Last year’s surprise smash-hit, “Stranger Things” on Netflix put forth a familiar theme to sci-fi fans: alternate dimensions. Though it might seem like a worn-out plot idea, the concept worked beautifully throughout the show and there is no shortage of fans around the world who can attest to this.
However, there is also some evidence that the idea of alternate dimensions may not be that crazy.
What Is an Alternate Dimension?
There is no one, unified theory about what an alternate dimension is. Competing science fiction books and movies have only obfuscated the very idea even more; plus, it’s still only a theory.
This theory was first introduced by Hugh Everett in 1954 when he was a doctoral candidate at Princeton University. Everett postulated that there were universes parallel to ours. They were all connected but also branched off one another.
Countless universes exist to reflect the equally countless number of alternatives there could be for various world events. For example, in one parallel universe, dinosaurs aren’t extinct. In another, the Nazis won World War II and in another, the war never even happened.
At the time, Everett called this his “Many-Worlds Theory.” Why would he even bother with such a crazy idea as a doctoral candidate, though?
Alternate Dimensions Aren’t That Crazy
Everett put forward this hypothesis because he was looking for a way to explain quantum physics. To put it simply, physics explains everything until you get to the subatomic level. At that point, particles start acting in ways that should be impossible.
For example, photons can act as waves and particles. This is supposed to be as impossible as you being able to shape-shift.
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle seeks to explain this in a way that’s as hard to believe as alternate dimensions. Werner Heisenberg proposed that quantum parts are actually affected by whether or not someone is observing them.
Everett took this theory a step further. To him, it was possible that trying to measure a quantum object actually caused a split in the universe. Literally, it would become duplicated: two results for the two possible outcomes related to the measurement.
You may be surprised to know that Everett is far from alone when it comes to physicists who have come up with similar ideas.
The most famous of these is probably Michio Kaku’s string theory. In short, this theory proposes a subquantum level of “building blocks” that are like tiny strings and make up everything in the universe.
The type of matter they create depends on the vibrations of these subquantum strings. These vibrations are behind everything in the universe and string theory states that this composition happens throughout 11 dimensions.
Kaku suggests that our universe may exist alongside others. Gravity is able to flow between them and, from time to time, these universes may even interact, resulting in a Big Bang-like phenomenon.
Again, this might sound too far out to be believed, but physics is quickly catching up to these theories. Physicists have already invented machines that have proven the presence of quantum matter, so perhaps finding the “strings” below them will happen sometime in the near future.
In “Stranger Things”, the version of alternate dimensions being used is similar to string theory. One very important component of it that some viewers may have missed is how much it has to do with perspective.
When Mr. Clarke, the science teacher, explains it to the boys, he does so by drawing a tightrope with a man walking on top and a flea able to see that it can walk on the string, on the side of the string and even under the string.
At the moment, this is as far as we can go with theories about alternate dimensions. We may never know the truth until, like the flea, we’re able to change our perspective.