20 December 1998

Flatland - an introduction to higher dimensions

This book is probably the one that got me started on this quest for the 4th dimension and subsequently, the better understanding of time. I devoured this book and I recommend it to anyone interested in higher spacial dimensions.

It was written in 1884 as a satirical novel, a “hidden” critique of Victorian society but what fascinated mathematicians, physicists and myself is the thought provoking effect Abbott brings about in his analysis of a higher dimension.

By describing a 2 dimensional universe he automatically puts us in the position of possessing a higher vantage point from which we can analyse that world. By the time you reach the end of the book it is only natural to imagine someone living in 4 dimensions looking down on our simple 3 dimensional world.
Though flatlanders live in a 2 dimensional universe there are hints to the fact that that plain actually exists within a 3 dimensional universe, such as the thickness of the shapes that allows them to recognise each other and finally the crossing of the plain by a sphere who apparently possesses god like powers. I have therefore started looking for hints, in the nature around us, of hyper-dimensional activity and certainly found it in tales of Religion; most of the miracles performed by the Prophets seem to go against our laws of physics but would be child play for anyone moving in 4 physical dimensions. Rudy Rucker in his The Fourth Dimension certainly leads us to a great voyage through higher dimensional universes.
But I have also in recent years observed certain events in nature in which certain living organism move in hyper-shapes. To do this they must have a clear image in their mind of a 4 dimensional space. The only reason for them to visualise space in 4D is that we in fact live in a 4D universe but we are for now stuck on our 3D plain.
The organisms that move in 4D are of various species and are found around the world and I will describe them, and their movements,  in a separate article.