If There Are Other Dimensions, Where Are They?

Theoretical physicist Brian Greene discusses how we may not be able to see other dimensions.

It’s an idea that goes way, way back, at least to Aristotle, and likely further. It’s the idea that there are more dimensions than the three we perceive: width, height, and depth. It’s a notion that has persisted into modern physics, and there’s nothing in the math to rule it out. In fact, it’s key to string theory. As theoretical physicist Brian Greene says, “The math suggests this as a real possibility — that there may be more dimensions.” 

So how can this be? How can there be dimensions we can’t perceive, and maybe don’t experience?

Greene’s basic point frames the invisibility of other dimensions as an issue of size, saying our “left-right, back-forth and up-down are the big easy-to-see dimensions,” and that other dimensions may be too tiny to see.

Now, I’m no physicist, but there’s another possibility that strikes me as equally worth considering.

It could be the number of dimensions we’re able to see is limited by the human senses that define our perceptions. Are sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch the only senses an organism can have? We know that’s not true. Birds and some other creatures even here on earth seem to have at least one other sense that we don’t — they can perceive and navigate by the earth’s magnetic field.

Consider what we know about human sight and our limited range of color perception. It seems that certain animals, like the mantis shrimp, see different colors than we do. These are wavelengths in our own three dimensions and we don’t see them.

Of course, couldn’t there be dimensions no organism, terrestrial for otherwise, could perceive?

Whatever the reason, whether it’s an issue of size or our limited senses, Dimensions Four and up are one reason science has turned to math as a means of advanced exploration. And thank goodness. We can just follow the numbers.


Headline image: M.C. Escher, Cordon Art BV

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Keep reading Show less

22 months of war - condensed in a 1-minute video

No, the Syrian civil war is not over. But it might be soon. Time for a recap

Strange Maps
  • The War in Syria has dropped off the radar, but it's not over (yet)
  • This 1-minute video shows how the fronts have moved – and stabilised – over the past 22 months
  • Watching this video may leave you both better informed, and slightly queasy: does war need a generic rock soundtrack?
Keep reading Show less

Bespoke suicide pods now available for death in style

Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.

The Sarco assisted suicide pod
Technology & Innovation

Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco! 

Keep reading Show less

How to bring more confidence to your conversations

Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.

  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
  • Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
  • There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.
Keep reading Show less