Human beings have only perceived the existence of three spatial dimensions — up and down, forward and backward, and left and right. But a team of scientists from the U.S. and Germany conducted a few experiments that have confirmed the existence of a fourth spatial dimension that could one day help us move past our current limited boundaries.
For the experiment, scientists used two 2D setups, one with light particles and another one with ultra-cold atoms. By confining electrons into two dimensions, like a sheet of paper, and passing a magnetic field through the sheet, scientists were able to glimpse the fourth spatial dimension through the quantum Hall effect despite humans being only capable of three-dimensional perception.
To understand how this is possible, consider the example of a shadow generated by a 3D object in this world. Such a shadow will only have a 2D existence. By looking at the 2D shadow, we will be able to ascertain some of the qualities of the 3D object even if we have not perceived it directly. In the same way, even though we cannot directly observe a 4D object, we can look at its effects on the 3D world and draw conclusions about its existence.
“Physically, we don’t have a 4D spatial system, but we can access 4D quantum Hall physics using this lower-dimensional system because the higher-dimensional system is coded in the complexity of the structure… Maybe we can come up with new physics in the higher dimension and then design devices that take advantage the higher-dimensional physics in lower dimensions,” Mikael Rechtsman, a professor at Penn State University, said to Gizmodo.
It is hoped that confirmation of the fourth spatial dimension will spark a more detailed study of other wilder physics like Weyl semimetals or quantum gravity.
We might even be able to invent photonic devices capable of using higher dimensional systems.
Existing in the fourth dimension
So what would existing in the fourth dimension feel like? Not good, actually. A lower dimension object moving into a higher dimension will suffer weird physical consequences, one of which is immediate death.
If a 2-dimensional being were to appear in our 3-dimensional world, then the being would end up getting distorted by the physics of this world. Its body will be ripped apart and convoluted in so many ways. Similarly, if we were to venture into a 4-dimensional world, our bodies would be turned inside out as the world tried to make sense of how to “present” us in its system.
As to the reverse, when a higher dimensional being appears in a lower dimensional system, death is very unlikely. Instead, the being will appear as a lower dimensional object. So if a 4-dimensional being were to appear in front of us, we will be able to perceive it in three dimensions. But many of its aspects will remain hidden from our perception.
This also opens up the possibility that 4-dimensional beings will have far greater knowledge of our world than us and will be able to manipulate and morph it in any way they like. Once humanity’s research on multiple dimensions matures, we should also be able to unlock ways to manipulate lower dimensional worlds.