Quantum mechanics and string theory are difficult concepts for the layman to grasp at even a superficial level. I've done it twice but each time it took a good bit of time and effort and, even then, it was flushed from my mind within weeks, perhaps just days.
We, you and me, live in what we consider a four dimensional world or three dimensions plus time. String theory, however, posits eleven dimensions, ten spatial dimensions plus time. The "other seven"? Sorry, you lost me. The whole thing sounds other worldly or at least it did.
New research, however, suggests that there's this elusive, eleven dimensional structure, and it resides in the human brain. Some believe it's what underlies human consciousness.
This latest brain model was produced by a team of researchers from the Blue Brain Project, a Swiss research initiative devoted to building a supercomputer-powered reconstruction of the human brain.
The team used algebraic topology, a branch of mathematics used to describe the properties of objects and spaces regardless of how they change shape. They found that groups of neurons connect into 'cliques', and that the number of neurons in a clique would lead to its size as a high-dimensional geometric object (a mathematical dimensional concept, not a space-time one).
"We found a world that we had never imagined," says lead researcher,neuroscientist Henry Markram from the EPFL institute in Switzerland.
"There are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to 11 dimensions."
Human brains are estimated to have a staggering 86 billion neurons, with multiple connections from each cell webbing in every possible direction, forming the vast cellular network that somehow makes us capable of thought and consciousness.
After developing their mathematical framework and testing it on some virtual stimuli, the team also confirmed their results on real brain tissue in rats.
"The progression of activity through the brain resembles a multi-dimensional sandcastle that materialises out of the sand and then disintegrates."
To me the demonstration that eleven dimensions do exist and within our own brains at that is a wondrous revelation. That suggests the string theories may be correct and our environment in space, our universe - or universes - may also be eleven dimensional. It, as they say, indeed boggles the mind.