Using the Victorian novel "Flatland" to answer a question from Charlie Rose about how we can conceptualize the dimensions beyond the familiar three, theoretical physicist Lisa Randall sketches a scenario in which Flatlanders might infer the existence of a third dimension. Similarly, she says, we can use mathematics of relativity to arrive at conclusions about the true, if bizarre, nature of our own universe.
"When dealing with higher dimensions, a word is worth a thousand pictures." By that I think she means that math or langauge are transcendent human accomplishments, capable of not just representing nature, but of understanding it deeply.
Randall, who will speak at IdeaFestival 2012, was recently awarded the Andrew Gemant Award, which is given annually for significant contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics.
She will speak at IdeaFestival 2012 on the truth-is-stranger-fiction nature of our own universe.