Saturday, May 6, 2017


The normal person thinks in and operates in four dimensions: length, breadth, height and time.  If I am going to meet you some place we might agree to meet on the ninth floor (height) of the Brand Building at Hollywood and Vine (length and breadth) at 4:00pm (time).  Not so for quantum string theorists.  They have discovered ten or possibly eleven "hidden" dimensions lurking in every tiny corner of the universe.

To demonstrate this they will give an example of a very long hose spread between two mountain tops.  Now from a distance, they say, that hose will look like a line and we would locate any position on that line by making one measurement, its distance from one of the mountain tops.  However, since it is really a hose, the position of, say,  ants travellng around the circumference of that hose, could not be determined by that one coordinate.

Well, that's true!  If I thought from a distance that a house looked flat, which it does, then I couldn't locate the people eating their dinner in that house, by simply using coordinates that always put me on the facade of the house.  If I thought the sun was a flat disk, I couldn't locate anything in the sun's core, or even imagine that there could be a core.  Other examples are given of "flat" rugs which actually have a nap that may be a fraction of an inch or a couple of inches in height.  Within the nap of that rug their are fibers that could be twisting and curling this way and that and I, assuming that the rug was flat, would not be able to locate them.

So, yes, that is true.  If you misperceive something and think that it is flat when it has depth, think that it is linear when it has both height and depth, then you will be missing something.  However, if you knew all the dimensions involved, if you knew the actual height and length and breadth, you would be able to locate any object, providing it was stationary, within that hose, or any person within that house using those three coordinates.  I am not dealing with objects in motion, because their location is changing over time and cannot necessarily be predicted.

All of this is based on the idea that because light is quantized, comes in little discrete packets of energy, and has some minimum wavelength, there is a minimum amount of distance that one can measure no matter what instrumentation. The extra dimensions are supposedly curled up within these unmeasurably tiny interstices of space. Yet, we can deduce that whatever interesting shapes and curls one assumes are occupying these miniscule unmeasurable spaces; the truth is that if we could measure it, if we could put all those fancy shapes on a grid of length width and height, that we could still locate any point within those curled up shapes, any one.  So, although we can not measure it, we can imagine it, and our imagination allows no "dimension" that is beyond the purview of height, length and breadth.

In fact our entire sense of dimension is based on imagination.  There are no actual lines.  For a line to be seen, for it to have existence in the physical world it cannot have only one dimension.  A line without 'any' width could not exist.  Neither could a two dimensional flat surface without any depth.  Even if you painted something on a wall, the paint has some depth (a tiny depth in our normal world, but a vast depth in the quantum world).  If you projected something on a wall, then that projection may not have depth, but that projection does not exist in the real world; it is just an image of something real, just like there are no real people or houses or football stadiums on your television screen.

In the Standard Model of Particle Physics, subatomic particles like quarks and electrons are considered to be point particles.  But "point-particle"  is an oxymoron.  How could something that has no dimensions (a point) also be a particle.  There would be nothing to be a particle of.  Even a 'real point' is an oxymoron.  You can indicate a point with a dot, but even the tiniest dot has dimension, has length  and width and even some tiny height which would be the height of the medium in which you are drawing the dot.  If it 'really' had no dimensions it would 'really' disappear!  Just because we cannot observe actual points and lines and flat spaces in the real world, but only approximations of them, that doesn't limit our ability to think in three dimensions and it doesn't limit our ability to apply those three dimensions, or four if there is movement and therefore time involved, to spaces that we cannot directly observe.

The theory of a multi-dimensional universe in the countless, tiny, unobservable corners of space was cooked up by string theorists whose theories are based on the idea that the oscillations of loops of impossibly tiny strings within all subatomic particles, within all the quarks and gluons and photons and bosons of the universe, are creating their mass and spin, energy and gravity.  The only way that these strings could produce the necessary oscillations to create all these effects would be if they were under enormous tension and were shaped in a variety of strange, curled and bent formations.

I will quote now from Brian Greene's 'The Elegant Universe':

"If a string is constrained to lie on a two-dimensional surface-such as the surface of a table or a garden hose-the number of independent directions in which it can vibrate is reduced to two: the left right and backforth dimensions along the surface.  Any vibrational pattern that remains on the surface involves combinations of vibrations in these two directions.  If, however, the string is allowed to leave the surface, the number of independent vibrational directions increases to three, since the string then can oscillate in the updown direction.  Equivalently, in a universe with three spatial dimensions, a string can vibrate in three independent directions.  Although it gets harder to envision, the pattern continues:  In a universe with ever more spatial directions, there are ever more independent directions in which it can vibrate."

What utter nonsense!  Where do I begin?  First of all, a string cannot lie in a two-dimensional space.  Nothing can.  The only way that it could do that is if it had no height.  If it had no height it would not be a string.  It would disappear.  The same is true, of course, for what Greene refers to as the garden hose circular world of two-dimensions.  Anything that is crawling on it, including the ants that he uses elsewhere to demonstrate how a two-dimensional universe operates, must have three dimensions.  Ants cannot exist if they don't have breadth as well as width and height; and the haemolymph molecules, and food particles, and nerve signals moving within that ant are moving in a world of three dimensions, otherwise they, and the ant in which they are moving,  could not exist.  

Second, a three dimensional space does not in any way limit the direction of movement to one of those three planes, or combinations of those three planes.  I live in three dimensional space; does that mean that I cannot curl my fingers, arch my back, or do a somersault?  Greene confuses dimension with physical constraint of movement and also with support of movement.  I am not supported by the length dimension.  I am supported by the energy that I put into contracting my muscles against the force of gravity so that I can stand up.  A wind or a push may force me in a horizontal direction, but it is not the horizontal dimension itself that is forcing me to do that.  In fact I move in whatever direction I choose to move in, limited only by my body's flexibility and my desire to do so.  

In 1928 Rudolph Laban developed Labanotation, a written system of communicaing choreographed movement so that a Russian ballet performed by a Chilean dance company did not necessitate the Russian choreographer travelling to Chile to supervise the production; and also to preserve dance choreography for future generations.  Every direction and every strength and speed of movement that is humanly possible is denoted in this system.  Also, models of all the elaborate shapes that string theorists dream up, called Calabi-Yau spaces, that supposedly represent nine or ten dimensional space, are all sculpted in three dimensional space.  If we can sculpt them in three dimensions why can't we move in each of those directions using only three dimensions, plus, of course, time.

Dimensions do not force you into any particular direction of movement and do not support you if you do.  I cannot lie horizontally in space and vibrate, even if I wanted to.  I would need something to support me in my horizontality, like a floor or a bed.  The string theorists assume that all these dimensions support a free standing string to vibrate in curled and bent loops.  Really?  A string, floating in space, would have to be supported by something to keep it afloat.  A vibrating string would have to be supported by two really stable holders on either side of that string.  In that tiny, tiny, submicroscopic space, I wonder what those holders would be made out of, especially if they had to hold a string in place that was under enormous tension; and what would be supporting the holders?

While we're on the subject of matter, what would the strings be made out of?  These strings are so tiny that if the atom that they found themselves in were blown up to be the size of the entire known universe (95 billion light years in diameter, and each light year being a tad under six trillion miles), then the string, unbelievably, would be, at the same rate of expansion, the size of a small tree.  Since matter, as we know it, is made out of atoms, and solid matter is made out of larger atoms with multiple protons and neutrons, then what could this string possibly be made out of?  String theorists say it is made out of the elemental, indivisible, foundational stuff of the universe, that is beyond our ability to observe; bringing us right back to where we started from: Democritus and the ancient Greeks.  

Rather than being a Theory of Everything as the string theorists claim, it is a theory that creates more absurdities than answers. The multi-dimensional universe  is something that has been cooked up by theorists to justify their theories.  It has never been observed, couldn't possibly exist, and even if it did it would not do for those tiny strings what the theorists think it would do for them:  force them into certain directions and give them the support to continue to vibrate under extreme tensions without any other external support.  And, of course, string theory does not address the central question of who or what is it that is plucking those strings to cause them to vibrate at a certain intensity for eternity?  It's time to try a different justification or, better yet, try a different theory.

I welcome your comments.  Physicists, I especially welcome you to tell me where I went wrong.

1 comment:

Bill Schwan said...

These notions have been moving out of the realm of science for years. They are now firmly in the realm of literature. Metaphors are expected to be accepted as empirical evidence when they are merely a representation of something which no one can clearly define, so the poets of science attempt to explain with a few words ideas which are vast in their scope but which may have no anchors in reality. They are using the language and devices of literature to express what they cannot demonstrate in any lab.