June 25, 2011
For most of our history, we’ve rested easy in the notion that there
were three dimensions that have existed throughout time: length,
width and height.
Ah, the good old days. In the early 20th century,
Hermann Minkowski and Albert Einstein connected our comfortable
three dimensions with a fourth, time, defining special relativity
using a space-time continuum.
This kind of worked, but still didn’t explain a troublesome new
theory of gravity called
quantum mechanics that arose around the
same time Minkowski and Einstein were working on their theories.
Quantum mechanics had its own rules that contradicted the concepts
behind the space-time continuum.
Scientists treated this
incompatibility like the weather for decades, discussing it but not
really doing anything about it.
While higher theoretical dimensions began with Descartes in the
1600s, in the 1970s string theory expanded on this idea as
physicists attempted to tie everything together in one elegant
explanation of the universe. Variations of string theory require the
existence of up to eleven dimensions and a slew of universes, with
our universe forming a three-dimensional membrane floating around
some higher-dimensional donut.
According to this theory, each point
in space has six higher dimensions wrapped up in super-tiny
string theory suggests that the reason we only experience
the three spatial dimensions is that all universes with higher
dimensions got into some cosmic car accident and destroyed each
other, leaving our measly three-dimensional brane untouched.