Shifts in perspective

One of the more mind-boggling concepts of physics and mathematics is the positing of "other dimensions" outside the ones we can perceive.

As any school student knows, we live in a three-dimensional world, also observing the fourth dimension of time.

I'm guessing, however, that of the 10, 11 and 26 dimensions theorised by Superstring theory, M-theory and Bosonic string theory, all but a few of you understand the science behind them and please, lemme know if you've ever visualised 26, so I can get the number of your dealer.

One of the most fashionable ideas that's done the rounds of popular science and culture is the concept of parallel dimensions or universes, where you and I and every other temporal creature exists in another, several other, or countless dimensions, living infinite different variations of the life you comprehend now to be "yours".

It sounds whacky but then how many truly consciousness-altering scientific theories did not sound whacky before their day arrived? Round earth, anyone? Atoms? Evolution? Black holes? An expanding universe? The Big Bang?

Consider, however, this song.

It's Dolly Parton's famous tune Jolene - a quite remarkable and moving rendition, by a haunting male voice, that gives the ballad another level of depth because it would seem to be about a man losing his same sex partner.

Read the comments to the video and you already have people suggesting the singer sounds like Herbert the Pervert, singers Josh Garrels, Tim Buckley and Tracey Chapman, as well as The Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill and American broadcaster Garrison Keillor.

If you didn't know better, the listener could surmise or invent an entire backstory for this moody, possibly gay, country and western singer - who has just the hint of an overbite - and imagine the obstacles and prejudices he'd come up against in his career.

Take the track out of context and I could easily envision lovelorn netizens setting up tribute sites and fan clubs, perhaps even doing covers of this cover and eventually agitating for a world tour.

The wrinkle here, of course, is the recording is of Dolly Parton, merely slowed by 17 per cent. The dimension of time has been altered and we thus gain an entirely different experience of the song, the singer, the lyrics and the narrative.

The thing I can't get out of my head is this version of the song existed in parallel from the moment Parton recorded her hit, it was just outside our perception until someone listening to a 45 RPM vinyl single played it at 33 RPM, or this or that internet user decided to slow the track down by exactly 17 per cent.

We've all had experiences in three dimensions, where tricks of perspective have made objects look bigger, smaller or altered in shape or form, so it's interesting to consider how many variations of comprehension lay just outside our perception, simply because we view time as being a linear progression with 60 seconds = one minute.

I'm guessing the wonder we feel when we watch a seedling bud and grow into a flower in 15 seconds, thanks to time lapse photography, would be dwarfed if we could even glimpse what was going on in those other, hypothesised, dimensions.

Maybe it'd send us mad? Maybe it'd explain everything?

I just hope I'm around to see it happen. 

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