Imagine you are living in a lake. You are a fish with eyes on either side of your head and all you know is the underwater world of sediment and vegetation and other fish swimming around you. The sunlight comes in, dimmer and refracted, through the water. You go about your life convinced that this underwater world is all there is because it’s all that you can experience. However, there exists an entirely new environment outside of your line of sight — one where animals don’t need water to breathe and flowers bloom in a far more arid world.

This is the situation physicists believe we’re in. We are those fish and those higher dimensions are the new environments we can’t perceive. In fact, string theory, which attempts to reconcile relativity with quantum mechanics (the laws of the very big with the very small), only works if we assume there are much more than the four dimensions we’re used to. Physicists believe but cannot yet prove that there exist up to 11 dimensions in the multiverse. Yes, the multiverse, where universes are bubbles that sometimes come together or split apart. This splitting apart of a universe bubble is one possibility of what might have caused the Big Bang.

Here, I attempt to simplify the ten dimensions of string theory.


First Dimension

A line connecting two points. There is no depth and no height, only a width. You can call this the x-axis.

Second Dimension

Now we have added height or the y-axis. Think of any flat figure, like a triangle.

Third Dimension

We have now added depth or the z-axis. This is the dimension in which we experience the world. It includes volume and the ability to obtain cross sections from objects. You can think of this dimension as space without time.

Fourth Dimension

The fourth dimension is not a spacial one but it consists instead of time. Time helps plot an object’s location in the universe and also adds a way for the third dimension to change. Remember how the third dimension is space without time? Well now we officially have space time.

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