Scientists know there are more than the 3 dimensions we experience (4, if you include time as one of them), but they don’t know what or where they are. “We have a number of hints from experiments and theoretical ideas that make us think they’re probably out there,” says Joseph Lykken of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Discovering these extra dimensions could tell us why the cosmos is expanding more rapidly than ever and what the mysterious dark force is that we can detect in the universe. And this all ties in with string theory.

In string theory, elementary particles are not like points, but more like strings. String theory requires the existence of at least 6 additional spatial dimensions, which are invisible because they’re rolled up tight into a space too small to see. But we may be able to detect them by measuring the effect they have on gravity. John Price and Joshua Long are looking for gravity effects so tiny, they’re about equal to the weight of one-billionth of a grain of sand.

When the idea of extra dimensions was first proposed almost 100 years ago, most scientists laughed at it. But now they’re detecting effects that can’t be explained any other way. Dark energy is one of these. It drives the universe apart on a large scale, while holding galaxies together at the same time. It may involve interactions between dimensions we see and those we don’t. Physicist Sean Carroll says, “There is the tantalizing possibility that a complete change of perspective makes all of the problems collapse at once.”

A complete change of perspective can open up your mind in lots of other ways too.

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