Theories explaining the shape of the universe are many; sphere, torus and even a flat, infinite sheet. But what if the universe isn’t really any kind of shape we could even comprehend?
Now that the Large Hadron Collider has passed its first tests, the search begins for the new and the exotic. There’s even talk of discovering those hidden dimensions beyond our prosaic and commonplace four — three of space and one of time.
The most common explanation of where these other regions of the hidden universe are to be found is as infinitely small coils of space & time, only accessible with extreme experiments requiring previously unimagined energies.
Personally, I just don’t like that idea. When we look at those things the universe has hidden from us, they’re often left in plain view. An example is Dark Matter, which may have been recently found hiding in the Bullet Nebula.
This pervasive cloud of invisible matter is all around us, but we’re simply not able to see it yet. Similarly, all regular objects like you, me, the stars and the planets are made up of impossibly small atoms, but entirely definable and measurable.
Of course, hidden dimensions are a different proposition, but if they exist — which many physicists think they do — then surely their shape and general positioning relative to our own must be sympathetic to the shape of the universe itself?
That might sound confusing, but imagine we lived inside of a football, the inside of which is a bladder, with a valve that passes through the outer leather skin of the ball itself. To get into our universe, you’d need to pass through the valve, so it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to find the valve in the middle the bladder.
That’s a very simplistic example, but that at least illustrates my line of reasoning.
Yet again, as I have previously when airing my theories, I must make it clear that I am not a physicist, but instead someone with a fanciful imagination who has at least some grasp of the major concepts in physics, certainly enough to explain these theories to others.
The comprehension of other dimensions
Quite recently, I watched a series of videos explaining the theories and ideas behind dimensions. Within moments of me watching chapter 3, I had something of an epiphany.
The idea of higher dimensions found a champion in Swiss geometer Ludwig Schläfli. He managed to explain all regular polyhedra (cubes, dodecahedrons et cetera) within four spacial dimensions. The videos provided tantalizing glimpses of shapes that for obvious reasons cannot be visualized in our world. Never the less, I saw something that immediately set my mind racing.
Two of his most amazing shapes were the 120 cell (composed of 600 vertices and 1,200 edges) and the 600 cell (composed of 120 vertices and 720 edges).
As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, if these are the shapes we could expect to see within the confines of just one extra spacial dimension, what shapes might we expect to see in five dimensions and above? Indeed, a common theory in physics is that there are in total eleven dimensions.
As the video illustrates, these shapes are amazingly complex, yet surprising simple in certain respects. In the case of the 120 cell, all edges and all vertices play the same roll, which highlights an amazing internal symmetry.
Visualizing any kind of multidimensional geometric shape isn’t an easy task, mostly because our brains are hard wired to deal almost exclusively with only the four dimensions we’re born into. That isn’t to say we couldn’t comprehend higher dimensional space if we were to see it, but since there’s no evidence of that ever happening, it’s thus far an untestable theory.
However, it’s most likely a question of perception, rather than a failing of our senses or even our brain. For example, if I were to tell you that it’s perfectly possible to create a triangle whose 3 angles are all at 90 degrees, you’d say I was crazy. However, the truth is, it’s perfectly possible.
Say you’re standing at (90 degrees North latitude) which is the North Pole, you could fly in a straight line to the Equator (approximately 20,000 kilometers South), upon arrival, you’d turn 90 degrees West and head along the Equator for approximately another 20,000 kilometers (yes, this is an approximation, since the Earth does seem to exhibit a bulge around its Equator). Upon arrival, you would turn 90 degrees North and travel approximately another and final 20,000 kilometers.
What’s unusual about this journey? Quite apart from plotting a triangle whose 3 angles are all 90 degrees, you’d arrive back where you started. Why? Because of the geometry of the Earth, which is roughly a sphere.
Again, much like the football example I gave earlier, this is an over simplification, but it does illustrate how the seemingly impossible is entirely possible. Now take that into a multidimensional geometric shape and what else might be possible?
The greatest illusion in the universe
Back in January 2007, I outlined my ideas concerning the shape of the universe, a shape not dissimilar to the dodecahedron, which incidentally is the same shape as a football:
“Think back to the last time you washed your hands. Can you see the bubbles in the sink basin? Look through your mind’s eye and then in turn inside the seething froth of bubbles.
Individually, a bubble is a perfect sphere. A marvel of nature. But what happens when you force these spheres together? As they push against each other, their surfaces become faceted as they make room for those other, adjoining spheres. Faceted like a football or a Buckminsterfullerene, perhaps?”
It is these symmetries across scales which I find endlessly fascinating. If the outer shape of our universe is that of a dodecahedron, what might its internal structure look like?
What if the universe is a multidimensional geometric shape, whose internal faces form the fabric onto which our four dimensional universe resides?
If such a shape was composed in eleven dimensional space-time, the number of internal faces would be truly astounding. With so many internal faces, most of which resident in these additional dimensions, we might never be more than a few millimeters from the internal face of an additional dimension — but we would never be aware of this during the course of our ordinary lives, since these faces would pass right through our universe unseen.
By now, the number of questions in my head were outnumbering my ideas, most of which beginning with most powerful two words in any language: “What if…”
Back in May 2007, I outlined my own take on how Quantum Entanglement might be explained, which I was immediately reminded of. If this universe of ours was indeed a huge multidimensional geometric shape, these internal faces would be the boundary layers, allowing for the communication that I spoke of:
“And here’s where I started to think — if we live in a layered universe, one composed of eleven dimensions (as suggested for providing a mathematical framework in which relativity and quantum theory can be unified) and not just the four we’re currently aware of, maybe there’s another way to communicate that doesn’t rely on sending information between two fixed points inside our four dimensions of time & space, but via the remaining seven dimensions.”
Instead of those other dimensions being infinitely small, shriveled artifacts of a hidden universe, they would in effect envelop and shape our universe.
Thinking again about my question of what might be possible, if such a universe existed, the complexity of the internal shape might allow for most amazing illusion of them all — that the universe is without end…
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