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Prof Ventures Into New Dimension [Lisa Randall alert!]
Boston Herald.com ^ | 28 November 2005 | Paul Restuccia

Posted on 11/28/2005 11:58:35 AM PST by PatrickHenry

Lisa Randall has become a star in the rarefied world of high-energy physics, and her theory about a “fifth dimension” has caught the imagination of the general public too.

That doesn’t mean she still isn’t shy and a little nervous about all the hoopla.

“I really like that my work is getting more people interested in science,” says the 43-year old Harvard physicist. “And while it can get a little nerve-wracking dealing with all the attention, I really enjoy speaking to the public and answering questions.”

Randall seems constantly in motion.

She seldom sits still, and says her mind brims with ideas – and what mind-boggling ones they are.

Her theory of a fifth, unseen dimension that affects the three-dimensional world we inhabit (The fourth dimension is time.) may well turn our conception of the universe on its head.

Randall’s equations apparently work, and if physical evidence from this dimension is found in tests on Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider – a powerful machine that crashes together and records the movement of the universe’s tiniest particles – Randall is said to be a shoo-in for a Nobel Prize.


Professor Lisa Randall in her office at Harvard.

Now she has published a book called “Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions”

Written for the lay reader, “Warped Passages” is receiving wide acclaim.

It has led to public speaking engagements before big crowds at the Smithsonian and New York’s Hayden Planetarium, and scads of newspaper, radio, TV and magazine interviews.

Tomorrow night Randall will give a free talk at Boston’s Museum of Science.

“I tried to have fun and be playful in the book while also introducing a lot of serious science,” she says.

Randall, who lives in Cambridge, covers a lot of ground in “Warped Passages” – from the theory of relativity, through quantum mechanics (explaining the nature of light) to string theory (that posits vibrating strings as the universe’s fundamental matter) right up to recent developments that include her own work.

“It makes me happy when people say they feel a sense of accomplishment after reading it,” says Randall, who spent three years writing the book while continuing her research and teaching.

There have been other theories of extra dimensions, but Randall’s are unique. She thinks this new dimension could be infinite in size- not super-tiny and curled up, as others have proposed. The fifth dimension she theorizes occupies a separate flat “brane,” or membrane, parallel to the world we experience. What has excited physicists is that her theory will be testable when the new accelerator opens just two years from now.

“She’s an outstanding, well-regarded theorist who’s raised some interesting ideas about what’s out there,” says her former colleague and MIT physicist Gerome Friedman, who himself won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990 for co-discovering elemental particles called quarks. “If we see evidence of what she’s proposed, it will be extraordinary. It will shake up everything.”

The theory is an incredible achievement for the middle of three daughters of a Queens engineering-firm salesman.

A young math whiz, Randall tied for first place in the National Westinghouse Science Talent Search at the age of 17, earned undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard and taught at Princeton and MIT before being named a full professor of theoretical physics at her alma mater in 2001. She entered a branch of science where 90 percent of the professors are male, and has emerged as one of the world’s leading particle physics thinkers.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Randall continues to achieve at a time when Harvard President Larry Summers has been under fire for remarks he made earlier this year suggesting that innate differences in ability between men and women in math and science may help explain the lack of top-level females in the profession.

“I was surprised by his remarks,” Randall says. “He made a generalization based on inadequate knowledge of the literature on the subject.”

She adds that Summers – who came to Harvard the same year she became a professor there – has always been interested in her work and is reading her book now.

Randall, who served on a Women in Science and Engineering task force that seeks to improve the climate for women in science at Harvard, was the first tenured woman professor in Princeton’s physics department and was the first tenured woman theorist in science at both MIT and Harvard.

But despite her achievements, Randall says the “women in science” question is a sensitive issue for her. She sees herself as a physicist first, but also realizes that her growing prominence has made her a high-profile role model for women.

“My primary reason for writing the book was to help the public better understand the complex science of particle physics,” she says. “But a side benefit was to show that there are women out there doing this. I’ve had enthusiastic responses from both men and women.”

Randall says her fifth-dimension insight came about while bouncing ideas off then-BU postdoctoral researcher and now Johns Hopkins professor Raman Sundrum on how to explain one of physics’ biggest conundrums: why gravity is so much weaker than the universe’s other forces. Gravity is so weak on our planet’s surface that a small magnet can hold something like a paper clip even as the gravity of the entire earth is pulling it down.

The equations she developed to solve the problem pointed to a geometrically warped fifth dimension we can’t see, where gravity is a strong force transmitting graviton particles to our three-dimensional space. It isn’t that far-fetched. After all, we can’t see our fourth dimension, time, yet we clearly experience it.

“The extra-dimension thing has really piqued people’s interest,” says Randall. “What makes me different as a scientist is that I’m kind of imaginative. The ideas just happen.”


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: cosmology; fifthdimension; lisarandall; physics; science; stringtheory; upupandaway
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The Lisa Randall fan club is now in session.
1 posted on 11/28/2005 11:58:37 AM PST by PatrickHenry
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To: VadeRetro; Junior; longshadow; RadioAstronomer; Doctor Stochastic; js1138; Shryke; RightWhale; ...
SciencePing
An elite subset of the Evolution list.
See the list's explanation at my freeper homepage.
Then FReepmail to be added or dropped.

2 posted on 11/28/2005 11:59:31 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Expect no response if you're a troll, lunatic, dotard, or incurable ignoramus.)
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To: PatrickHenry

the photo isn't flattering enough; need better pics!


3 posted on 11/28/2005 12:02:19 PM PST by longshadow
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To: longshadow

bump for later


4 posted on 11/28/2005 12:05:00 PM PST by saganite (The poster formerly known as Arkie 2)
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To: longshadow

It's from her bio page: Lisa Randall, Professor of Physics, PhD 1987, Harvard University.

5 posted on 11/28/2005 12:05:54 PM PST by PatrickHenry (Expect no response if you're a troll, lunatic, dotard, or incurable ignoramus.)
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To: longshadow
Prof. Randall photo from Harvard University, Physics Department Faculty webpage at: http://www.physics.harvard.edu/people/facpages/randall.html
6 posted on 11/28/2005 12:09:34 PM PST by K-oneTexas (I'm not a judge and there ain't enough of me to be a jury. (Zell Miller, A National Party No More))
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To: PatrickHenry
“My primary reason for writing the book was to help the public better understand the complex science of particle physics”

I feel better knowing there are great humanitarians like this around. Most people I know have a real hunger for a better understanding the complex world of particle physics.

7 posted on 11/28/2005 12:10:13 PM PST by Dark Skies ("The sleeper must awaken!")
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To: PatrickHenry
I have several theories about gravity I'd like to test with her!
8 posted on 11/28/2005 12:11:38 PM PST by OSHA (Liberalism - Is it real or is it Scrappleface?)
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To: PatrickHenry
“The extra-dimension thing has really piqued people’s interest,” says Randall. “What makes me different as a scientist is that I’m kind of imaginative. The ideas just happen.”

Hey, I'm like that too! Ideas just keep happening.


9 posted on 11/28/2005 12:15:23 PM PST by Dark Skies ("The sleeper must awaken!")
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Lisa ... I'm waiting for your freepmail ... waiting ...


10 posted on 11/28/2005 12:17:50 PM PST by PatrickHenry (Expect no response if you're a troll, lunatic, dotard, or incurable ignoramus.)
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To: PatrickHenry

Mr. Sulu, engage the tractor beam.


11 posted on 11/28/2005 12:20:46 PM PST by Freedom_Fighter_2001 (When money is no object - it's your money they're talking about)
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To: PatrickHenry
Lisa Randall has become a star in the rarefied world of high-energy physics, and her theory about a “fifth dimension” has caught the imagination of the general public too.

Obligatory photo.

12 posted on 11/28/2005 12:23:19 PM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: PatrickHenry
It's from her bio page:

Va-va-VOOM! Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

13 posted on 11/28/2005 12:25:43 PM PST by longshadow
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To: PatrickHenry

The most reasonable interpretation of the data isn't that women can't become great scientists. It's that men are somewhat more likely to become great scientists. Randall's success does not disprove Summer's thoughts.

If you listen to these feminists for long enough, one could think that if men outnumber women in a field, all of the following is true:

1. There's discrimination against women.
2. The women do a better job in the field.
3. The women are not recognized for their talent.

Actually, I think there's one field in which all of the following is true: women's fashion design. The gay men who dominate the field don't seem to like designing for real women's bodies. The women do a better job. But I digress.

But for theoretical physics, if anything, they probably encourage the few women who go into the field.


14 posted on 11/28/2005 12:27:54 PM PST by Our man in washington
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To: PatrickHenry
Gravity is so weak on our planet’s surface that a small magnet can hold something like a paper clip even as the gravity of the entire earth is pulling it down.

Tell me about it! In my area, the gravity has gotten so weak...well, you get the picture...


15 posted on 11/28/2005 12:28:00 PM PST by Dark Skies ("The sleeper must awaken!")
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To: Dark Skies

Wow, with those eyes, she could say almost anything to me, and I'd just agree...


16 posted on 11/28/2005 12:30:03 PM PST by stylin_geek (Liberalism: comparable to a chicken with its head cut off, but with more spastic motions)
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To: Dark Skies
I saw you pic and before I say your nickname I knew who posted it. Absolutely hilarious!!!
17 posted on 11/28/2005 12:34:52 PM PST by truthluva ("Character is doing the right thing even when no one is looking" - JC Watts)
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To: Dark Skies

Sorry...laughing too hard.

you pic s/b your pic
say your s/b saw your

Sure am glad I wasn't eating or drinking when I saw that.


18 posted on 11/28/2005 12:38:11 PM PST by truthluva ("Character is doing the right thing even when no one is looking" - JC Watts)
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To: longshadow
An article with a bit more explanation of her theory: Where did all the gravity go?
19 posted on 11/28/2005 12:38:17 PM PST by PatrickHenry (Expect no response if you're a troll, lunatic, dotard, or incurable ignoramus.)
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To: truthluva
Hey TL, glad you enjoyed it.

Here's another cutie my cat told me about.


20 posted on 11/28/2005 12:41:45 PM PST by Dark Skies ("The sleeper must awaken!")
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To: PatrickHenry

"She entered a branch of science where 90 percent of the professors are male, and has emerged as one of the world’s leading particle physics thinkers.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Randall continues to achieve at a time when Harvard President Larry Summers has been under fire for remarks he made earlier this year suggesting that innate differences in ability between men and women in math and science may help explain the lack of top-level females in the profession."

Larry Summers was the prophet who could not go back to his own hometown. Aside from Lisa Randall's obvious brilliance, that in and of itself does not invalidate Summers' assertions.
I don't think that the AVERAGE male is smarter than the AVERAGE female is: I am convinced that the average for both is probably identical. Where I think the difference lies is in the distribution of intelligence in the sexes.
That is, there are more learning disabled boys in special ed than there are girls. Just as I think that there are more genius-quality males than females. So I think the two sexes are equal on the average, but different "on the two ends of the bell curve".


21 posted on 11/28/2005 12:48:02 PM PST by fishtank
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To: PatrickHenry
For a change, I am way ahead of you guys on this one. I've actually read Warped Passages. Wonderful book. For me it was a page flipper. I read the last 200 pages in two days.

This is one smart gal.

Highly recommended reading. A technical background is a plus but not really necessary.

22 posted on 11/28/2005 12:52:42 PM PST by InterceptPoint
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To: InterceptPoint
Click on the pic:


23 posted on 11/28/2005 12:58:28 PM PST by PatrickHenry (Expect no response if you're a troll, lunatic, dotard, or incurable ignoramus.)
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To: Dark Skies

"The extra-dimension thing has really piqued people’s interest,” says Randall. “What makes me different as a scientist is that I’m kind of imaginative. The ideas just happen.”

- You know, this whole idea of gravity spilling over from a fifth, flat dimension got me thinking. My own theory is that most of the gravity in the universe is locked up in black holes and we only get to experience the little bit that "leaks" out and which collects around stars and planets in much the same way as iron filings collect around magnetic poles.
I don't know where these ideas of mine come from, they just happen.


24 posted on 11/28/2005 12:58:37 PM PST by finnigan2
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To: PatrickHenry

I wonder what a guy would talk about while out on a first date........If it was me, I would probably start out with something witty like "Whats your sign?"


25 posted on 11/28/2005 12:59:27 PM PST by Hot Tabasco (It must suck being an Islamofascist....... they don't get Christmas presents.....)
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To: PatrickHenry
Click on the pic:

I've done that. Lots of stars on these reviews.

26 posted on 11/28/2005 1:07:07 PM PST by InterceptPoint
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To: PatrickHenry
“He [Harvard President, Larry Summers] made a generalization based on inadequate knowledge of the literature on the subject.”

She is mischaracterizing his statement. He said we should remain open to the possibility that the differences in achievement in the physical sciences and mathematics between men and women may be due to genetic factors. Most of the firestorm following his remarks was generated by people whose minds are firmly closed to evidence.

It would be difficult to explain the disparity in representation among the sexes in top flight chess players to anything but genetics. Regardless of whether producing top flight chess players is a good thing, or indicative of desirable traits in the real world, the disparity is real.

27 posted on 11/28/2005 1:09:15 PM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (NY Times headline: Protocols of the Learned Elders of CBS, Fake but Accurate, Experts Say)
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To: OSHA
"I have several theories about gravity I'd like to test with her!"

Pardon me but, if you're old enough for gravity to be a factor, you might be too old : )

28 posted on 11/28/2005 2:14:31 PM PST by muir_redwoods (Free Sirhan Sirhan, after all, the bastard who killed Mary Jo Kopechne is walking around free)
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To: Hot Tabasco

My guess is that that would be your last date.


29 posted on 11/28/2005 3:22:12 PM PST by furball4paws (One of the last Evil Geniuses, or the first of their return.)
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets

There are some pretty heavy duty female chess players now. My guess is that it is genetics, but not because of raw brain power. It's hard to get women interested in a highly computational game of psychological and mental warfare.


30 posted on 11/28/2005 3:25:41 PM PST by furball4paws (One of the last Evil Geniuses, or the first of their return.)
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To: Dark Skies
My primary reason for writing the book was to help the public better understand the complex science of particle physics” I feel better knowing there are great humanitarians like this around. Most people I know have a real hunger for a better understanding the complex world of particle physics.

Ya, she pretty easy on the eyes too

31 posted on 11/28/2005 3:32:11 PM PST by MilspecRob (Most people don't act stupid, they really are.)
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Lisa ... I'm still waiting for your freepmail ...


32 posted on 11/28/2005 4:53:47 PM PST by PatrickHenry (Expect no response if you're a troll, lunatic, dotard, or incurable ignoramus.)
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To: PatrickHenry
It is forbidden by the Grand 6502.
33 posted on 11/28/2005 6:48:14 PM PST by furball4paws (One of the last Evil Geniuses, or the first of their return.)
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To: furball4paws

All the more reason to hope.


34 posted on 11/28/2005 7:02:48 PM PST by PatrickHenry (Expect no response if you're a troll, lunatic, dotard, or incurable ignoramus.)
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To: fishtank
My understanding is that males and females average the same in highly G loaded tests, but female scores cluster closer to the mean, while males account for most of the extremes at both ends of the bell curve. It makes sense, nature can afford to "roll the dice" with expendable males. There are more reproductive resources vested in females so you don't take as many chances. That's why war has never been an effective population control, kill half the males and those left work overtime to "meet production quotas." Surviving low ranking males move up when reproductive resources previously unavailable to them become available. (war widows) If it is a total defeat, the winners carry off the females and put them to work implementing the genes of the winning population. Larry Summers is a ex-Clinton rump-swab who stuck his foot in his mouth, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy! You don't say stuff like that at Harvard if you want to keep your job, even if it is true. Did you notice how quickly he folded? What did he give them, more money for the women's center?
35 posted on 11/28/2005 8:29:56 PM PST by rootkidslim (... got the Sony rootkit on your Wintel box? You can thank Sen. Hatch!)
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To: PatrickHenry
An article with a bit more explanation of her theory: Where did all the gravity go?

Good article, once again.

Not too many cranks musing on this thread, unfortunately. That always makes things so much more entertaining.

36 posted on 11/29/2005 8:41:51 AM PST by Quark2005 (Science aims to elucidate. Pseudoscience aims to obfuscate.)
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To: Quark2005
Not too many cranks musing on this thread, unfortunately.

We usually attract a few who are ready to "prove" that Einstein was a fool. (The expression "Einstein was wrong" gets over 15,000 hits on Google.) Yet they seem strangely unwilling to mix it up with Lisa Randall. But some of us are willing -- even eager -- to tangle with her.

37 posted on 11/29/2005 9:03:38 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Expect no response if you're a troll, lunatic, dotard, or incurable ignoramus.)
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To: PatrickHenry

The word you're looking for is: pussgrapple.


38 posted on 11/29/2005 9:56:14 AM PST by furball4paws (One of the last Evil Geniuses, or the first of their return.)
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To: Quark2005; Physicist; RadioAstronomer
Here are some questions which I hope you don't me asking you fellas: 1.Exactly what sort of new particles are predicted by the Randal-Sundrum theory, and are any of them predicted by any other competing theory? 2.Outside of the accelerators, what sort of astronomical observations could also be used to validate the theory? 3.Now it's heartbreaking for me to even suppose this (it's such a beautiful and elegant theory), but suppose that it turns out that Randall-Sundrum theory is not correct. A null result may not necessarily disprove it, but what sort of result may do so, or at least force us to be more skeptical?
39 posted on 11/29/2005 10:17:42 AM PST by RightWingAtheist (Free the Crevo Three!)
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To: PatrickHenry
A correction. That's Jerome Friedman, not Gerome, and he and his team (Richard Taylor and the late Henry Way Kendall) didn't exactly "discover" quarks, but it was their studies of electron scattering within the nucleus which lent credence to the quark model.
40 posted on 11/29/2005 10:21:41 AM PST by RightWingAtheist (Free the Crevo Three!)
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To: RightWingAtheist
I gotta honestly say, I'm the wrong one to ask (I'm a medium-energy particle experimentalist in training and anything involving quantum gravity lies well outside my area of knowledge) - I don't know enough about the specifics of this particular theory to honestly comment one way or the other, other than to comment that the limits of the Standard Model when it comes to incorporating gravity is indeed an area of true controversy in physics & that extra physical dimensions are needed to formulate any working quantum theory of gravity.

I can tell you that a good theorist I know did tell me of another line of experimental inquiry that you didn't include - some quantum gravity theories predict that Newtonian gravity breaks down at shorter & potentially measurable distances (when I last heard, the inverse square nature of gravitation has "only" been verified down to a distance of about 0.1 mm, some hypotheses predict that this scale is where classical gravity may start to break down). As far as the Randall-Sundrum theory goes in particular, though, I have no idea, unfortunately.

41 posted on 11/29/2005 10:40:12 AM PST by Quark2005 (Science aims to elucidate. Pseudoscience aims to obfuscate.)
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To: RightWingAtheist
...their studies of electron scattering within the nucleus which lent credence to the quark model.

That's more up my alley!

42 posted on 11/29/2005 10:41:09 AM PST by Quark2005 (Science aims to elucidate. Pseudoscience aims to obfuscate.)
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To: RightWingAtheist

Lemme jump in, while we're waiting for the smart guys to compose their answers. The idea of these branes is that gravitons are traveling here from the other brane, where gravity is its "normal" (much stronger) self. I get the idea that when this happens, stuff from here must go to the other brane, so as to balance the cosmic books. These arrivals and departures should be, in principle, detectable. But the other brane is thought to be so close to ours (maybe one planck length, says Lisa) that the transit time is probably negligible. So if all we can detect is that everything balances, and there's no detectable moment when we've got a shortage on its way to being compensated, then we've got a null result. But I may have this all messed up. Let's wait for the experts.


43 posted on 11/29/2005 10:56:47 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Expect no response if you're a troll, lunatic, dotard, or incurable ignoramus.)
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To: RightWingAtheist
Extra-dimension models in general imply higher-mode graviton resonances, corresponding to non-ground-state excitations of a graviton's Schrödinger wave function. In the (massless) ground state, one half of a graviton's Schrödinger wavelength would fit along the (invisible, orthogonal) extra dimension. (You know, the old particle-in-a-box problem from chapter 2 of whatever quantum textbook you use.) This implies the existence of a state where a full wavelength fits along that dimension, and another state with one and a half, etc. If a graviton could be kicked into one of these states by, say, a powerful enough particle collision, it would carry a momentum component along the hidden direction, which would manifest itself in our space as a mass (let the graviton itself be ever so massless in 5-dimensional reality). So as you increase the collision energy, you would see a series of gigantic resonances, occurring at the effective (i.e. 4-dimensional) masses of these states.
44 posted on 11/29/2005 11:02:21 AM PST by Physicist
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To: Dark Skies

She reminds me of both Lisa Welch (Miss September 1980) and Carina Persson (Miss August 1983).


45 posted on 11/29/2005 11:20:47 AM PST by RightWingAtheist (Free the Crevo Three!)
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To: Physicist; Quark2005

Thanks, guys!


46 posted on 11/29/2005 11:22:16 AM PST by RightWingAtheist (Free the Crevo Three!)
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To: RightWingAtheist
You'll need to provide more data before I concur.
47 posted on 11/29/2005 12:52:05 PM PST by Physicist
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Comment #48 Removed by Moderator

To: PatrickHenry

This is familiar to me. Back when I was an accountant, I had a "plug" account where things that didn't balance would disappear. OH MY GOD! The Creator is a CPA...

parsy, the former zen accountant.


49 posted on 11/29/2005 2:02:45 PM PST by parsifal
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To: Physicist
Do a Google Image search on both ladies with the safe search off. You'll get enough data to come to a conclusion :)
50 posted on 11/29/2005 3:17:53 PM PST by RightWingAtheist (Free the Crevo Three!)
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