Friday, October 21, 2005

 

Octacube!

(via Boing Boing) I've spent a lot of time the last few years thinking about higher dimensions, both in terms of theoretical physics--the eleven dimensions required by M-Theory, the "bulk" of brane cosmology, and such like (Michio Kaku's Hyperspace is one stop shopping for a good survey of this stuff)--and in terms of the sorts of hyperspatial thought experiments pioneered by folks like Charles H. Hinton (Rudy Rucker's criminally out of print The Fourth Dimension is probably the best overview of this sort of thinking). Higher dimensional hoohah factored into the conclusion of Here, There & Everywhere, and is an integral part of my middle readers series, Aegis. Lately I've been devising a (wholly fictional) framework that would use higher dimensional physics to rationalize a "magic" system, allowing me to write a hard SF story in fantasy drag.

To date, higher dimensions are purely theoretical, so far as I know, though everything in physics from Einstein's theories of gravity as the curvature of spacetime forwards relies upon them, in one way or another. And physicists have been using the additional of extra spatial dimensions to make equivalent seemingly disparate equations as far back as Kaluza and Klein in the '20s. And for just as long, genre writers have been milking the notion for as everything they could. Hell, even H.P. Lovecraft got into the act with "Dreams in the Witch House." (Sidebar: Of the many network television "alien invasion" series that have premiered this season, the only one I'm still watching is CBS's Threshold, largely because when they namechecked Kaluza-Klein in the first episode, referring to a hyperdimensional object, they got the physics right, or near enough to count for network television.)

As much time as I spend mulling over higher dimensional objects, though, I find it almost impossible to hold them in my head. I think you've got to have a much more solid grounding in mathematics than I have to really conceptualize them. That's why things like this are nice. It's a new sculpture at Penn State, depicting the three-dimensional shadow of a four-dimensional "octacube." There's a shockwave animation of an octacube's shadow in motion here.

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