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NOVA: The Elegant Universe: Welcome To The 11th Dimension

Airs Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Equations for string theory and general relativity are displayed on a blackboard as a visual reminder that the ideas underlying these theories are grounded in mathematics.

In the last few years, excitement has grown among scientists as they've pursued a revolutionary new approach to unifying nature's forces. To the uninitiated, string theory is totally mind-boggling. But physicist Brian Greene has a rare gift for conveying physics in vivid everyday images, a gift that has turned his book, "The Elegant Universe," into a mighty best-seller.

A Theory of Everything?

In this excerpt from his book "The Elegant Universe," Brian Greene explains why string theory might hold the key to unifying the four forces of nature.

Brian Greene uses slices of bread to help explain the characteristics of gravity in parallel universes.
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Above: Brian Greene uses slices of bread to help explain the characteristics of gravity in parallel universes.

A Calabi-Yau shape: a two dimensional visualization of the six additional spatial dimensions required by string theory.
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Above: A Calabi-Yau shape: a two dimensional visualization of the six additional spatial dimensions required by string theory.

Greene brings his talent and vitality to television in this highly innovative production that makes the surreal world of string theory spring to life on the screen.

This three-part series will air on Wednesdays, November 9 - 23, 2011 on KPBS TV. "Einstein's Dream" airs Wednesday, November 9 at 9 p.m., and "The String's The Thing" will air on Wednesday, November 16 at 10 p.m. The final episode, "Welcome To The 11th Dimension" will air on Wednesday, November 23 at 10 p.m.

"Welcome To The 11th Dimension" - The final episode shows how in 1995 Edward Witten of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, aided by others, revolutionized string theory by successfully uniting the five different versions into a single theory that is cryptically named “M-theory,” a development that required a total of 11 dimensions.

But the new 11th dimension is different from all the others, since it implies that strings can come in higher dimensional shapes called membranes, or “branes” for short. These possess truly science-fiction-like qualities, since in principle they can be as large as the universe. A brane can even be a universe — a parallel universe — and we may be living in one right now.

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Preview: The Elegant Universe: Welcome To The 11th Dimension

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Watch The Elegant Universe: Part 3 on PBS. See more from NOVA.

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Series Preview: NOVA: The Elegant Universe

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Watch The Elegant Universe, "Einstein's Dream" - Preview on PBS. See more from NOVA.

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