Two Greeks chasing hidden dimensions

“Imagine the universe as a flower, whose petals are opening. Each petal is a dimension. If you just look at three petals, you can’t see the others. Maybe that is why we perceive our world in three dimensions. We want to discover the other ‘petals,’ the additional dimensions, in order to breathe in the whole perfume of our complex world,» says Maria Spyropoulou, a 33-year-old experimental physicist at Harvard University. Her statement reveals the relationship between science and art, the common foundation of creation and inspiration, while the force of a scientific earthquake rumbles in the distance. «A revolution in physics is on its way, one that will blow our minds,» says Spyropoulou. Forget the certainty of three dimensions and the «standard model» of physics. Today thousands of researchers around the world have become hunters of unbelievably small particles of matter whose presence might prove the existence of other dimensions. How many? Another seven. Together with the three spatial dimensions and time, that makes a world of 11 dimensions. Kathimerini talked to Spyropoulou and another Greek scientist working in the USA, both at the cutting edge of modern physics, about their work. «We don’t forget the questions we asked when we were discovering the world,» said Savvas Dimopoulos, who is a theoretical physicist with a project on the theory of hypersymmetry under his belt as early as 1981. The hypersymmetrical model is considered by many as the next major step in particle physics. Spyropoulou works in the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) looking for gravitons. Modern theoretical answers are not just mental constructs by isolated researchers but the result of high-level scientific work that aims to answer questions about our world. The Holy Grail of physics, what thousands of scientists are searching for, is a unified theory that can explain, using the same laws, the macrocosm as well as the microcosm, the infinitely enormous universe as well as the tiniest piece of matter. That does not exist today. Even at the level of the daily expression of natural forces, a series of phenomena (such as the weakness of the force of gravity) demand explanations. New theories, and new facts (such as the fact that the universe is expanding), are accumulating into a body of material that could provide a fresh view of physics. The most important research project aimed at answering these questions is happening in the sphere of the infinitely small, within huge accelerators where microscopic particles collide with extremely powerful forces. The aim is to find the smallest particles that are bearers of new forces and new dimensions. The Higgs boson and the graviton (the hypothetical particle that mediates gravity) are being relentlessly pursued within accelerators at Fermilab in the USA and at CERN in Europe. All are anxiously awaiting 2007 when the Large Hadron Collider, an accelerator 10 times more powerful that those currently in use, will enter into service. «That will be the day of discovery, as to whether we will have a new physics,» said Dimopoulos, though he did not rule out promising developments in experiments already in progress.