American scientists believe they are close to discovering a fifth dimension in space. They believe that beyond the 3D world plus time, there exists another strand to the gravitational structure of the universe.
Experts at Duke University, North Carolina, and Rutgers University, New Jersey, have developed a mathematical framework to test their theory which competes with Einstein’s own view.
They believe the visible universe is just part of a larger cosmos – a membrane like a strand of filmy seaweed floating in the ocean.
Charles Keeton of Rutgers and Arlie Petters, of Duke, call their new model of the universe “braneworld”.
It predicts certain cosmological effects that it will be possible to test with a satellite due to be launched next year.
Braneworld gives a mathematical description of how gravity shapes the universe that differs from that offered by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.
Part of the theory predicts that tiny black holes created in the early universe have survived to the present day and are part of an invisible mass of dark matter in the universe.
Their calculations suggest they could even lie within our solar system but are no more massive than asteroids. Einstein’s theory predicts that such early black holes would have evaporated long ago.
The scientists believe they can test their theory by studying gamma ray bursts from explosions deep in the universe. They say braneworld’s black holes will disturb the patterns of the rays in the same way that a rock blocks ripples in a pond.
Keeton and Petters say they should be able to measure the universe’s own ripples with the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, due for launch in August next year.
Petters admits that if his theory, reported in the online journal Physical Review D, is true it will “upset the applecart”.
He adds: “It would confirm that there is a fourth dimension to space, which would create a philosophical shift in our understanding of the natural world.”
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