Owning the fourth dimension

I was at a conference today in which speakers were asked to combine topics of art and science. I was surprised by the number of speakers who focused on visualizing things in the fourth dimension, and the loving obsessiveness with which each would describe their work.

I was even more surprised to find, during the Q&A, that a number of these artists are highly protective of the fourth dimension. When asked about the work of others, some of the speakers would become dismissive, or otherwise shrug off the work of their peers. I felt as though I were getting a glimpse not just into the fourth dimension, but into a kind of higher dimensional school playground – an exotic place that had been frozen for decades into adolescence, with its own arcane rivalries and turf wars.

Perhaps this is one of the ironies of the fourth dimension. One would think it contains more room for multiple explorers than our paltry three. It could be that higher dimensional exploration is so fraught with the danger of becoming lost, that those who dare enter into its mysteries find themselves compelled to cling, even more firmly, to their limitations.

2 Responses to “Owning the fourth dimension”

  1. Doug says:

    I think there are some very natural ways of visualizing the fourth dimension that haven’t been widely explored. Think about all the cues we have for depth:
    stereo
    perspective
    distance fog
    occlusion
    parallax
    texture cues

    One could design an image such that half of those cues pointed at depth, and the other half pointed at a different, fourth direction for depth. I’ve seen visualization methods that use two of these (such as perspective and stereo) but I think it would be enhanced if you gave more cues.
    This would be more natural than assigning some arbitrary feature such as color to the fourth dimension.

  2. LastSilmaril says:

    Wait, what? Why is this not animation…?
    Or am I “not thinking fourth-dimensionally”? 😉

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