Synopses & Reviews
It is among the most elegant, radical, and tantalizing theories ever to be fashioned by the keen lathe of mathematical insight. For the better part of two centuries, the notion of higher dimensions beyond space and time has fueled the imaginations of scientists, writers, occultists, and more than a few con artists.
By turns triumphed, mocked, and misinterpreted, the concept of unseen directions outside the range of our senses may now present the only path toward unifying all of the forces of nature into a single cohesive expression: a theory of everything. The best way to understand the substance and impact of this mind-bending idea is to start from the beginning.
In The Great Beyond, the award-winning physicist, mathematician, and author Paul Halpern presents a comprehensive history of the foundations and development of this unfathomable yet irresistible construct. He traces the influence of multidimensional theory on science and society, profiling dozens of brilliant, idiosyncratic thinkers whose labors and insights have advanced, expanded, and popularized the theory. Readers will meet the mathematician who believed that geometry could explain the entire universe, the headmaster who imagined life in two dimensions, and the two theorists who independently discovered the "miracle" that forms the foundation of all modern multidimensional concepts.
At the core of this fascinating tale is Einsteins famous quarrel with Heisenberg and Bohr, whose theories of uncertainty threatened the order that Einstein believed was essential to the universe. Halpern explains how this discrepancy between these two well-established theories drove Einstein to ponder the existence of a fifth dimension, and how his attempts to devise a unified field theory have influenced modern efforts, including M theory and the brane approach.
The Great Beyond will delight and astonish readers seeking a deeper appreciation of the most profound and controversial questions that confront modern science.
Review
“…remarkably accessible….” (
Sky & Telescope, February 2005)
“Halpern dug out some historical details that other writers miss and this helps make the string picture more complete” (Focus, December 2004)
Many physicists are continuing to work toward the fabled goal of a “theory of everything.” A successful theory would unify the four known physical forces – gravity, electromagnetism, and the nuclear strong and weak forces – and case some light upon newly discovered cosmological phenomena and puzzles. Quite a few theoreticians are attempting to use postulated extra dimensions to come up with a workable product; fantastic as it may seem, a universe containing ten or 11 dimensions offers considerable promise. Halpern (physics & mathematics, Univ. of the Sciences, Philadelphia) takes a historical approach to examining the advancement of multidimensional theory. Kaluza, Klein, Einstein, and many other contributors over the past 100 years are discussed, and their work is described at a level appropriate for a general audience. Only Halpern’s terminology and the pace of the discussion in the last few chapters will challenge nonspecialists. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. – Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI (Library Journal, July 2004)
Ever since Plato first told his students the allegory of the cave, people have wondered whether dimensions exist beyond the three we immediately perceive. An extra dimension—time—played a role in Einstein’s work, although he saw it only as a necessary evil to get his equations to work. Other scientists were more receptive: mathematical physicists Oskar Klein and Theodor Kaluza made higher dimensions an integral part of their attempts to discover a “theory of everything” that would tie together strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetism and gravity. Halpern explains that over the past century gravity has been the shadow flickering on the walls of the cave hinting at other realms. Why is it so weak compared with electromagnetism? With string theory, and its successor, M-theory, physicists speculate that gravity “leaks” back and forth between our reality, an 11-dimensional “brane” (or membrane) and other branes, perhaps as close as a millimeter away. Halpern masterfully creates word pictures to illustrate mind-bending scientific theories, and he paints highly detailed sketches of the scientists involved—sometimes too detailed, leading readers to lose the thread of the narrative. Science buffs won’t find much new here, but for average readers, this is an accessible account of the search for what lies behind our dim perception of reality. B&w photos. Agent, Giles Anderson. (July 16) (Publishers Weekly, June 7, 2004)
Synopsis
The fundamental conundrum in physics today is the incompatibility of Einstein’s theory of general relativity with quantum mechanics. To bridge the gap between the two theories, a number of physicists have posited novel solutions involving hyperspace dimensions beyond the four that we can perceive and, most recently, branes, or membranes that exist in the fifth dimension and beyond. This lively account describes, in plain language, the history of hyperspace theory.
Synopsis
Higher dimensions, parallel universes and the extraordinary search for a theory of everything.
Synopsis
Praise for The Great Beyond
"A marvelous bookvery clear, very readable. A brilliant introduction to the math and physics of higher dimensions, from Flatland to superstrings. Its greatest strength is a wealth of fascinating historical narrative and anecdote. I enjoyed it enormously."
Ian Stewart, author of Flatterland
"A remarkable journey from Platos cave to the farthest reaches of human thought and scientific knowledge. This mind-boggling book allows readers to dream strange visions of hyperspace, chase lightwaves, explore Kleins quantum odyssey and Kaluzas cocoon, leap through parallel universes, and grasp the very essence of conscience and cosmos. Buy this book and feed your head."
Clifford Pickover, author of Surfing through Hyperspace
"Halpern looks with a bemused eye at the wildest ideas currently afoot in physics. He takes us into the personal world of those who relish and explore seemingly outlandish notions, and does it with a light, engaging style."
Gregory Benford, author of Timescape
Synopsis
The concept of multiple unperceived dimensions in the universe is one of the hottest topics in contemporary physics. It is essential to current attempts to explain gravity and the underlying structure of the universe. The Great Beyond begins with Einstein’s famous quarrel with Heisenberg and Bohr, whose theories of uncertainty threatened the order Einstein believed was essential to the universe, and it was his rejection of uncertainty that drove him to ponder the existence of a fifth dimension. Beginning with this famous disagreement and culminating with an explanation of the newest "brane" approach, author Paul Halpern shows how current debates about the nature of reality began as age-old controversies, and addresses how the possibility of higher dimensions has influenced culture over the past one hundred years.
About the Author
PAUL HALPERN, Ph.D., is professor of physics and mathematics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship award for the research that ultimately resulted in The Great Beyond. Halpern’s previous books include Time Journeys, Cosmic Wormholes, and The Cyclical Serpent.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments.
Introduction: The Kaluza-Klein Miracle.
1. The Power of Geometry.
2. Visions of Hyperspace.
3. The Physicist’s Stone: Uniting Electricity, Magnetism, and Light.
4. Getting Gravity in Shape.
5. Striking the Fifth Chord: Kaluza’s Remarkable Discovery.
6. Klein’s Quantum Odyssey.
7. Einstein’s Dilemma.
8. Truth under Exile: Theorizing at Princeton.
9. Brave New World: Seeking Unity in an Age of Conflict.
10. Gauging the Weak and the Strong.
11. Hyperspace Packages Tied Up in Strings.
12. Brane Worlds and Parallel Universes.
Conclusion: Extra-dimensional Perception.
Notes.
Further Reading.
Index.