Could Time Have Multiple Dimensions?

Time flies - but not if you're a fly. Flies avoid being swatted in just the same way Keanu Reeves dodges flying bullets in the movie The Matrix – by watching time pass slowly. Like Reeves standing back and side-stepping slo-mo bullets, the fly has ample time to escape. And it is not alone in its ability to perceive time differently from us. Generally the smaller an animal is, and the faster its metabolic rate, the slower time passes.

If we look at ourselves, we notice that a person’s subjective experience of the passage of time, or the perceived duration of events, can differ significantly between different individuals and/or in different circumstances. Although physical time appears to be more or less objective, psychological time is subjective and potentially malleable, exemplified by a common phrase like “a watched pot never boils.”

Clearly, the perception of time and duration is crucially bound up with memory, as the time that seemed to fly because of the fun we had, gives us so much more to remember than the time spent on watching a pot. Therefore it's good to realize that, paradoxically, a long life has more to do with the amount of experiences we gain, than with a lifetime measured in a certain number of years. Einstein made things even worse when he showed that objective time, as measured by clocks and calendars, is an illusion as well. The human perception of time as well as the measurement by instruments such as clocks are different for observers undergoing a difference in gravity or speed.

Isaac Newton discovered that speed and distance traveled are dependent on the frame of reference of the observer. For example, if you are on a train and you roll a ball in the same direction the train is moving at a speed of 5 meter per second, you will observe the ball moving 5 meter in one second. Suppose however that the train is moving down the tracks at 10 meter per second. A person standing next to the tracks will observe the ball moving at 15 meter per second and traveling 15 meter in the same one second. So who's right? They both are, but from their own frame of reference.

When scientists measured the speed of light they expected the same thing to happen but instead, they found that it's a constant. Albert Einstein then concluded that since the speed of light is the same in all frames of reference, the only solution is that different observers must see time differently. Einstein theorized, and it was later proven, that the human perception of time as well as the measurement by instruments such as clocks are different for observers undergoing a difference in gravity or speed. Clocks on the Space Shuttle run slightly slower than reference clocks on Earth, while clocks on GPS satellites run slightly faster.

If you got in a rocket ship and accelerated to almost the speed of light you could go what seems infinitely fast to you. You could travel to a star 100 light years away and get there by lunch, turn around, and get back to Earth the same day. But you will find that everyone else is 200 years older than you are. From their perspective, you were traveling very close to the speed of light and it takes 200 years for light to get to that star and back. But to you, it was only a day. Your aging slowed down because you moved forward through time faster.

But could time have more than just one dimension? If time is one-dimensional, like a straight line, the route linking the past, present and future is clearly defined. Adding another dimension transforms time into a two-dimensional plane. On such a plane, the path between the past and future would loop back on itself, allowing you to travel back and forwards in time. That would permit all kinds of absurd situations, such as the scenario in which you could go back and kill your grandfather, thereby preventing your own birth.

Although no well-known physicist or cosmologist has endorsed his ideas, John G. Bennett, an English mathematician and follower of mystic George Gurdjieff, posited a six-dimensional Universe with the usual three spatial dimensions and three time-like dimensions that he called time (the one we're all familiar with), eternity and hyparxis. Eternity could be considered cosmological time or timeless time. Hyparxis is supposed to be characterised as an ableness-to-be and may be more noticeable in the realm of quantum processes.

In 2007, theoretical physicist Itzhak Bars put forward the heretical idea that there are two dimensions of time. To test his theory, particles are smashed together in CERN's Large Hadron Collider at higher energies than ever before to create "supersymmetric" particles. However, the machine’s collisions have so far conjured up no new particles that could comprise dark matter, no siblings or cousins of the Higgs boson, no sign of extra dimensions, no leptoquarks — and above all, none of the desperately sought supersymmetry particles.