Table of Contents
.......The Elegant Universe
THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, Brian Greene, 1999, 2003
```(annotated and with added bold highlights by Epsilon=One)
Chapter 10 - Tearing the Fabric of Space
Three Questions
At this point you might say, "Look, if I was a little being in the Garden-hose universe I would simply measure the circumference of the hose with a tape measure and thereby unambiguously determine the radius—no ifs, ands, or buts. So what is this nonsense about two indistinguishable possibilities with different radii? Furthermore, doesn't string theory do away with sub-Planck distances, so why are we even talking about circular dimensions with radii that are a fraction of the Planck length? And finally, while we are at it, who really cares about the two-dimensional Garden-hose universe—what does all this add up to when we include all dimensions?"

Let's begin with the last question, as the answer will force us to come face to face with the first two.

Although our discussion has taken place in the Garden-hose universe, we restricted ourselves to one extended and one curled-up spatial dimension merely for simplicity. If we have three extended spatial dimensions and six circular dimensions—the latter being the simplest of all Calabi-Yau spaces—the conclusion is exactly the same. Each of the circles has a radius that, if interchanged with its reciprocal, yields a physically identical universe.

We can even take this conclusion one giant step further. In our universe, we observe three spatial dimensions, each of which, according to astronomical observations, appears to extend for about 15 billion light-years (a light-year is about 6 trillion miles, so this distance is about 90 billion trillion miles). As mentioned in Chapter 8, nothing tells us what happens after that. We do not know whether they continue on indefinitely or perhaps curve back on themselves in the shape of an enormous circle, beyond the visual sensitivity of state-of-the-art telescopes. If the latter is the case, an astronaut travelling out into space, continuously going in a fixed direction, would ultimately circle around the universe—like Magellan travelling around the earth—and wind up back at the initial starting point.

The familiar extended dimensions, therefore, may very well also be in the shape of circles and hence subject to the R and 1/R physical identification of string theory. To put some rough numbers in, if the familiar dimensions are circular then their radii must be about as large as the 15 billion light-years mentioned above, which is about ten trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion (R=10^61) times the Planck length, and growing as the universe expands. If string theory is right, this is physically identical to the familiar dimensions being circular with incredibly tiny radii of about 1/R=1/10^61 = 10^-61 times the Planck length! These are our well-known familiar dimensions in an alternate description provided by string theory. Infact, in this reciprocal language, these tiny circles are getting ever smaller as time goes by, since as R grows, 1/R shrinks. Now we seem to have really gone off the deep end. How can this possibly be true? How can a six-foot tall human being "fit" inside such an unbelievably microscopic universe? How can such a speck of a universe be physically identical to the great expanse we view in the heavens? Furthermore, we are now led forcefully to the second of our initial three questions: String theory was supposed to eliminate the ability to probe sub-Planck distances. But if a circular dimension has radius R whose length is larger than the Planck length, its reciprocal 1/R is necessarily a fraction of the Planck length. So what is going on? The answer, which will also address the first of our three questions, highlights an important and subtle aspect of space and distance.
Table of Contents
.......The Elegant Universe