The Whole Wide Universe, in Your Hands

by Bob Clay

At the mention of the word ‘science’ a lot of people roll up their eyes and fall into an immediate coma. That’s a pity, because if ever there was a list sayings that was spot on, then ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ is probably at the top.

Let me try and grab your interest. Hold up your hand and clench your fist. Look at it. Right now, at this moment, you may well be holding the entire Universe in your hand. It’s even more amazing to think, you may well be holding billions and trillions of other Universes in your hand also.

This is a suggestion by something called ‘String Theory’. String theorists are physicists who have withdrawn into a strange world, a world so small, that by comparison, an atom is the size of the Sun (and then some). They think the Universe we see is a manifestation of tiny bits of string like energy, all vibrating away like violin strings and in turn producing everything from cabbages to kings.

In order to do this, these strings co-habit other dimensions, over and above the normal 4 we know about (i.e. up and down, left and right, forward and backward and of course time). These ‘extra’ dimensions are small, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, ‘mind-bogglingly small’. About a billiontrilliontrillionth of a centimetre – give or take an inch. So to walk across the Universe in one of these dimensions wouldn’t take long, but you’d probably have to drop your shoe size.

If one or more of these micro-dimensions (there might be up to seven extra space dimension over the three we know and love) connects to some other Universe, or even a few trillion trillion other Universes (another feature proposed by the string theory boys), then look at your fist again. Considering these extra little spaces curled up inside the deepest hidden crevices of the atoms of your hand, then there you go, you are holding all of these Universes with a deathlike grip. (Go easy, the green tentacled inhabitants of Omicron Ceti Three are a bit sensitive to pressure).

CONCLUSION: (This might take you back a bit, writing up a science experiment in a school laboratory long ago. I’m using the word long in a ‘relative’ sense, but that’s a whole different subject).

Anyway, the conclusion is: at some fundamental level, our entire Universe (and perhaps others) is held together by string. Go on, admit it. It’s something you’ve always suspected anyway.


a) I’m using the now generally accepted terms for a billion, which is a thousand million, and a trillion, which is a million million. There may be purists who object to this, but I can only answer as an ex-seafarer, don’t pee over the weather side of the ship.

b) String theorists reading this will realise I’ve taken a couple of small liberties with their mind-boggling ideas. I offer no apologies, but will resist the pun of telling them to get ‘knotted’.

Bob Clay
lives in Cornwall.

  1. #1 by Ali B on January 15, 2009 - 3:32 pm

    Thank you Bob, most refreshing! AliB

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