I recently listened to an interview on Public Radio with physicist Lisa Randall. She is a top theorist on foundational theory of why the universe is the way it is. That means string, branes, and such. One of the venerable questions is: why is space three-dimensional? It may seem natural to have three dimensions of space and one of time, but mathematically there can be any number of dimensions (think of specifying points using 4, 10, etc. variables.) Physicists, including Lisa, say they can't see why space *had* to have three dimensions. (Check out http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0506053 ) However, they have come up with reasons why three large-scale dimensions would be more likely to expand out of a larger set (usually thought of as 10 or 11) of original, perhaps tiny dimensions. Below follows a statement adapted from my post to http://www.radioopensource.org/the-holy-grail-of-physics/ in response to the interview, and outlining my own efforts to answer this question. (I’ll also find out if the automatic editing puts in links for me.) Also, happy Cinco de Mayo, late as it is!
I have been working myself on the question, why are there three *large* dimensions of space? (There are probably more, like a total of 10 or 11 space dimensions, but the rest are curled up very small or otherwise inaccessible.) After extrapolating electromagnetic interactions to spaces of other dimensions, I found at least two arguments:
1. In spaces with other than one or three dimensions, an oscillating charge does not project the same *average* field along the axis of oscillation as the rest value. That is due to two things: the combination of "projection" of its retarded distance - where it would be had it continued at the velocity it had when light left it - and the distortion of the field due to Lorentz contraction, which weakens it to
gamma^(1-N) the value it has at rest. N is the number of large space dimensions. (We also must take into account the Doppler shift of projection intervals. Heh, it’s not quite as complicated as it sounds.) Remember that the Coulombic electric field intensity is given as E = qr^(1-N) due to field spreading. This amplifies the effect of the oscillating charge’s apparent position being close (projected from approaching cycle) to a second “target” charge at rest. It increasingly swamps the weakening effect of the gamma factor as N goes above three and is incorrect when N = 2. That would impose a net force on a second "target" charge unequal to that on the oscillating charge, and violate conservation of momentum and energy. The one-dimensional case is ruled out due to infinite potential energy as is the 2-D case (why didn’t A. K. Dewdney realize that about the 2-D Planiverse?)
2. Let two charges be connected by a reasonably rigid rod. Then, accelerate the rod along its length. The combined force between the charges will be derived from the sort of considerations given in (1.), as the projected field of each charge catches up to the other charge. Then we must take into account the extra force created by the action of acceleration on the relativistic stress-correction to the momentum and energy of the rod. Only in three dimensions of space does that equal in net the effective inertia the charges should have given their potential energy. (In higher dimensions, taking the integral of f = q1q2/r^(N-1), that potential w.r.t. infinity is: -q1q2r^(2-N)/(2-N). )
I hope I can publish the full development of this before long. I don’t think anyone else has an explicit proof that N *must* equal three, only reasons it was more likely to form, or oddities like being unfriendly to life, distorted wave propagation (see Barrow and Tipler’s _The Anthropic Cosmological Principle_ for great discussion of this.)