" Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) taught that the physical world was
made up of four elements: air, earth, fire and water. Tying these all together
so that the "elements" intercommunicated was a "subtle" medium, a fifth
element: the aether -- later to be known as the vacuum. (The Latin root
vacuus means "empty"). In a sense the aether was the substratum of the
material world. The Greeks believed that "nature abhors a vacuum" so they
could not imagine space as being totally empty.
The Greeks believed the stars were suspended from, or attached to, a
rotating crystalline shell at a fixed distance from the earth. When some
of the "stars" (planets) were observed to be moving with respect to the
"fixed" stars, a series of rotating crystal spheres was postulated. The
earth was believed to be fixed, immovable, and at the center of the creation.
Not until the 16th Century were these Greek (Ptolemaic) ideas challenged
by the Copernican revolution. One of the most mysterious concepts in western
physics since Aristotle's day is the concept of the vacuum. Until Galileo
Galilei (1564 - 1642) challenged the notion, the velocity of light was
assumed by most everyone to be infinite, so the nature of the space between
the earth and the crystal spheres was not of great concern.
Rene Descartes (1596-1640) championed the theory that the aether was
a plenum, from the Greek word meaning "full." Because it was so difficult
for the scientists of that era to understand "action at a distance," Descartes
imagined that a very dense medium of very small particles pervaded everything.
This medium was capable of transmitting force from one object to another
by collisions. The aether "particles" were in constant motion and there
were no spaces between the particles. In a sense the aether was more solid
than matter, yet invisible. Descartes universe was a purely "mechanical
universe" and his theories were soon superseded.
Galileo's former secretary, Evangelista Torricelli filled a long glass
tube with mercury in 1644. Inverting the tube into a dish of mercury he
observed that the mercury dropped some 30 inches at the closed upper end
of the tube, thereby creating what was obviously a vacuum. Blaise Pascal
(1623 -1662) took this work even further and soon everyone was convinced
that the vacuum of space was empty after all.
If light were corpuscular in nature as some believed, it was not difficult
to imagine that light "particles" (we now call them photons) could traverse
a pure vacuum without the necessity of a real medium pervading all of space.
But other experiments soon began to show that light was a wave phenomenon.
Of course waves could travel through the plenum aether by collisions, however
at the time only compressional waves were imagined. [Sound waves or seismic
waves are compressional in nature, for instance, but light waves proved
to be transverse]. In parallel with all these growing controversies, the
velocity of light was finally measured by Olaf Roemer in 1675 and found
to be finite, although the values he obtained were a few percent higher
than the present value, 299,792.4358 km/sec.
By the time of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) the aether was believed
by many scientists to be "luminiferous." That is, the aether was said to
be more fluid than solid, though it was elastic, and therefore it was a
medium which would support waves. James Clerk Maxwell (1839 - 1879) enjoyed
great success when he found a set of equations which beautifully described
how light waves could travel through such a luminiferous aether. He showed
that light waves are composed of oscillating electric and magnetic vectors
in an x-y plane for a wave traveling in the z-direction. For a waves to
exist at all, it is natural to suppose that there is some sort of supporting
medium. Such a medium must possess elasticity (a spring like property)
and also inertia, (a mass like like property). In fact, the velocity of
a wave in any medium is equal to the square root of the stiffness divided
by the density of the medium.
In the case of electromagnetic waves (gamma rays, x-rays, radio waves,
heat, and light of various wavelengths), Maxwell found that the aether
possessed an electric field scaling parameter, called "dielectric permittivity,"
and a magnetic field scaling parameter, called permeability, such that
the velocity of light was equal to one over the square root of permeability
times permittivity. In support of the notion that the aether was a real
medium it was observed that empty space behaved like a transmission line
with a "characteristic impedance" of 377 ohms, (which is the ratio of permeability
to permittivity for "free space.")
This new theory also explained how light slows down in glass, in gases,
in water -- because media other than the vacuum had a different permeability
and permittivity. The aether was once again thought of as a very real medium
which could be stretched or compressed -- it had resilience or compliance,
and inertia. Yet no known physical substance had a stiffness to mass density
ratio anywhere near 9 x 1016 which was required of the aether
as a medium. The aether appeared to possess elasticity but negligible inertia.
Space and Time
The idea that some kind of aether medium existed prevailed until 1887 when
Michelson and Morley utilized the Michelson interferometer in an attempt
to detect the relative motion of the earth and the aether. According to
19th Century preconceptions the velocity of the earth going around the
sun should be about 30 km/sec. Yet when the measurements were made no motion
of the earth relative to the ether could be detected at all. In other words,
the aether apparently did not exist.
For many scientists the notion that an aether existed was simply discarded.
Yet the apparent non-existence of an aether raised many problems and the
Michaelson-Morley experiment is not the end of the story.
Until Einstein's Theory of Relativity
was published in 1905, the negative result of the Michaelson-Morley experiment
baffled scientists. Einstein showed that the velocity of light has the
same value in all reference frames, whatever their velocity may be relative
to other frames. From this point modern physics took off in the direction
of Special and General Relatively Theory, and Quantum
One of the major efforts of modern physics is the search for the "Unified
Field Theory". This is an attempt to condense all the known "field" like
forces of gravity, electromagnetic phenomenon, weak and strong nuclear
forces into one single equation. The results of this search have lead to
a concept of the universe which require multiple dimensions of existence.
By assuming that time was a mysterious "fourth dimension" of 19th Century
science fiction speculation, Einstein was able to show that we live in
a space-time continuum where ordinary dimensions are both elastic and interrelated.
Mass and energy are two different forms of the same thing, the speed of
light is the top limiting velocity in the physical world, space is curved,
and gravity affects the curvature of space. Einstein's legacy was extensive
and sweeping in its consequences. His Special and General Relativity theories
have been well established by many experiments.
In 1919 Einstein received a letter from an obscure mathematician, Theodr
Kaluza, who suggested that he could tie together electromagnetism into
a simpler theory if he assumed there were five dimensions -- four spatial
dimensions plus time. Bernard Rein's power tensor mathematical notation
made dealing with N dimensions ("Hilbert space") easy. Four dimensions
required a matrix of four rows and four columns. It was simple to add a
The Kaluza-Klein theory in effect replaces points, P, on a line with
tiny circles on a hose (diagram below). Later on when more dimensions were
added, the minute circles were replaced by very small vibrating strings.
When higher dimensions are added, the new dimensions are found to be
curled "compactified" into a very small "space" whose size is of the order
of the Planck length, = 10-35 meters.
If five dimensions are better than four, why not add more? (The whole
point of additional dimensions in hyperspace is that the Laws of Nature
become simpler when higher dimensions are added). The behaviour of the
universe can now be described by a ten dimensional matrix.
The existence of higher dimensions can not be proven at this point in
time --the required atomic accelerator energy levels are well beyond present
technology. Therefore we can not be sure that they are really there. "Elegance"
and "beauty" and "simpler equations" are attractive reasons for favoring
a new theoretical model but they are not infallible guidelines. Not everything
that meets these aesthetic criteria describes the world as it really is.
Detailed analysis of the mathematics behind the Theory of Relativity and its extensions (String Theory) show us that space, time, matter and energy are all essentially the same and that, at the very beginning, the universe consisted of "nothing". The universe has a finite history and came into existance suddenly.
The logical Conclusion
We must now reconsider our understanding of how the universe works. We
may live in a world where what we see and observe around us is only a very
small portion of what exists. If these higher dimensions do exist, then
it is possible that they are inhabited by various beings. These beings
would have un-imaginable power compared to our simple four dimensional
existence. More importantly, one of our four dimensions is time. These
beings would be "immortal" (i.e.. totally beyond time). In fact it could
be argued that we would appear to be a fleeting shadow to these extra-dimensional
beings. Our existence in only four dimensions would seem short and futile
to such beings.
The interesting thing about this is that the Bible does give us very
clear insights into the existence of these extra-dimensional realms.
Firstly, the Bible is the only holy book which speaks of a creator who is totally beyond the realms of time and space. Many holy books speak of creation, but always in the context of our own dimensions. These accounts speak of a god or gods who use pre-existing materials in a pre-existing space - time continuum to create this world. The Bible on the other hand boldly declares that "In the beginning (of time) God created the heavens (multi-dimensional space) and the earth (physical matter)" (Genesis 1:1).
The Bible also implies the existance of God outside our normal stream of time. For example, the Bible clearly declares the truth of both "predestination" and "free will". Our paths were laid out by God prior to the beginning of the universe, yet according to the same scriptures we are responsible before God for all our actions and are without excuse. How can we be both predestined and have a free will at the same time. In our stream of time this is impossible, but for our Creator, who established our dimensions of time and stretched them out at the beginning of the universe, this is quite natural.
Secondly, the Bible shows us that God created the universe in "two stories", the "heavens" and the "earth".
Let us take a small leap of faith at this point. Assuming the universe
is indeed "two storied" as the Bible teaches and not "one storied" , then
surrounding us there exists a real and "substantial" spiritual world. Our
material world is in fact embedded in the spiritual. The two realms are
coupled, and the Source of all things is in the spiritual world,
"By faith we understand that the world was created by the word
of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear."
(Hebrews 11:3) "...we look not to the things that are seen but to the things
that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things
that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians. 4:18) "