the answer turns out to be, “Because all of your information pertains to you.” All your information came into your head, was processed by you, and pertains to you (if only because you perceived and processed it.) You can imagine jumping into someone else’s head, Quantum Leap style, but in that case, you’re taking your information and your mental history and the ways you process information into somebody else’s situation. You’re not taking some abstract mind-stuff that’s free from information with you – you are your information and your mental tendencies.

So there’s not free will (as I understand the question – there are other interpretations of free will) because there’s no mind-stuff judging from afar, independent of information. To be clear, information is not matter, but neither is it independent, free-floating, twinkly mind-stuff. Information in this context is representations of things presented in such a way that we can think about them – they’re part of thought – they’re mentally manipulable in our mind-space. This space isn’t made of or facilitated by a special form of matter. Information is tightly coupled to and facilitated by our brains, which are concrete and material.

I’m vastly oversimplifying, but the impetus behind the interest throughout history in free will seems to be concern about whether thought is to some extent a sham – whether we have exalted powers to stand apart and above from the grubby, clockwork stuff of the world, and beyond that, whether can we avoid having our thoughts controlled – by genes, by creeds or institutions, by mental limitations.

We would want free will because that would mean we’re not the beyotches of the pedestrian, earth-bound material world.

But the better question is, “Can we be in charge of our thinking?” That is, can we think without bias? Consciousness is always playing tricks on us, because consciousness is a product of evolution, not a pure product of a desire to give us the most complete and accurate view of the world. (But we don’t need to be products of evolution for our brains and biology and consciousness to have hidden agendas. The biases are there, regardless of what put them there. Just ask any grad student in psychology about what must be thousands of experiments which show that consciousness gives us a highly filtered and biased and monkeyed-with view of the world. Each of us is our own Fox News.)

There are a bunch of parasites that transact business by messing with the brains of their victims – parasites that make mice attracted to cats (toxoplasmosis) or bugs attracted to light – so they get eaten and pass on the parasite to the next host in their life cycle.  The hosts’ brains have been hijacked. To some extent, everyone’s brain is hijacked by what our genes want us to do. Reproducing often runs counter to the well-being and continued existence of individual organisms, but the process that made us is based on reproduction, and it tends not to be denied. We are greatly manipulated by our sexual thoughts and drives. It’s so crazy how fascinated we are with boobs and butts and symmetrical, easy-to-read faces, but all those things carry information about reproductive fitness that we’re hardwired to scrutinize.

We can make and are making progress in understanding our thought processes. Figuring out the limitations and biases of our thoughts and perceptions and how to overcome them are how we slowly extricate ourselves from Plato’s Cave.  We can never get all the way out of the cave – never see and understand existence exactly as it is – but we can make unlimited progress, stacking up level upon level of scientific, philosophical, aesthetic and moral understanding. (If thinking entities are common throughout the universe, then not only scientific understanding is necessary. Thinking entities have narratives and morality.)

People freaked out over the idea of determinism which got a big push from Newtonian mechanics. They didn’t like the idea of being locked into a perfectly predictable machine universe which seems to make consciousness unnecessary. How can we really be thinking and why do we need to think if our brains are just molecules bouncing off of each other in a completely predictable way? But thinking shouldn’t have to be and isn’t transcendent – it’s a technical process involving considerable amounts of information simultaneously shared among a bunch of specialized subsystems. Doesn’t matter if it’s just electricity and bouncing molecules – the mental chatter is an unavoidable aspect of the processing. While not transcending mechanics, thinking, as an inescapable aspect of high-level information processing, may be the frame for all of physics (since the universe engages in high-level information processing), which makes thinking kind of transcendent, after all.

The universe turns out not to be deterministic – quantum events are, within their probability functions, perfectly unpredictable. (Future quantum events (which includes everything, really) precisely follow probability functions. We don’t know the outcome of a quantum event. But we do know the probability curve that decides the outcome. That is, once we’ve narrowed down the possible outcomes as much as possible, what’s left – the unpredictable, indeterminate part – is completely, inherently unpredictable except in terms of precisely defined probabilities.)

But this isn’t good news for free will, because quantum unpredictability doesn’t liberate thought from being a mechanistic process.

Consciousness is a technical thing, not a mystical in the realm of angels thing – it’s a property of high-level information-sharing via bouncing molecules, etc. – not necessarily in a completely predictable way, but also not in a way that thought can bend or defy physics through thought itself.

Consciousness creates an information space (or mind-space) that owes itself to the physics of the brain but isn’t comprised of the atoms of the brain. (It’s as if your brain is running a video game environment which contains representations that come from (processed) sensory information and from imagination (generally not the Willy Wonka kind). It hasn’t built a physical world – a scale model of the outside world like a model train set – but rather a system that allows the mind to envision and manipulate mental representations. As we think, we don’t see neurons firing – we see what is represented by patterns of neurons firing.)

But hey – if you have your mind-space – an abstract arena for the information in your awareness – why so serious about the physical foundation of the space? Your brain is made of stuff – get over it. Legitimate concerns related to free will include not being in charge of what gets to enter your mind-space, how information has been sharpened, simplified, amplified or otherwise tweaked on the way in, and unconscious glitches in your information-processing.

There’s the ass-covering, bogus storytelling nature of consciousness. Your unconscious or some specialized subsystem pulls the trigger on a decision, followed by your consciousness telling itself a story after the fact about why it made the decision. Happens all the time. Your consciousness is always telling you, “It’s cool – got it – I’m the boss.” Sure you are, consciousness – you’re the boss like Donald Trump or Michael Scott is the boss – you can be a blowhard with an exaggerated sense of your own skills.

If you observe carefully, you can spot some of the mechanics of consciousness and watch your thoughts being assembled. One small example – when there’s a name on the tip of your brain, sometimes you get clues – it’s five letters, it starts with a B or an M. You can glimpse some of the mental landscape where the little ball of inquiry is rolling around, trying to drop into the pit that’s the answer. But now you’ve thought about it too much – you’ve scrambled the landscape – you have to forget your inquiry and let it settle. Come back to it a little later, and often, the answer is right there for you.

In addition to constraints on thought, there are constraints on existence itself. Our thoughts are fairly tightly bound to reality, and reality seems bound to some pretty inflexible principles of existence. Creatures that are the result of evolution in a natural (un-engineered) cosmos probably all live in three spatial dimensions with linear time and rules of physics which are fairly consistent among all the different possible universes. (I don’t believe that the universe can take on any crazy dang form, with physical constants and number of dimensions at the mercy of 12-sided dice, and not just because the special effects department only has the budget to cover a couple of extras in blue body paint. There are reasons for gravity and 4D space-time, etc.) Whether advanced civilizations can circumvent these somewhat uniform conditions and construct truly weird universes remains to be seen.

Evolved creatures are persistent creatures – they’ve evolved to persist by propagating offspring across time. If the general scheme of the universe is decipherable – if we can decode its physics and metaphysics – then advanced civilizations (at least those which retain the will to persist that they evolved with) will figure out the universe and be forced to address it on its terms (which we have to anyway, even without understanding it). Every civilization cooks from the same Mystery Basket – the universe.

So civilizations are locked into a template – they react to the conditions of existence, constrained by their persistent characteristics and by physics, resulting in a limited range of possible paths for civilizations. You hear people say, “There are only seven basic plots for movies.” Well maybe there are a limited number of basic plots for civilizations. Some might be empire-builders. Though maybe not – in the words of Enrico Fermi, “Where are they?” It might be more efficient to stay close to home and exploit local resources for computing power – turning nearby planets into Dyson spheres and the like. Some might fall into decadence. Some might devote themselves to figuring out what the universe means and wants. Some might become artists, engaging in grand feats of beautiful, frivolous engineering. Maybe your standard advanced civilization is a mix of all the major reactions to existence, kind of like a TV lineup – comedy, drama, glitzy excess, hedonism….

The rules of existence will turn out to be fairly mathematical – not ordained from above, with God saying, “This is the precise and perfect Number One. It’s the basis of counting,” but hemmed in by slippery, iron-clad but fuzzy and evanescent tautological necessities such as non-contradiction – something can’t both exist and not exist (except when it can because of quantum uncertainty) – with existence entailing space and time and matter and their delineation via interactions – a big, messy ball of bootstrapped logic. (Numbers seem inherently exact, but that’s how we define and use them. We’re really borrowing an infinity of information (about the relationships among numbers) to do so. Numbers are as bootstrapped as everything else, but they’re amenable to procedures which hide that.)

Given that we’re constrained by math-like rules, it’s not unreasonable to think that we’re math-like entities, with our existences boxed and bound and constrained by having to belong to the set of all possible things.

Imagine, for example, the mind-space of a sponge, which has no neurons but which can respond to stimuli. (A sponge can sneeze when it gets filled up with schmutz.) It has a tiny-to-the-point-of-nonexistent, fuzzy mind-space – a pretty close to minimum-possible mind-space – which could probably be replicated with a simple mathematical model. Then there are roundworms with 302 neurons. It would take a much more complicated model, but you could still build one, once the math of mental spaces is understood, which would encompass all possible roundworm mental states. Which means that the mind of a roundworm is a mathematical entity.

Now imagine the brain of a chicken. The (always reliable) internet suggests it might have 100 million neurons. Hard to imagine precisely and accurately modeling a chicken’s mental space. But on the other hand, it’s a chicken. We’ll eventually be able to do this. We could build Chicken (and Pig and Cow) Heaven. Sorry we keep killing and eating you, chickens, but we’ve replicated all possible chicken mind-spaces in this computer. You’re in there somewhere, having what passes for a great time for a chicken.

There’s no way we won’t, in the next 50 years, try to build the mind-spaces of Abe Lincoln and Jane Austen and Shakespeare. “Have you read Joy and Jealousy by Jane Austen 3.3? Way too much sex.” Yes, Star Trek Holodeck, I can see you. You can put your hand down. Characters in video games will have their own mind-spaces. People who freeze their heads might find themselves brought back to fight World War Two over and over in Shell Shock 4 for the Goopple PlayVerse.

But we’re saved from our constraints by infinity. Assuming (which we may never be able to prove) that possible universes can be of any finite size, and that the number of universes of any given size is proportional to the size raised to some exponential power, there’s an infinity of possible worlds and destinies.

26. Free will might operate beyond present explanatory powers. It may exist intrinsic to an individual consciousness, or set of POVs, in the universe overriding/incorporating quantum indeterminacy or exist based on an intrinsic characteristic in a larger system.  For instance, an armature of the cosmos beyond present explanatory powers.  What of this armature for the universe?  What if free will for the universe inheres in this armature? Intrinsic freedom of the cosmos.  In other words, what if conscious creatures relate to such an armature and have derived (intrinsic to them or derived from armature) freedom of the will?

[Asked in a Seinfeld voice] What’s the big deal about free will? I’m not overly concerned about free will; I care about informed will. Consciousness can function to somewhat optimize mental resources, with the objective being, the better the model you have of the world, the better your understanding of that model and the more angles and tactics you can deploy based on that understanding, the better your chances are of achieving your goals.

This is not free thinking. This is targeted thinking, based on where and what we are in the world. We’re not free – we’re part of the world, and we have to think about it. We can think freely about philosophical issues – about whatever we have the mental chops to think about – but even this kind of thinking is some kind of strategic reaction to the world. I would rather think well than think free. Freedom comes from knowing what’s up and being able to react effectively to it. But you’re still anchored to what’s up.

And about the universe’s armature – I think the universe is thinking about the world that the armature is part of – the outside world that contains the mind or mind-like thing that is our universe. The universe’s information processing or thoughts pertain to – are anchored to – its outside world. Everything that thinks is thinking about a world – it’s thinking in an anchored context.

27. Out of another set of mainstream physicists, even while some claim lacking direct observational evidence, arises the possibility of additional dimensions as postulated in, for example, string theory with everything in existence operating inside of 11 dimensional hyperspace.  How do these conceptual and mathematical frameworks hold in your view?

It takes information to build and specify dimensions. Where does the information contained in 11-dimensional hyperspace come from? Does the universe contain enough information to have all these extra dimensions? Maybe so, if the dimensions are small enough to not contain much information at all. But on a macro scale, the universe barely has enough information (from observing itself) to hold open three spatial dimensions.

I don’t love string theory. Maybe if I knew enough math and physics to work with it, I’d like it better. But in my current ignorant state, it seems unnecessarily complicated. I hope there’s a simpler explanation for the way the universe works, with string theory being one of a variety of helpful ways to conceptualize physics. I’m hoping we develop a toolkit consisting of a number of different but consistent angles on physics and the universe, each being handy for certain operations, and acting as cross-checks and sources of insight for each other. It would kind of suck for string theory to turn out to be the simplest way to understand the world.

Why does the universe have three dimensions? I think we live in a Rumsfeld universe. Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” (Errol Morris, who made a great-as-usual documentary interview with Rumsfeld called The Unknown Known, traced the idea of unknown knowns and known unknowns back to the explorer John Wesley Powell. He also notes that John Keats and Robert Browning also mention the “known unknown.”)

Suppose that the universe is an optimized information map (of itself, the same way we could imagine an information map of the mind, which when optimized would be a map of itself), with the distance between objects roughly based on how much information they have in common. Parts of the universe with almost everything in common will be very close to each other. (By “in common,” I mean shared information – they’ve been exposed to largely the same history – belonging to the same group of active galaxies – as the universe unfolds.) Parts of the universe with very little in common will be distant from each other (and red-shifted and time-dilated). (Dormant galaxies which are distant from and mostly uncorrelated with each other can be hauled into stronger correlation with each other by bringing them into the active center (kind of like popping open windows on a giant glass touch-screen on a cheesy CSI-type show).)

In an information-map universe, it takes information to hold space open. The number of dimensions depends on the amount of information available to specify the relationships among objects in these dimensions.

Every part of the universe at the same distance from us has about the same amount of information in common with our neighborhood. Say, for example, that we’re looking at parts of the universe that appear to be moving away from us at 30% the speed of light; they’re about 4 billion light years away. Everything that’s four billion light years away from us forms a sphere of that radius, about twice the radius of everything that appears to be moving away at 15% the speed of light, with four times the area.

Just for fun, say that the amount of information in common with us is approximately (at low v) the reciprocal Lorentz factor from special relativity: the square root of (1 – v^2), where v is the redshift velocity (how fast that part of the universe seems to be moving away from us). For v = .15, information would be about 98.9% in common, or 1.1% not in common. For v = .3, information would be about 95.6% in common, or 4.4% not in common. For low redshift velocities, information not in common is proportional to the ratio of velocities squared.

This sets up a locally three-dimensional universe. At each redshift radius v, information not in common with our neighborhood takes up a region proportional to v squared, or the surface of a sphere of radius v. (Each redshift velocity corresponds to a (Hubble relation) distance from our galaxy.)

I’ve left out multiplying the information not in common by the information in common. The less information in common, the less you can distinguish the spatial relationships among distant objects, and space at that distance as we see it shrinks proportionately.

So here’s a Rumsfeld way of thinking about the dimensionality of space. Distances from us are the known known – we know how much information we have in common with other neighborhoods and objects in space. Spatial relationships among other objects shade from the known unknown to, at higher redshifts, the unknown unknown. We know a lot about neighborhoods with almost all information in common with us, but, having almost all information in common, they don’t spread out across a lot of space. The less information neighborhoods have in common with us, the more information space they could occupy, but the less we know about them, the less we know about their spatial interrelationships and the less we can see those relationships, and space at large cosmological distances is effectively shrunken (and smeared out as we look at it).

In a Big Bang universe, we can see across nearly 14 billion light years. (Microwave background radiation has spent nearly the apparent lifetime of the universe reaching us.) But we’re not looking at a sphere 14 billion light years in radius, because the background radiation comes from a very small, young, recently exploded universe. (There’s a maximum radius we can see as we look across greater distances and farther into the past. Beyond that radius, we’re seeing increasingly smeared-out images of our universe when it was younger and smaller. Of course, every image we see is of a younger universe, but it’s usually only younger by a few billionths of a second – the time light takes to cross a room.)

If we could see to infinity, we wouldn’t see Big Bang space as completely filling three-dimensional space. Looking farther and farther, we’d see the universe getting smaller and smaller (because younger and younger), until it’s a point at T = 0. But that’s just because we’re looking back in time. Though we can’t see it because of the finite speed of light, a Big Bang universe can be a fully three-dimensional surface of a hypersphere.

But I don’t think we live in a Big Bang universe. Due to the nature of an information-space universe, it looks quite a bit like a Big Bang universe, and that it started with a Big Bang is a natural first conclusion to reach, based on general relativity and the Hubble redshift. Note that the idea of the Big Bang – space exploding from an initial point – while seeming indisputably established, is less than 100 years old, and has been the predominant theory of universal structure for less than 50 years.

A Big Bang universe is nearly the same everywhere – the result of a uniform outward expansion. But a universe that doesn’t blow up all at once isn’t the same everywhere. It has an active center and burned-out and collapsed outskirts clustered close to what looks like T = 0. This universe may not be perfectly three-dimensional – space is highly curved and riddled with collapsed stuff near the apparent origin, which may mean that space is effectively less than three-dimensional at great distances.

If space doesn’t extend outward from any given point – if, on the outskirts, it tucks into itself – maybe it’s lacking dimensionality. (Or maybe the scale of space is (relativistically) collapsed, allowing for space to be squeezed into less space. On the outskirts, you might be able to have an unlimited number of neighborhoods separated by high apparent relative velocities, because you can add relativistic velocities forever without reaching the speed of light – stuff just gets more contracted.) If the outskirts are less than three-dimensional, this might explain large-scale gravity not falling off according to the inverse-square law.

(If there’s an actual collapsed outskirts not just a visual ghost of the early universe, can you build a rocket and travel close to T = 0? Probably not. For one thing, it’s a many-billion-year trip, even at the speed of light. For another thing, space filled with collapsed stuff may have a smaller scale and contain even more distance than we can see from here. And there would be heavy radiation including lots of neutrinos.)

To get back to your original question about string theory and 11 dimensions – I think there’s an economy of dimensions. Self-defining systems of information don’t have enough information to hold open a space greater than three dimensions (not counting gravitational wells) (and maybe not even three dimensions over great distances).

****************Footnotes and bibliography in Archives “6.A” PDF*****************


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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