Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Beyond Time and Space": Three articles about cosmology: "The Edge of Infinity," by Alison Boyle; "Small, Dark, and Awesome," by Hazel Muir; "Pulling Power," by Marcus Chown. New Scientist, 29 September 2001, pages 24-34.

These three articles discuss some of the latest research in cosmology, revealing a cornucopia of weird and wonderful ideas from mathematics and physics. String theory predicts the universe has not three dimensions, but ten or eleven. Why don't we see these extra dimensions? Perhaps we are living on a brane (short for membrane), "floating in a space of five, six or more dimensions, like a soap bubble in the bathroom," as Alison Boyle puts it in her article. The "manyfold universe" theory says that the brane we live on could be folded over on itself many times, accordion-fashion. Light could travel only on the brane, but gravity could take a shortcut by jumping from one fold to the next. Also entering the story are black holes and whether tiny ones can be manufactured at particle accelerators, and a new theory about planet formation that relies on the manyfold universe idea to explain how planets like the Earth formed in the early stages of our solar system.

--- Allyn Jackson