To go back to the Home Page.
A MULTI-DIMENSIONAL WORLD VIEW
9. WHAT IS SUPER ABOUT SUPERSTRINGS?
Superstrings are one of the most exciting discoveries of the last 30 years, giving us a greater understanding of the beginnings of our cosmos.
We don't hear much about superstrings in the media. For such an important discovery one would think that we would be hearing a lot more than we are. Perhaps it is because they are hard to understand. I'm sure the media could do a good job of making them understandable if they tried! Or do they raise ideas that people don't want to face?
If as a Christian you find it hard to relate to scientific terms and ideas, or if you think it unnecessary to consider what science has discovered, then consider that the Bible does start out by talking about the physical nature of our universe. That sets the scene for the relationship between God and humans which was to follow. It is God's world that is being discovered, and we can only rejoice at what we can learn in this way. Christians need to understand at least something about superstrings, because superstrings may help us understand more about the wonders of creation and the God who is our creator.
If you are a seeker, you will be interested in seeking the truth about the nature of our universe, then Superstrings are something that you cannot avoid to take some account of. For they challenge our concept of the universe in a dramatic way. They provide a scientific basis for the multi-dimensionality of the universe and extra dimensions. We can no longer avoid accepting that we do live in a multi-dimensional universe, it becomes just a question of what are the nature of those dimensions.
The Invisible Bank
I now do almost all of my banking without ever going to a bank to be served by a bank teller. The one exception is if I need to deposit cheques - which is occurring fewer and fewer times. I belong to a bank which does not even have a branch in my local area, and seems to do almost all of its work over the internet.
Most of my purchases are now made by electronic card. My bank balance does not consist of cash that I can touch or see, but information that is written in my monthly bank statement or online in an electronic form. In one sense nothing is actually there except the information. All the time I have to trust the calculations as to the amount of money that is there, even if I do not see it.
I still do some of the adding up myself of course when I check my bank statements. I can also go to an ATM machine and draw some cash out, in other words turn my electronic information into something visible. The reality of the electronic information is demonstrated by turning it into something I can see, but the reality was there all the time.
So what is real is not just what I can see in my hands, but what the electronic mathematical information tells me. Behind all the variety of kinds of money that there are - cheques, coins, and notes of different kinds - is just one piece of information, my electronic bank balance.
What are Superstrings?
Superstrings are like my bank balance, mainly invisible but real enough because their presence can be calculated. Although the study of superstrings is still continuing, and the final word on them is a long way off yet, there is enough information about them to be confident that they are showing us the way forward. We must take notice of them and what we can learn from them.
Superstrings are extremely tiny building blocks of the universe, as small to an atom, as an atom is to our solar system. Instead of being point like particles as one might expect, they are shaped like strings, either open ended or closed into a rubber band shape.
They are one-dimensional with length but no width. The strings can be of different lengths and they each vibrate in different ways which determine what kind of atomic particle they build. A rough example would be a violin string whose vibration determines what note is produced. The energy of their vibration produces what mass they have.
The way that they vibrate and also unite with other superstrings determine what kind of particle they produce. All the atomic particles scientists know about are made from superstrings.
Superstrings form a huge variety of possible shapes by the way they move through time. They can form sheets, tubes or doughnut shaped patterns. When they combine with other superstrings the variety of possible shapes increases again.
It's not my aim to describe the science of superstrings, because it is not my qualification, and others have already done that better than what I could do. If you want to know the details go to the internet, or get useful material from Hugh Ross's and Brian Greene's books.
Superstrings are the only way that quantum mechanics (the study of the particles of the atom), and the Theory of Relativity (the study of cosmic motion, time and matter) can both be combined under one theory. Superstrings also neatly join together all the fundamental forces of nature (the weak and strong nuclear forces, electromagnetism and gravity) - something that has been called the Theory of Everything (TOE). Hugh Ross says, "Unquestionably, strings yield an amazingly elegant set of physical principles. They beautifully unite the physics of the very small with the physics of the very large." [BTC pg 40]
Because superstrings are so small they are not observable by any means. They can only be 'proven' at present by mathematical calculations. Superstrings are leading us to the fundamental information behind what actually produces the matter and energy that we think is real.
The interesting thing about maths is that it is able to prove information - not by repeating experiments as we do with science - but by calculations. Mathematical proofs are just as solid if not more so than science.
Superstrings provide us with symmetry, an explanation of our universe that can be applied to all known phenomena of spacetime. Behind all the variety of laws, forces and particles in our universe there is one truth or law that works for everything, even if we cannot see it.
The Significance of Superstrings
Each new discovery of science not only adds to our knowledge but alters our understanding of the universe. The super thing about superstrings is that they exist in at least 10 spacetime dimensions, compared to 4 spacetime dimensions in the universe. Superstrings, show us that a fundamental property of our universe are the dimensions of which they and the universe are composed.
In the extremely high temperatures at the beginning of the universe, all dimensions were operational, but as the universe quickly cooled, the extra 7 dimensions curled up into a form that makes them non-observable, though still having an effect on their properties.
Hugh Ross explains the present evidence for superstrings, and how future research could confirm them even more strongly. Ross's conclusion: "Because relativity is solidly established, so are the many components of string theory, including the ten space-time dimensions, that link with relativity." [BTC pg 41]
In other words, superstrings have opened up a way for us to see something even more fundamental about what reality itself is. They are the strongest scientific evidence that we have for the existence of any further dimensions than our four spacetime dimensions. In fact they have blown a big hole in this idea, by adding at least ten more.
In my presentation so far I have tried to show that dimensions are not reliant for proof on the existence of superstrings. They are just one string in the bow of the logic behind dimensions. It is time to look back at the argument that has been presented so far.
My argument is based on the law of symmetry, that laws should apply equally everywhere and to all things. So when we say that the properties of the universe are described by the four dimensions of time and space, we need to realise that not all the properties of existence are being covered by this description, and that there must be other dimensions to fully describe existence.
The discovery of the dimensions of superstrings are one of the proofs that show that there can indeed be further dimensions. But there are other evidences I have presented:
The full significance of the discovery of extra dimensions in superstrings are that we need to explain their existence and role. Why are there extra dimensions? What do dimensions do? What do they explain? The symmetry of the universe demands that we apply this discovery to all aspects of life. That is why all of existence needs to be understood in terms of dimensions. That means that not only spacetime, but also the matter, energy, knowledge, and spirit of our universe needs to be brought under one principle.
- The nature of time
- The laws of thermodynamics
- Intelligent design
Superstrings and Creation
Most Christians have not yet caught up on the theory of superstrings, and probably find it difficult to know where to integrate this science with their doctrine of creation. Is this another theory that science has come up with to try and deny the reality of God as creator?
Superstrings are a useful place for us to consider the link between science and theology. In superstrings we have a discovery that not only provides a mechanism for how dimensions exist, but also makes us think about the nature of God as an extra dimensional being.
Hugh Ross puts it this way, "At the very heart of string theory is the proposal that the cosmos experienced a dimensional 'split' at 10-43 seconds (a ten millionth of a trillionth or a trillionth of a trillionth of a second) after the creation event began. At that instant, the ten-dimensional expanding universe split into two: a six-dimensional piece that permanently ceased expanding and never produced matter, and a four dimensional piece that became our dimensions of length, width, height and time. That four dimensional system continued to expand and eventually produced matter and stars." [BTC pg 43]
Firstly, the more we learn about the universe, the more it reveals the greatness of God. We need not fear that scientific discoveries are alternatives to belief in God, but that they help us to see God's hand at work. The psalmist says it clearly: "Praise the Lord, my soul! O Lord, my God, how great you are! You are clothed with majesty and glory; you cover yourself with light. You have spread out the heavens like a tent and built your home on the waters above… You have set the earth firmly on its foundations, and it will never be moved." [Psalm 104: 1-3, 5]
Superstrings reveal more about the nature of God our Creator. There is an amazing beauty and symmetry to this explanation of creation. Creation is:
a. not out of nothing. Rather it is out of a higher dimensional reality than what we experience now. It makes sense that an eternal, multi-dimensional God has formed this world out of the dimensions of his own multi-dimensional realm.
b. not self producing. It did not start with the least, unorganised particle that grew by itself into the universe. Instead it started with design, order and purpose. Scientifically this fits with the principle of entropy, that the universe began with a state of low entropy or high level of order. Theologically it fits with a God who created out of his design, order and purpose.
Secondly, we need to accept the unity of science and faith. The early scientists were Christians. Science is not opposed to faith, and faith is not opposed to science.
Science is used by some people as an alternative for faith, and faith is used by some Christians as an alternative for science. Many Christians keep science and faith in separate compartments, and fail to see the many links. But in superstrings we have a 'God particle', a discovery that forces us to see the basic nature of our universe and how everything exists.
These are some of the basic understandings of science and faith that help me to keep them in unity.
Science generally has been content to look for mechanisms, and theology to look for meaning in the universe. Science in its practice has tried to analyse (study the parts of reality separately), whereas the work of theology has been to synthesize (put ideas together). But science seems to be looking now for a theory of everything that would be a synthesis of all of its work. Theology is on the other hand looking to root its faith in the real world. The two are coming together more.
- That we live in an old universe, about 13.7 billion years old that has been incredibly designed by God as is evidenced in his creation so everyone can see God's power and wisdom in the universe.
- That we have evolved over millions of years from the simplest life forms, and that humans are descended from the apes using natural processes, but also by the intervention of God at every step according to his purposes for us.
- That the whole Bible is the revealed Word of God, but we need to interpret its different kinds of writing differently. Genesis 1&2 are written in apocalyptic (highly symbolic yet grounded in reality) language to affirm God as creator, and his continuing involvement in our world of order and design.
- That science and theology are not alternative explanations but complementary explanations of reality, and we need both to live fully in our world.
Despite the discoveries about superstrings there are still many things we need to know about them. What are the other hidden dimensions that are still there in us, even if curled up in our superstrings? What effect do they have on us or our universe?
Isn't it possible that even now these hidden dimensions are slowly unfolding? In other words, it is not that those dimensions stopped functioning, but that they take longer to begin operating. They can't be in our universe for nothing. It is a deep conviction in all of us that nothing is here for nothing. Further study of superstrings may yield us more information on these intriguing questions.
The God of our universe desires to share with us his mind and heart, so that we can know the greatness of his love in all its dimensions. 
To go to the Next Page