Sunday, October 09, 2005


Scientific discovery has indicated that we may live in a universe that features 11 dimensions (or ten or twelve). 11, you say?!? What are all of them?
For years, cosmologists have been saying that the universe would make a lot more sense if only it had more dimensions than the four we perceive — that is, three spatial dimensions plus time.

If there were, say, 10 dimensions or so, the equations linking gravity and atomic forces into a "theory of everything" would work out just fine.
Hmm, so how exactly does this work? If there are really ten, eleven, or twelve dimensions, where are they? Why do we only experience three? Well, scientists believe they may have discovered a reason.
In a paper due to be published in Physical Review Letters, two physicists propose that the kind of cosmos we live in represents one of the most likely results of something you could call the "battle of the branes."

That's not a typo: We're not talking about gray matter here, but rather different levels of dimensional spaces, known as branes. In cosmological parlance, a two-dimensional space, or membrane, is a "2-brane." A line is a 1-brane, a particle is a 0-brane, and we perceive space as a 3-brane.

Harvard's Lisa Randall and the University of Washington's Andreas Karch did some heavy-duty mathematical analysis of a scenario in which an expanding 10-dimensional space holds a variety of branes.

If two branes intersect, they are annihilated and their energy is dissipated. "The net result of all this is that you reduce the number of branes," Karch explained. And because of the 10-dimensional geometry, some types of branes are more likely to survive than others.

When you bring it back up to 10-D (actually "nine-plus-one" D, since we're talking about nine spatial dimensions plus time), the math indicates that the 3-branes like ours hold a special status. "A 3-brane is the largest brane that doesn't get destroyed by its cousins," Karch said.

The findings are consistent with the idea that our whole universe is a 3-D region within a wider, flatter 10-D realm. Such regions "could be like sinkholes in which gravity is localized," Karch said. And ultimately, that could help explain why gravity works the way it does.

The other class of dimensional space that shows a good survival rate is the 7-brane — which doesn't apply to our particular sinkhole in the cosmic roadway, but turns out to match the expectations of string theorists.

"Several versions of string theories require the existence of 3-D and 7-D branes; indeed, the particles that constitute matter — such as quarks and electrons — can be considered open strings with one end planted on a 3-D brane and the other end planted on a 7-D brane," Phillip Schewe and Ben Stein of the American Institute of Physics [said].

The quest could lead theorists forward to that fabled "theory of everything".
This is all somewhat difficult to comprehend. And that's exactly it--our human brains cannot fathom any more than the four we understand. (if you would like to give it a try, Lisa Randall has written a book called Warped Passages in which she attempts to)

As we ponder the universe around us, these findings cause me to wonder what this means. The way it all comes together seems to me to point to something behind the patterns. It's interesting that the numbers 3 and 7 come out. Where else do those numbers take on special meaning?

A recent book, Beyond The Cosmos by Hugh Ross, has gone so far as to say just that-- that the multidimensionality of our universe could point to God. I'd encourage people interested in this to follow up by reading a couple of these books. Personally, I find it compelling that science could point us to God. I do believe that science and religion are not mutually exclusive, and I also think we eventually will find that.


the_dude said...

Another good look at this stuff, although purely from a secular point of view, is The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. Think of it as the next A Brief History of Time. Brian Greene will probably never be as popular as Stephen Hawking, but he is still a great writer. As for my two cents, I tend to side with some experimentalists who scoff at much of the 'brane' theory. The energies required to test such these theories are truly ridiculous. Maybe it will become feasible someday, but pursuing this course too far could lead us into metaphysical junk or even old school "natural philosophy" - that is, theories for the world that have no basis in empirical evidence. Although I have to admit that maybe tomorrow someone really clever could use the theory to come up with a falsifiable prediction that we could test today, but I think everyone would agree this is unlikely.

Greg said...

Fascinating stuff. This is a topic that I've been meaning to read more about. Also, if anyone has any good recommendations for me to read about the great flood and Noah's Ark, I'm all ears.

Westy said...

I tend to side with some experimentalists who scoff at much of the 'brane' theory.

I don't know. The string theorists who subscribe to this 'brane' theory certainly describe a universe that, to me, sounds like it could be another way of describing heaven or another 'world' we don't understand. And think about the prevalence of the numbers 3 and 7. Another indication of a pattern found all over in creation. Numbers which also happen to coincide with God. Very interesting I must say. And intriguing.