13th August 2006 - 08:42 PM
The 3-D space we experience is likely not the only sensible space that could be constructed. It's an intuitive view because our natural senses work within it, as we construct properties of inertia, velocity and gravity, but a moth creates a universe from a candleflame and will fly in circles because its senses create a space based upon angles to light, and if we used different metrics for space we could create a different view. I don't know how novel such a view would be but it seems that at least at very small scales we don't have a good understanding of space and time.
Time is created by detectable events. Probably 80-90%+ of our understanding of the universe comes from vision. Despite the claims, vision is actually 2 dimensional, so we see flat images (and touch is also 2-D, with the other senses being of a lower dimensionality). When you assemble a large collection of information, you can learn to extract an additional dimension from this information. So in effect our memory takes many 2-D visual events and using memory of what we perceive as time, we construct a 3rd dimension, but this all depends upon many human specific traits.
If you want to construct a space you need to consider at least a few things in determining what's the most sensible way to do it:
1) What events are you monitoring for information?
For example, if you use infrared or long wave energies then small details will tend to go unnoticed as the waves "blur" the information.
2) What are you attempting to model or predict?
If you can't construct a model of everything, then consider that limiting what you're trying to understand will make it easier.
3) Is it a dynamic space that can change? If so, then time can add another dimension for change.
You'll also be limited in how much information you can extract at specific time, so if the change is rapid and rather unpredictable and you only have a small amount amount of information relative to this to determine changes, then you're not going to have a good understanding of the 'current' state, as you're hazily following 'what was' instead.
You can plot these changes out over time and create another dimension to look at for trends, patterns, correlations etc.
4) How many independent dimensions are needed to provide an adequate prediction of events without creating unnecessary complexity? This depends a lot on the quantity of independent measurements. Adding a greater complexity without enough data to verify the validity of it is a waste - Occam's Razor.
For example, if you're simply trying to approximate the motion of a ball in the air under gravity, then you don't necessarily need a 12 dimensional model of subatomic physics to do it.
5) Does the manner in which you detect events place restrictions on what relationships will be easily extracted?
For example, if you're making observations from some fixed vantage point, then only those events visible from this will be detectable. You might find that indirect inactions. not detectable from this complicate the results, and also you can't be certain of the generality of the results as these measurements were only performed in one manner or from one location and so this may not be reproducible or be difficult to translate into more general information applicable elsewhere under different circumstances.
Anyway, I'd agree the space can be as simple a concept or as complex a concept as people want to make it. It seems there's no immediate danger of understanding all of it too soon.