I've been reading John Barrow's "The Book of Universes" in bed for the last few nights.http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Book-Universes-John-Ba...
Everything was going fine until I got to the section on Braneworlds at about 1am. I've read that chapter several times and still can't get my head round it.
If anyone can explain that bit, it might save me to try reading it either before I'm half cut or half asleep.
I have not read the book, so I don't know the specifics.
However I can talk about Branes.
To do so we have to go back a few years.
In the 60s a new form of maths supremos had some intriguing ideas on the future of theoretical theorists and a new math was born over the next few years, it was fiendishly esoteric and more than a little confounding, eventually this math was taken by a true maths genius and extended and applied to a new theory, it was known as String Theory, it was almost impossible for all but a few to take it apart and argue against, but it was and it was changed to Superstring Theory, by this time the advent of the Computer with real power started to dissemble it, but there were parts that fitted, in fact fitted so well almost everyone agreed that there was a nugget of pure gold in there, but Superstring, just like String was wrong, but the bit that survived was Brane Theory and this, at last, held some promise, but this too has been dismissed, but the dismissal has a huge twist in the tail, although few in the Quantum Field Theory camp freely admits it, the remnants of both String Theories and Brane theory is the basis for QFT, without the convolutions of those we would not have arrived at QFT when we did.
That was a very abbreviated and dismissive precis and viciously truncated.
But the whole S/SS/B episode has had quite a few effects on maths and theoreticians since that time.
It is not dead, there are still adherents of some of its principles and the (very) original thinking behind it is only to be admired and may yet at some time need to be re-visited as almost anyone who perseveres with the maths instinctively feels there is more to come from the theory.
So the S/SS/B book will lay on the shelf gathering dust and at some point when a truly great mind picks it up, dusts it off and provides the key, we wait.
Often work that seems all wrong can be shelved only to become later lionised at a document of huge foresight... for me at this time, it's largely ballocks... but I reserve the right to change my mind in the future.
My advice is if you've got your head around S/SS and stumbling over Branes, just jump to QFT...