Plato’s Cave, Flatlanders, and Us

The Allegory of the Cave was an allegorical scenario and dialog described by Plato in his work “The Republic.”  In it, a number of prisoners occupy a cave and are forced to only look in the direction of a wall.  Behind them is a huge fire.  Between the prisoners and the fire, people walk along a walkway, their shadows being cast upon the wall and echoes of the sounds of their footsteps reflecting off the wall.  Given that the prisoners have been in that position for their entire lives, this is their entire reality.  They have built a reality around the shadows and sounds emanating from the wall.  Their “futurists” are the ones who can best predict the next shadow.  Plato then imagines what might happen if a prisoner were released and free to discover the truth about the world; what created the shadows, and what lies beyond the cave.  If he attempted to explain the truth behind the “shadow reality” to his former fellow prisoners, he would likely be shunned as they would fear and ridicule his outlandish perspective.


In 1884, Edwin Abbott Abbott wrote a novella called “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” in which the characters lived in a two-dimensional world.  Originally intended to be a social satire about Victorian culture, it is now often referenced by scientists and mathematicians who imagine the possibilities of higher dimensions.  In Flatland, the Flatlanders can’t conceive of a reality with three dimensions.  When a sphere visits their world, all they can perceive is a 2D slice of the sphere and so they remain unconvinced that higher dimensions could exist.  Interestingly, even the sphere denies the possibility of spatial dimensions higher than three, despite his conviction in his argument with the flatlanders that there is a spatial dimension higher than their two.  It seems that everyone is stuck in their physical reality, with little imagination nor open-mindedness to the possibilities of a greater reality.


We are amused as we read these stories.  But are we any different?  Have we become any more enlightened as to other possibilities since Plato’s time?  In some contexts, perhaps.  Believers in some new age philosophies, followers of some ancient eastern or shamanic traditions, certain practitioners of the use of entheogenic plants, and even fundamentalists in western monotheistic religions will acknowledge that our reality is but a subset of a much greater one.  But that is the spiritual side of the great divide.  From a scientific perspective, there are very few who appear to be willing to think outside the physical reality box.

Physicist Thomas Campbell, in his “My Big TOE”, and Steven Kaufman, in his “Unified Reality Theory” have developed comprehensive theories based on experience and rigorous logic which demonstrate that our physical experience is but a tiny subset of a much larger and more complex reality.  But how many scientists and rational thinkers buy into the idea?  Not many.  They are too busy living in Flatland.  Or Plato’s Cave.


Just when you thought Physics couldn’t get any Stranger

Tachyons, entanglement, cold fusion, dark matter, galactic filaments.  Just when you thought physics couldn’t get any stranger…

– THE VERY COLD: Fractional Quantum Hall Effect: When electrons are magnetically confined and cooled to a third of a degree above absolute zero (See more here), they seem to break down into sub-particles that act in synchronization, but with fractional charges, like 1/3, or 3/7.

– THE VERY HIGH PRESSURE: Strange Matter: The standard model of physics includes 6 types of quarks, including the 2 (“up” and “down”) that make up ordinary matter.  Matter that consists of “strange” quarks, aka Strange Matter, would be 10 times as heavy as ordinary matter.  Does it exist?  Theoretically, at very high densities, such as the core of neutron stars, such matter may exist.  A 1998 space shuttle experiment seems to have detected some, but repeat experiments have not yielded the same results.

– THE VERY LARGE DIMENSIONAL: Multidimensional Space: String theories say that we live in a 10-dimensional space, mostly because it is the only way to make quantum mechanics and general relativity play nicely together.  That is, until physicist Garrett Lisi came along and showed how it could be done with eight dimensional space and objects called octonions.  String theorists were miffed, mostly because Lisi is not university affiliated and spends most of his time surfing in Hawaii.

– THE VERY HOT: Quark-Gloun Plasma: Heat up matter to 2 trillion degrees and neutrons and protons fall apart into a plasma of quarks called quark-gluon plasma.  In April of 2005, QGP appeared to have been created at the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC).

My view on all this is that it is scientific business as usual.  100 years ago, we lived in a smaller world; a world described solely by Newtonian Mechanics, our ordinary everyday view of how the world works.  Then, along came relativity and quantum mechanics.  Technological advances in laboratory equipment and optics allowed us to push the limits of speed and validate Relativity, which ultimately showed that Newtonian Mechanics was just an approximation of the larger, more encompassing theory of Relativity at slow speeds.  Similarly we pushed the limits of probing the very small and validated Quantum Mechanics, which showed that Newtonian Mechanics was just an approximation of the larger, more encompassing theory of Quantum Mechanics at large scales.  In the 1960’s, we pushed the limits of heat and energy, discovered  and found that our Quantum Mechanical / Relativistic Theory of the world was really just an approximation at low temperatures of a larger theory that had to encompass Quantum Chromodynamics.  Now, we are pushing the limits of temperature, or the slowing down of particles, and discovering that there must be an even larger theory that describes the world, that explains the appearance of fractional charges at extremely low temperatures.  Why does this keep happening and where does it end?

Programmed Reality provides an explanation.  In fact, it actually provides two.

In one case, the programmers of our reality created a complex set of physical laws that we are slowly discovering.  Imagine a set of concentric spheres, with each successive level outward representing a higher level scientific theory of the world that encompasses faster speeds, higher temperatures, larger scales, colder temperatures, higher energies, etc.  How deep inside the sphere of knowledge are we now?  Don’t know, but this is a model that puts it in perspective.  It is a technological solution to the philosophy of Deism.

The second possibility is that as we humans push the limits of each successive sphere of physical laws that were created for us, the programmers put in place a patch that opens up the next shell of discovery, not unlike a game.  I prefer this model, for a number of reasons.  First of all, wouldn’t it be a lot more fun and interesting to interact with your creations, rather than start them on their evolutionary path and then pay no further attention?  Furthermore, this theory offers the perfect explanation for all of those scientific experiments that have generated anomalous results that have never been reproducible.  The programmers simply applied the patch before anyone else could reproduce the experiment.

Interestingly, throughout the years, scientists have fooled themselves into thinking that the discovery of everything was right around the corner.  In the mid-20th century, the ultimate goal was the Unified Field Theory.  Now, it is called a TOE, or Theory of Everything.

Let’s stop thinking we’re about to reach the end of scientific inquiry and call each successive theory a TOM, or Theory of More.

Because the only true TOE is Programmed Reality.  QED.