What are "curled" dimensions?
I recently read the book The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, which talks a lot about dimensions. In particular, it states that there could be curled up dimensions on microscopic scales. I don't quite understand what this means. It seems to me that every single point in space can be described by the three visible spatial dimensions -- left/right, forward/backward, and up/down. How can more dimensions exist, if every point in space can already be described with just three pieces of data?
We are sensitive only to three spatial dimensions and the dimension of time and that is the reason why we think that we are able to describe every point in space by three pieces of data. If there are extra dimensions and these are very small, then one cannot detect these except through certain very sensitive experiments.
A simple example of a curled dimension: Consider several small threads that are braided to form a thicker thread. When seen from far off, there appears to be only a single thread characterized by a radius and length. However, if one sees more closely, one is able to see that there are in reality several miniscule threads and that one needs more than two numbers to characterize this system. The extra numbers are analagous to extra dimensions that are curled up. (Note that this is just an analogy).
Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:
- Podcast? Subscribe? Tell me about the Ask an Astronomer Podcast
- Subscribe to our Podcast | Listen to our current Episode
- Cool! But I can't now. Send me a quick reminder now for later.
How to ask a question:
If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist
This page has been accessed 19179 times since August 24, 2002.
Last modified: June 4, 2003 9:59:20 PM
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.
Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)