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Kaluza-Klein theory





A model that seeks to unite classical gravity and electromagnetism by resorting to higher dimensions. In 1919 the German mathematician Theodor Kaluza (1885–1954) pointed out that if general relativity theory is extended to a five-dimensional spacetime, the equations can be separated out into ordinary four-dimensional gravitation plus an extra set, which is equivalent to Maxwell's equations for the electromagnetic field, plus an extra field known as the dilaton. Thus electromagnetism is explained as a manifestation of curvature in a fourth dimension of physical space, in the same way that gravitation is explained in Einstein's theory as a manifestation of curvature in the first three.

In 1926 the Swedish physicist Oskar Klein (1894–1977) proposed that the reason the extra spatial dimension goes unseen is that it is compact – curled up like a ball with a fantastically small radius. In the 1980s and 1990s, Kaluza-Klein theory experienced a big revival and can now be seen as a precursor of string theory.


Related categories

   • SPACE AND TIME
   • PARTICLE PHYSICS
   • COSMOLOGY