Mathematical Breakthroughs Establish
God’s Extra-Dimensional Might
By Hugh Ross
One year ago, while much
of the world was preparing to celebrate Christmas, physicists Ed Witten
and Nathan Seiberg gave their own special gift to the world. They reduced
an entire field of mathematics down to a single short paper. For decades
mathematicians had been stymied in their attempts to describe physics phenomena
that require four-dimensional space. Their equations seemed impossible
to solve, even with the aid of super computers. But a pair of super brains
did it. Wiffen and Seiberg transformed these extremely complex equations
into simple ones, almost as simple as the ordinary calculus equations undergraduates
work on in their classes. 1
black holes and strings
What especially thrilled
me about this mathematical discovery was its potential for increasing our
understanding of string theory and flindamental particles. I anticipated
that breakthroughs in these two areas would flirther strengthen the case
for creation. My guess was that such work would take at least a few years.
I’ve often been teased for making optimistic estimates, but m this case
I wasn’t optimistic enough. The breakthroughs came in just a few months.
In fact, these breakthroughs led to a rare and spectacular occurrence m
the world of science—literally thousands of theories suddenly narrowed
to just one—and I’m eager to share the story with you.
First, Witten and Seiberg
themselves eliminated an annoying physical absurdity in physicists’ theory
explaining the unification of the strong and weak nuclear forces. They
introduced a hypothetical particle that can become massless, and poof!
the absurdity disappeared.2 At about the same time physicist Andrew Strominger
discovered that a certain type of black hole, what he calls a "charged
extremal black hole," could solve a similar problem encountered in string
theory. That’s the theory physicists use to explain how all four forces
of physics (the strong and weak nuclear forces, the electromagnetic force,
and gravity) could have started out as one unified force.2 Later, Strominger
teamed up with physicist Brian Greene and mathematician David Morrison
to demonstrate that charged extremal black holes can transform into fluidamental
particles and vice versa m a manner similar to ice turning into liquid
water and liquid water into ice.2, 3 Eureka! Strominger, Greene, and Morrison
had just shown how several thousand different string theories operating
in four, five, six, and even ten spatial dimensions could all be united
with perfect consistency into just one theory, the ten-dimensional one.
To put it another way, theories invoking "magnetic monopoles," "ordinary
strings." "five-branes," "solitons," 1’type II strings," and "heterotic
strings," formerly thought to be competing descriptions of reality, can
all be integrated in a single overarching theory.
Wait! Before you decide
this is far too complicated and skip to the next article, let me provide
some historical background, define some terms, and promise you that the
reward for wading through all this mind-boggling physics and math is a
remarkable, faith-building conclusion about God.
You may already know that
Mbert Einstein spent the last twenty-five years of his life in a fruitless
effort to develop theory showing how the forces of physics, relativity,
and quantum mechanics could have started as one force (a unified field
theory). Some of his peers saw the search as a waste of time. But sixteen
years after Einstein’s death, particle accelerator experiments proved that
at high enough temperatures, the electromagnetic force and the weak nuclear
force could have been united as a single force, which they dubbed the electroweak
force. Today, particle accelerators ten times more powerflil exist. These
have led to the discovery of all six of the quarks (subatomic particles)
which theoreticians said must exist if the strong nuclear force had ever
been united with the electroweak force.4 However, direct proof of the unification
of these forces would require a particle accelerator forty trillion miles
long (not likely to be flinded as long as deficit reduction remains a national
particles had been viewed as point entities of no size, or virtually no
size. But in their advancing theoretical work they discovered that if these
particles are indeed points, no unification of the forces is possible.
It’s time to quit—or is it? What if flindamental particles are just points
but rather lines or loops of energy, what physicists call strings? Actually,
these so-called strings more closely resemble vibrating, rotating elastic
bands. They are highly stretched at extremely high temperatures (such as
the temperature that existed in the first split second of the universe’s
existence), but at the lower temperatures in evidence ever since that moment,
they are contracted to such a degree that they behave like points.
String theories cannot work
in just the three spatial dimensions (length, width, and height) familiar
to us. They need more room to operate. However, they need that room—some
extra spatial dimensions—only for one moment, just a split second after
the initial creative burst. After that moment, they are no longer necessary
to the universe’s development.
At the very heart of string
theory is the proposal that the universe experienced a dimensional split
just 10-43 seconds (a ten millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of
a trillionth of a second) after the creation event. At that instant, the
ten-dimensional expanding universe split into two: a six-dimensional piece
that permanently ceased expanding and never produced any matter, and a
four-dimensional piece that became our observable dimensions of length,
width, height, and time, continuing to expand and eventually producmg matter,
galaxies, and stars.
massless black holes?
Another way of picturing
this dimensional split of the cosmos is to see all the spatial dimensions
of the universe originally curled up in a very tiny "superball." In the
beginning, these spatial dimensions began to uncurl. At 10-43 seconds after
the creation event, six of these dimensions stopped uncurling and the rest
(our observable dimensions of space and time). To this day, the six uncurled
dimensions remain curled up in a "ball" no bigger than 10-35 meters in
diameter. Exactly where, we do not know, for we humans are confined in
our measuring capacities to just the four dimensions of length, width,
height, and time.
Given ten dimensions of
space, scientists can show how quantum mechanics once integrated with general
relativity and how all four forces of physics were once unified. The theory
involves "heterotic strings." These are closed loops vibrating in two directions.
The clockwise vibration operates in ten dimensions of space, the counterclockwise
in twenty-six dimensions. Don’t panic. Sixteen of these 26 compacti~, leaving
us with just ten, in effect. String phenomena are manifested in all ten
dimensions, but the strings operate in several different possible contexts
within the ten—one dimension, four dimensions, five dimensions, etc. When
researchers encounter strings within these different contexts they may
give the strings different names and describe their different characteristics
and operations, but they are really just exploring different slices of
the ten-dimensional pie.
As most students of science
and viewers of Star Trek realize, a black hole is an object so massive
that its gravity sucks in anything—even light—that gets close enough. But,
for Strominger’s black holes to fit neatly into string theory, black holes
must become massless at critical moments. This necessity raises an obvious
question: How can a black hole be massless without violating the defmition
of a black hole or, more difficult yet, without violating the principles
of gravity? Simply put, how can there be gravity without mass?
experimental evidences for strings
The answer lies in the spatial
configuration of a black hole in extra dimensions of space. Strominger
discovered that in six spatial dimensions, the mass of an "extremal" black
hole (one with a mass and charge so tiny as to be comparable to one of
the flindamental particles) is proportional to its surface area. By making
this area smaller and smaller, eventually the mass becomes zero. To answer
the question another way, Einstein’s theory of special relativity (E mc2)
tells us that under certain circumstances, mass and energy are interchangeable.
His theory of general relativity extends this
principle to space and time.
In other words, if the lines of space are curled up tightly enough, mass
and space are interchangeable. For the tiny black holes Strominger is describing,
the space curvature is easily tight enough to do the job. As if this finding
weren’t exciting enough, Strominger found that his extremal black holes
become massless in precisely those circumstances—and only those circumstances—necessary
to eliminate the remaining physical absurdities of string theory. The whole
community of string theorists is dancing over this breakthrough. Black
holes of all types now fit neatly into string theory. We are not forced,
as before, to choose one of the five different kinds of strings proposed
and reject the other four. Instead of trying to find the one out of thousands
of string theory solutions to match to the real universe, we can now focus
on refming this one.
Before embracing the theological
implications of this grand new theory, you may want to know whether or
not string theorists have any more going for them than just an amazingly
elegant set of equations. Is there any hard, experimental evidence to back
up their claim that the universe really was created with ten mitial dimensions
and a unified set of physics forces? Let’s look at evidences arising from
four different areas of research.
First (and perhaps weakest)
came the findings (described above) made possible by particle accelerators.
Since 1971, accelerator experiments have given us ample proof that two
of the forces of physics, electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force,
are unifiable, and at least partial proof that the strong nuclear force
is unifiable with these other two. Though we do not yet have experimental
evidence to show that gravity is unifiable with electromagnetism and the
weak and strong nuclear forces, the movement of findings lies in the right
direction and suggests that we’re on the right track. Evidences we still
need may be helped along by the gravity wave telescopes recently built
by Caltech and MIT. Researchers are hoping these instruments will bring
the first-ever detection of gravity waves. Have patience, though. String
theory predicts that these new machines will spot gravity waves only if
a head-on collision occurs either in our galaxy or one very near between
two neutron stars or two massive black holes.
A second set of evidences
also has come through particle accelerators. They have enabled us to detect
the existence of quarks and leptons, particles predicted by a (four-dimensional)
subset of string theory called "supersymmetry." This finding is a good
start. But supersymmetry also predicts that for every flindamental particle
of matter known as a fermion there must exist a wavelike particle known
as a boson that mediates the fimdamental forces of physics. In other words,
for every existing fermion there must be a matching boson. While particle
accelerator experiments have detected fermions and bosons in abundance,
none has ever detected a matched fermion-boson pair. At least we know why
such a detection hasn’t been made. The theory tells us that experiments
to date lack the power necessary to find a matched pair. The good news
is that the next generation of particle accelerators may have that power,
maybe even as soon as the turn of the century.5 (Such a detection would
have been an easy task for the cancelled superconducting supercollider.)
The third and strongest
category of evidence comes via experimental proofs for the theory of relativity.
To be viable, string theory must yield the theories of both special and
general relativity. If physicists had been able to discover string theory
before they knew anything at all about relativity, the theories of special
relativity and general relativity would have easily and straightforwardly
fallen out of the analysis of strings. Without assuming any of Einstein’s
equations or principles of relativity, the requirement that strings move
self-consistently throughout space4ime demands the operation of Einstein’s
equations and relativity principles. Thus, the experimental proofs that
affirm special and general relativity simultaneously serve as evidence
for the validity of string theory. Such proof is now quite staggering.
As I describe in the second edition of The Creator and the Cosmos, recent
measurements on a binary pulsar affirm general relativity to fourteen places
of the decimal, that is, to a precision of better than a trillionth of
a percent.6 And even stronger evidence exists for special relativity. It
is affirmed to twenty-one places of the decimal, that is, to a precision
of better than a ten millionth of a trillionth of a percent. 7 These confirmations
make relativity one of the best established principles in all of physics.
This, in turn, establishes string theory or at least the many components
of string theory that are linked with relativity.
A fourth evidence is the
unique role stnng theory plays in solving major mysteries of physics. Ml
previous quantum field theories ruled out the possibility of gravity, and
all gravitational theories were at a loss to explam the properties of flindamental
particles and quantum mechanics. If quantum mechanics were true, there
should be no gravity. If gravity were true, there should be no quantum
mechanics. And yet we possess overwhelming experimental evidence for both
gravity and quantum mechanics. String theory is a quantum theory that demands
the operation of gravity. It is the only theory that self-consistently
explains all the known properties of the known (100+) flindamental particles,
all the properties and principles of quantum mechanics, all the properties
and principles of both special and general relativity, the operation of
all four forces of physics, and all the known details of the creation event.
An obvious theological implication
from string theory is that the Creator of the cosmos must have the capacity
to operate in at least as many dimensions as are needed to explain the
existence of the cosmos—plus one. String theory tells us that the universe
required ten. Therefore, the Creator possesses the ability to operate in
a mitimum of eleven (the early cosmos’s ten plus one) dimensions.
strings: the cutting edge of missions
Why do I say eleven? The
space-time theorem of general relativity derived by Stephen Hawking, Roger
Penrose, and George Ellis in the late 1 960s places the cause of the universe
outside its space-time dimensions.8, 9 Since cause and effect occurs in
some dimension of time or its equivalent, I conclude that the Creator must
operate in at least eleven dimensions or their equivalent. (God may possess
super dimensions or special sp~tual properties that encompass space4ime
capacities and much more.)
Another theological implication
of the space-time theorem of general relativity is that the ten dimensions
required by string theory must have a beginning. A beginning means they
are all created, which implies that the Creator has the capacity to create
space4ime dimensions at will. He can bring them into existence any time
He wants and, as the book of Revelation suggests, take them out of existence
any time He wants.
Many skeptics feel compelled
to reject Christianity because of its "impossible" doctrines. They point
out, for example, that the Trinity is a mathematical contradiction, and
so is the idea that God grants his creatures free choice without comprising
His complete sovereignty. However, such biblical teachings are contradictions
only if we insist they be resolvable within the four dimensions of space
and time we humans experience. In the equivalent of eleven or more space-time
dimensions, these doctrines are easily resolved.
The very presence of these
paradoxical (as opposed to genuinely contradictory) doctrines in the Bible
suggests that the message of the Bible must come from a supernatural source.
(Impossible doctrines presented in other "holy books" remain impossible
in any number of dimensions.) Since humans visualizations are limited to
the four space-time dimensions in which we experience phenomena, human
speculations about God will naturally confine Him to our four-dimensional
context. Indeed, the Bible is the only holy book among the religions of
the world to reveal God as simultaneously singular and plural (triune).
No other book asserts the truth of both free-will and predestination. These
unique features indicate that the Bible alone among the world’s holy books
comes to us from the Being who created our space-time dimensions.
String theory may also help
us accept many more of the Bible’s claims about God’s awesome’s powers.
Given the extra-dimensional capacities of God established by string theory,
it is fairly straightforward, for mstance, to demonstrate that God really
can pay attention to every action, word, and
thought of all six billion
human beings alive today and that He has both the power and wisdom to intervene
in our lives.
I can see more implications,
and I imagine my readers can see more, also. Perhaps you can see why I
view string theory as the cuffing edge in Christian apologetics. Two years
ago I interviewed one of Caltech’s most brilliant graduate students on
my television program. I asked him why he, as an evangelical Christian
with a strong interest in missions, decided to pursue a career as a string
theorist. He replied that after very seriously and prayertully considering
becoming a tull-time missionary, he concluded that he could have a much
greater impact for the advance of the Gospel by advancing string theory.
Two years before completing his Ph.D. and two years before any of these
incredible discoveries had been made, Gerald had the foresight to recognize
that string theory would yield many significant proofs that will help convince
skeptical minds of the truth of Scripture and of Christ’s claims. I believe,
as he does, that the days ahead will yield many more such proofs.
What if every Bible college
and missionary training school in the country mcorporated relativity theory
and string theory into the curriculum, along with other courses in the
sciences? Dream on you might say. Yet, every Bible college and missionary
training school with which I’ve had contact in the past ten years has been
receptive to the idea—once the leaders got a glimpse of what’s taking place
at the frontiers of science. This dream can come true if we can raise up
an army of Geralds and others like him. Please join me in praying that
God will bless our efforts (and others’) to do just that.
1. K. C. Cole, "Two Physicists Simplify Study of Four-Dimensional Space,"
Los Angeles Times (November29, 1994), pp. Al, Al9
2. Gary Taubes, "How Black Holes May Get String Theory Out of a Bind,"
Science, 268 (1995), p.1699.
3. Taubes, "A Theory of Everything Takes Shape," Science, 269 (1995),
4. Hugh Ross, "Quark Family Now Complete," Facts & Faith, vol.8,
3 (1994), pp.3-4.
5. Ivars Peterson, "Beyond the Top: Now that Physicists Have Found
the Top Quark, What’s Next?" Science News, 148 (1995), pp.10-12.
6. Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 2nd ed. (Colorado Springs, CO:
NavPress, 1995), pp.73-75.
7.5. K. Lamoreaux et al., "New Limits on Spatial Anistropy from Optically
Pumped 2OlHg and 199Hg," Physical Review Letters, 57 (1986), pp. 3125-3128.
8. Stephen W. Hawking, and George F. R. Ellis, "The Cosmic Black-Body
Radiation and the Existence of Singularities in our Universe," Astrophysical
Journal, 152 (1968), pp.25-36.
9. Hawking, Stephen and Penrose, Roger, "The Singularities of Gravitational
Collapse and Cosmology," Proceedings of the Royal Society ofLondon, Series
A, 314 (1970), pp.529-548.
All contents, are Copyright © 1995 by Reasons To Believe.