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The Traditional Dimensions
For centuries, scientists envisioned our universe as three-dimensional. These first three, traditional dimensions are easy for a layperson to visualize. One dimension is a straight line. Two dimensions create a flat surface (such as a picture, or a television screen). When a third dimension is added, you get depth, such as the objects in our world.
Defining the Fifth Dimension
In recent years, many have hypothesized that additional dimensions exist, which humans have not yet learned to perceive. There is as of yet, however, no agreed upon definition for this fifth dimension, as scientists do not yet fully understand it. It has been called by many names, including space-time, the space-time continuum, space-time distortion degree, and even parallel universes. Einstein himself, when he first posited a fifth dimension, tried to help others visualize it by analogizing the four-dimensional universe to a sheet of rubber, which can be stretched or squeezed, curled or flattened, by the unknown force of this fifth dimension. Others have conceptualized the fifth dimension by likening our four-dimensional universe as a kind of membrane, or “brane,” surrounded by other realities, into which particles or forces can move under the right conditions.
Finding the Fifth Dimension
Scientists hope that
when they are at last able to identify and view the fifth dimension, it will answer some of the riddles of the physical universe as we now understand it. These riddles include the question of why gravity is a lighter force than other fundamental natural forces. Scientists are now exploring different means of proving and probing the fifth dimension in the hopes of solving these riddles. One means being tried is the measurement of the force of gravity on an incredibly small area (a millimeter or less), looking for anomalies. In a related area, technology is now coming online through the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory which may allow scientists to detect gravity waves for the first time, a phenomenon predicted by Einstein as evidence of the fifth dimension, but not yet observed. Scientists also hope that when the latest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, comes online, they will be able to detect particles moving in extra dimensions. Finally, scientists hope that a new probe, the Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope, will allow them to detect miniature black holes by observing gamma ray bursts, which would also provide evidence of a fifth dimension.
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