Thursday, October 24, 2013

New Perspectives: Imagining a 4D World

Regardless of your scientific background (or lack thereof), the 4th dimension is very a difficult concept to grasp. To understand just how difficult it is to envision a world with a 4th spacial dimension, let"s use a couple comparisons. First, imagine a color that doesn"t currently exist. Next, try to come up with a way to explain how an everyday color looks (like blue, for example) to someone who can"t see. Both of those things are pretty difficult, right? Well, we run into exactly the same problems when we try to imagine a 4th dimension to space. Even for those of us with the most powerful visual imaginations, trying to picture how a 4 dimensional object would look in a 3 dimensional world is impossible. Truly and utterly impossible.

However, math offers us a little assistance in this area. You see, to a mathematician, the 4th dimension can be represented using coordinate geometry and vectors within an algebraic 4 dimensional space (that sounds like a mouthful, but just look at the image to get an idea of what this means). Of course, this is only an extra DIRECTION written down on a 2D piece of paper...not an actual DIMENSION. In this sense, the coordinates would be treated in exactly the same way as the other 3 directions, so it doesn"t actually add anything new to our understanding. Still, coordinate geometry helps us grasp just how difficult comprehending a 4th dimension is for beings who live in a 3D world (like us).

So in short, understanding a world with 4 spacial dimensions is still exceedingly difficult...but, what fun would we be if we didn"t try?

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Image Credit: LearnSomething

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