TECH & SCI­ENCE

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - WITH CHRIS

IT’S of­ten stated by physi­cists and sci­en­tists in other re­lated dis­ci­plines that the amount of things we’re yet to dis­cover about the uni­verse far ex­ceed that which we al­ready know.

In fact, the only thing we know for cer­tain is that we don’t know much at all.

When it comes to ex­plain­ing the crazy uni­verse we live in we use two dis­tinct sets of rules: quan­tum me­chan­ics, which is the study of all things su­per-small (atoms, quarks and plancks) and gen­eral rel­a­tiv­ity, which is the study of larger things (peo­ple, plan­ets, and stars).

The prob­lem is, these two sets of rules don’t play very well to­gether.

The way mat­ter be­haves on a quan­tum level - and the rules gov­ern­ing it - can vary wildly to the way mat­ter be­haves on a large scale, and it’s a puz­zle that has kept physi­cist busy for decades now.

You may have come across the term ‘uni­fy­ing the­ory’ - this is the ul­ti­mate goal of physi­cists who are at­tempt­ing to solve this puz­zle: to come up with a the­ory that ex­plains the way mat­ter be­haves on both a large scale, and a quan­tum scale.

En­ter string the­ory - the hy­po­thet­i­cal ex­pla­na­tion for every­thing.

And while a the­ory of every­thing sounds great in - well - the­ory, the con­cepts pre­sented in string the­ory are gen­er­ally far too com­pli­cated for our pa­thet­i­cally fee­ble brains to com­pre­hend, would al­most cer­tainly oblit­er­ate any sense of ego we fool­ishly cling to, and would gen­er­ally have us ques­tion­ing whether the whole ‘ex­is­tence’ thing is so great any­way, and wouldn’t it be much sim­pler and eas­ier if things just stopped ex­ist­ing?

But if you’re feel­ing par­tic­u­larly ni­hilis­tic to­day, here’s a few facts about string the­ory that might melt your noo­dle and grant you a ter­rific sense of ut­ter in­signif­i­cance.

You’re a hot, tan­gled mess

So you may be won­der­ing what’s with the strings, any­how?

Has some cos­mic kit­ten tan­gled every known par­ti­cle in the uni­verse to­gether with a big ball of yarn?

Does it mean we’re all tied to­gether in a mar­velously del­i­cate knot of en­ergy, time, - evo­lu­tion, and co­in­ci­dence?

While string the­ory doesn’t have much to say about cos­mic kit­tens - beyond it be­ing adorable, ob­vi­ously - it cer­tainly posits the lat­ter no­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to string the­ory, all par­ti­cles are just tiny vi­brat­ing strings called gravi­tons, with each type of vi­bra­tion match­ing to a dif­fer­ent par­ti­cle across mul­ti­ple di­men­sions (more on that next).

In our cur­rent un­der­stand­ing of the uni­verse, there are four di­men­sions: X (left-to-right), Y (top-to-bot­tom), Z (for­ward-and-back­ward), and time it­self.

That is, we can move in three spa­tial di­men­sions, and time is con­stantly mov­ing around us.

And those strings? They stretch across each one si­mul­ta­ne­ously, uni­fy­ing time and space, and pro­vid­ing a com­mon set of prin­ci­ples that can be ap­plied to every­thing from atoms to gal­ax­ies.

But if that wasn’t tricky enough…

Mul­ti­ple ver­sions of you ex­ist in six ad­di­tional di­men­sions

Try to imag­ine your ex­is­tence within the ad­di­tional six hy­po­theti- cal di­men­sions cre­ated by string the­ory.

It’s hard enough rolling out of bed each day, but imag­ine know­ing there’s an­other you in an­other di­men­sion, one very sim­i­lar to our own, who’s al­ready show­ered and out the door of an awe­some, deluxe space man­sion you can only dream about.

But why do you know your dop­pel­ganger is out there?

Be­cause you’ve just glimpsed into the fifth di­men­sion - one orig­i­nally posited by Ger­man math­e­ma­ti­cian Theodor Kaluza, and Swedish physi­cist Oskar Klein.

To­gether, the two de­vel­oped the Kaluza-Klein The­ory, which is a uni­fied field the­ory of grav­ity and elec­tro­mag­netism.

Through their re­search, Kaluza and Klein sparked the con­cept that if these two prin­ci­ples ex­ist un­seen, then per­haps they are emerg­ing from an­other plane en­tirely.

From here, the crazy only in­ten­si­fies: the sixth di­men­sion is not just a world sim­i­lar to our own – but an en­tire plane of pos­si­ble worlds, all start­ing at the same time as ours.

The Seventh, one that al­lows ac­cess to these the­o­ret­i­cal planes, and which ex­pe­ri­ences time in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent way than our own di­men­sion.

That is to say, di­men­sion seven’s Big Bang could have started just a few mil­lion years ear­lier, and their Earth (rel­a­tively speak­ing) is ahead in the evo­lu­tion­ary process com­pared to our own, which ex­plains your dis­tinct lack of any­thing re­sem­bling a space man­sion.

The eighth and ninth di­men­sions are ex­po­nen­tial vari­a­tions on the seventh which would pro­vide us with a kalei­do­scopic view of uni­verses that have vary­ing his­to­ries, laws of na­ture, per­cep­tions of time it­self, all cul­mi­nat­ing in the tenth di­men­sion: an un­fath­omable realm in which every­thing about the known uni­verse can be per­ceived all at once.

Check out next week’s col­umn for an ex­plo­ration of more con­cepts sur­round­ing string the­ory.

WHAT A YARN: The uni­verse is a com­pli­cated tan­gle of space, time, mat­ter and forces, and many sci­en­tists be­lieve that string the­ory holds the key to sort­ing it all out.

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