The Interstellar bookcase in three dimensions (top) and then represented spatially in five dimensions (lower).
One of the most enthralling concepts in Chris Nolan's Interstellar is when the hero, Cooper, travels into a black hole.
(Don't worry. It's a "gentle black hole" so he can pass through without suffering the ill effects of spaghettification.)
Once inside the greatest mystery of the universe, Cooper begins to perceive reality in five dimensions. Count them.
But there's a catch.
We are three-dimensional beings (comprising length, width and depth) moving through the fourth dimension (for the most part, time).
It's extremely difficult for us to imagine a fifth dimension but most scientists accept that more dimensions do exist and are just awaiting imminent proof.
But if it's so hard to visualize, how does this fifth-dimensional mind-buggery play out on the movie screen?
Quite beautifully, if you ask me.
The robot TARS explains to Cooper that he's seeing five dimensions mapped out in our familiar three-dimensional reality. This appears as an infinite and impossible Escher-style sprawl of bookcases.
In so doing, he gains a glimpse at a plot-defining piece of space - his daughter's bedroom - across a number of years of her life.
But the fifth dimension exists as a range of possibilities. That's what makes it the fifth dimension. Otherwise we're just looking back in time (the fourth dimension).
So in this remarkably eerie scene we see Cooper desperately try to push his daughter's reality along the correct timeline, by sending Morse code messages containing quantum data across space and time.
He succeeds - and creates her destiny of saving the people of Earth.
Spooked and in awe, Interstellar pressed on my mind the next day. I vowed to experience the fifth dimension in my lucid dreams.
I wake up. I'm in my bedroom and soon realize it's a false awakening; I'm dreaming. I float downstairs to see who else is around (no-one is) and then push through the dining room window.
Outside, the sky is gray and the clouds are far too low. I get an oppressive sense of being trapped and have to remind myself I'm dreaming.
Then I recall my lucid dream goal and fly upwards, seeking a random new location. I narrowly avoid becoming entangled in a tree (where is my mind tonight?) and fight off a fisherman on the ground below, who's trying to reel me back down to Earth.
With a burst of fresh lucidity I push on up... and instead of passing through more clouds I begin to pass through water.
Almost immediately, my head breaks through the surface of a turquoise ocean and I am looking at the fingers of a tropical island which I can only identify as "B".
Meanwhile, my lower body is still dangling in the clouds from the world below.
I can see the thick clouds from the perspective of my kneecaps, while not interfering with my vision of the island.
Perhaps this inspires what happens next...
I ascend above the ocean and, while breathing in the gorgeous landscape, I start to see the same location at different points in time simultaneously.
Then it speeds up, and I watch live action playing out at high speed.
From my aerial perspective I see 17th-century pirates sail in and out of port, modern-day tourists diving off their yachts, and a futuristic vision in which the island is cherished by botanists and entomologists who study its natural evolution.
I have to stress that this is all happening at once and I have an understanding of the dramas playing out on each timeline.
Yet the past, present and future dream characters don't acknowledge each other. They don't even bump into each other. They are like ghosts, operating on an ethereal plane.
Could this be my dreaming mind's interpretation of fifth-dimensional space-time? I've certainly had lucid dreams like this before - for example, watching day and night play out simultaneously.
Some oneironauts even claim to experience two different dreams at the same time. Although I suspect this is just perceptual.
But on the basis of the fifth dimension being a wave of probabilities - in which a fifth-dimensional perspective could "see" all the possible timelines simultaneously - there is a lot more to be imagined here. And so I will push on in my future dreams.
Besides being blown away by the visuals in Interstellar, here's another way you might incubate a lucid dream about the fifth dimension.
By now, you can see I'm no physicist. Nor a pan-dimensional being. But I thought this would be a fun visualization experiment for lucid dreamers and it might inspire some cool lucid dreams.
Give this a go next time you're observing your hypnagogia, meditating or setting up your next lucid dream intention.
Your goal is better comprehend the fifth dimension.
If you're feeling lost, see my tutorial How to Visualize.
Length: Visualize one dimension as a line between two points.
Width: Visualize two dimensions as a flat plane.
Depth: Visualize three dimensions as a cube.
So far, so good.
But now it gets tricky because we move beyond spacial dimensions.
Time: Visualize four dimensions as a cube that changes over time. (In this example, it grows and changes color.) There is still only one cube in space.
Now it gets a lot trickier because we move beyond our awareness of reality altogether. Beyond space and relativity.
We move into the fifth dimension, a hypothetical dimension which physicists use to unify gravity with the electromagnetic force.
One theory is that the fifth dimension contains all the different possible outcomes of an event; a multiverse.
So let's put that in our picture. In space, we could imagine it like this:
Reduce the four dimensional cubes to a plane - except this plane now contains five dimensions.
If you were to zoom in and examine all the dimensions in that plane, you'd see different outcomes of the four-dimensional cube.
Remember only one cube exists in our reality. It contains three dimensions of space, a fourth dimension of time, and a fifth dimension of alternative outcomes.
Timelines: Visualize all possible outcomes of the evolving cube moving through four-dimensional space. These show five dimensions.
Now you're visualizing the possible futures from a single beginning variation of the cube. It's pretty neat that these are already called "timelines", making them easier to visualize in space.
The hard problem (for humble non-mathematicians like us) is that the fifth dimension is not a spacial one. It's as abstract to visualize as time.
But as Interstellar has shown, we can have a stab at feeling it out. Even on a two-dimensional movie screen.
So in your next lucid dream, I challenge you to experience your dreamworld in five dimensions. It's an experiment you can repeat many times with different results, because it's our conceptual understanding that we're probing.
One beauty of lucid dreams is they can show us information using more than our five main senses. (Ever telepathically "known" a dream character's life story? Or experienced a lucid dream as two separate characters at once?)
Unlike real life, lucid dreams allow us to view multiple scenes simultaneously, to experience past, present and future events as "now", and travel between distant places in the universe in an instant.
Perhaps this heightened state of lucid awareness will reveal new ways to understand a reality which we can't see: a tantalizing glimpse into that elusive and unimaginable fifth dimension.
These scientists have already used their dreams to solve complex problems - and they ended up changing the course of human history.
If we're completely honest, lucid dreaming isn't really known for being the most social of interests. In fact, often it's a lone pursuit - just you, your dream journal and the landscape of your mind. But this technique called PAL (or Partner Assisted Lucidity) breaks down that wall and turns lucid dream exploration into a social event.
Members of our lucid dream forum have been asking how to create dream characters in lucid dreams. The most common problem is having characters who look nothing like they should. Or they seem disinterested in your company. Or they fail to show up on command altogether. So, how to combat this? It's a matter of finding creative solutions that bypass logical expectations.
To lucid dream, I recommend being able to remember at least one vivid dream per night. That will boost your self awareness in dreams (making lucidity more likely) and also means you can actually remember your lucid dreams. Which is nice. Here are four detailed tips on how to remember your dreams more frequently. And if you don't think you dream at all - trust me, you almost certainly do. It takes an extraordinarily rare sleep disorder to deprive someone of dream sleep.
It is estimated that these wise and wily Indians have been using mugwort in their healing and ritual practices for 13,000 years, where it is known as the ‘dream sage’. They use the herb to promote good dreams, which they consider an essential aspect of normal human functioning! But that’s not all...
Silene Capensis has been used for millennia by the Xhosa shaman of the river valleys in the eastern cape of South Africa, where it is known as Undela Ziimhlophe or 'white paths'. It's fragrant white flowers open only at night, when they emit a fragrant and almost hypnotising aroma. Also known as African Dream Herb or Ubulawu, Silene Capensis induces spectacularly vivid dreams - yet has never entered the mainstream and remains a fringe taste within western culture.
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?