If you saw the following image, would you say to yourself, "I believe this X-ray crystallograph is showing me a double helix structure?"
Apparently there are people who stare at such images enough that they can indeed make such conclusions. Crick and Watson, for instance, did just that when Rosalind Franklin showed them the image. Or so the story goes. But this post is not intended to be mired in the question of who deserved the Nobel prize for discovering the structure of the DNA molecule. I'm sure they all worked very hard.
No, this post is intended to be mired in the question of how we learn to discern the nature of higher-order realities when we have never experienced those realities. Looking at the chopped end of the piece of beech in the image above, I was immediately reminded me of the DNA crystallography question: of what 3D structure is this interesting grain pattern a 2D section? Can only one 3D structure possibly result in such a section, or is it possible that seeing this particular section only narrows down the options... that we really still don't know for sure what sort of structure has distorted the rings?
When we experience a moment in time, our senses tell us all about the 3D nature of that moment. To gather the "full" 4D reality we have to remember what's come before and predict what will come next, somehow stringing the little paper dolls of each moment together into the fragile ribbon we call history. Everyone assembles the dolls differently, even if they're the same dolls.
A good friend of mine is (possibly even as I write this!) elaborating on a fascinating re-description of human experience. It may even become a Theory of Everything. It begins with a very logical, absolutely undeniable, statement, and steps outward until you must call into question everything you know.... and then go back out and live life as if you haven't called all these things into question. He's struggling, because it's really hard: in the end he has to assemble this theory just like those paper dolls I so poetically described. He sees the end of the board, and he's seen other ends of other boards, and he thinks it all looks a bit twisty.