British physicist Stephen Hawking may claim that extra dimensions provide the key to understanding the “grand design” of the universe, but it's Chinese-American mathematician Shing-Tung Yau who actually figured out how those extra dimensions work.
In his new book, “The Shape of Inner Space,” Yau and his co-author, Steve Nadis, touch upon the work that led to the discovery of theoretical “Calabi-Yau spaces” — and the cosmic implications of multidimensional geometry. The typical representation of a Calabi-Yau space looks like twisted web of a crumpled-up piece of paper. There's something elegant about its look — in fact, Calabi-Yau paperweights were voted the most popular gewgaw for holiday giving in last year's Cosmic Log Geek Gift Guide contest. But these shapes aren't just abstract art: String theorists believe that every single point in our universe is actually a compactified Calabi-Yau space in six dimensions.