THE FABRIC of the COSMOS, Brian Greene, 2004
```(annotated and with added bold highlights by Epsilon=One)
Chapter 13 - The Universe on a Brane
Testing string theory is a challenge because strings are ultrasmall. But remember the physics that determined the string's size. The messenger particle of gravity — the graviton — is among the lowest-energy string vibrational patterns, and the strength of the gravitational force it communicates is proportional to the length of the string. Since gravity is such a weak force, the string's length must be tiny; calculations show that it must be within a factor of a hundred or so of the Planck length for the string's graviton vibrational pattern to communicate a gravitational force with the observed strength.

Given this explanation, we see that a highly energetic string is not constrained to be tiny, since it no longer has any direct connection to the graviton particle (the graviton is a low-energy, zero-mass vibrational pattern). In fact, as more and more energy is pumped into a string, at first it will vibrate more and more frantically. But after a certain point, additional energy will have a different effect: it will cause the string's length to increase, and there's no limit to how long it can grow. By pumping enough energy into a string, you could even make it grow to macroscopic size. With today's technology we couldn't come anywhere near achieving this, but it's possible that in the searingly hot, extremely energetic aftermath of the big bang, long strings were produced. If some have managed to survive until today, they could very well stretch clear across the sky. Although a long shot, it's even possible that such long strings could leave tiny but detectable imprints on the data we receive from space, perhaps allowing string theory to be confirmed one day through astronomical observations.

Higher-dimensional p-branes need not be tiny, either, and because they have more dimensions than strings do, a qualitatively new possibility opens up. When we picture a long — perhaps infinitely long — string, we envision a long one-dimensional object that exists within the three large space dimensions of everyday life. A power line stretched as far as the eye can see provides a reasonable image. Similarly, if we picture a large — perhaps infinitely large — two-brane, we envision a large two-dimensional surface that exists within the three large space dimensions of common experience. I don't know of a realistic analogy, but a ridiculously huge drive-in movie screen, extremely thin but as high and as wide as the eye can see, offers a visual image to latch on to. When it comes to a large three-brane, though, we find ourselves in a qualitatively new situation. A three-brane has three dimensions, so if it were large — perhaps infinitely large — it would fill all three big spatial dimensions. Whereas a one-brane and a two-brane, like the power line and movie screen, are objects that exist within our three large space dimensions, a large three-brane would occupy all the space of which we're aware.

This raises an intriguing possibility. Might we, right now, be living within a three-brane? Like Snow White, whose world exists within a two-dimensional movie screen — a two-brane — that itself resides within a higher-dimensional universe (the three space dimensions of the movie theater), might everything we know exist within a three-dimensional screen — a three-brane — that itself resides within the higher-dimensional universe of string/M-theory? Could it be that what Newton, Leibniz, Mach, and Einstein called three-dimensional space is actually a particular three-dimensional entity in string/M-theory? Or, in more relativistic language, could it be that the four-dimensional spacetime developed by Minkowski and Einstein is actually the wake of a three-brane as it evolves through time? In short, might the universe as we know it be a brane? 4

The possibility that we are living within a three-brane — the so-called braneworld scenario — is the latest twist in string/M-theory's story. As we will see, it provides a qualitatively new way of thinking about string/M-theory, with numerous and far-reaching ramifications. The essential physics is that branes are rather like cosmic Velcro; in a particular way we'll now discuss, they are very sticky.