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Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku

When I was a child, I used to visit the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. I would spend hours fascinated by the carp, who lived in a very shallow pond just inches beneath the lily pads, just beneath my fingers, totally oblivious to the universe above them. I would ask myself a question only a child could ask: What would it be like to be a carp?

       What a strange world it would be! I imagined that the pond would be an entire universe, one that is two-dimensional in space. The carp would only be able to swim forwards and backwards, and left and right. But I imagined that the concept of “up”—beyond the lily pads—would be totally alien to them. Any carp scientist daring to talk about “hyperspace”—i.e., the third dimension “above” the pond—would immediately be labelled a crank.

       I wondered what would happen if I could reach down and grab a carp scientist and lift it up into hyperspace. I thought, What a wondrous story that scientist would tell the others! The carp would babble on about unbelievable new laws of physics: beings who could move without fins; beings who could breathe without gills; beings who could emit sounds without bubbles.

       I then wondered: How would a carp scientist know about our existence? One day it rained, and I saw the rain drops forming gentle ripples on the surface of the pond. Then I understood.

       The carp could see rippling shadows on the surface of the pond. The third dimension would be invisible to them, but vibrations in the third dimensions would be clearly visible. These ripples might even be felt by the carp, who would invent a silly concept to describe this, called “force.” They might even give these “forces” cute names, such as light and gravity. We would laugh at them, because, of course, we know there is no “force” at all, just the rippling of the water.

       Today, many physicists believe that we are the carp, swimming in our tiny  pond, blissfully unaware of invisible, unseen universes hovering just above us in hyperspace. We spend our life in three spatial dimensions, confident that what we can see with our telescopes is all there is, ignorant of the possibility of 10-dimensional hyperspace. Although these higher dimensions are invisible, their “ripples” can clearly be seen and felt. We call these ripples gravity and light.

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Dr. Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York, is the author of VISIONS: HOW SCIENCE WILL REVOLUTIONIZE THE 21ST CENTURY and the best-seller HYPERSPACE.

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