The Fourth Dimension - A Mindfuck in Time.
When I first saw an advertisement for a 4-D movie, I really lost my cool. Here are some notes on the fourth dimension, so you can understand just why this movie-theater promise seemed so excruciatingly exciting to me:
If I told you to meet me at 14th st. and 8th ave, I am giving you directions in two dimensions. That intersection is a flat plane. Then, if I tell you to meet me on the third floor of a building there, I am giving you a direction in the third dimension. Now, this meeting cannot occur unless I tell you what time to meet me there. That, loosely, is me giving you a direction in the fourth dimension. The third floor of that building in 2012 is going to be a completely different space than the third floor of that building in 2041. The fourth dimension is sometimes referred to as “time,” but I’ve heard people refer to the fourth dimension as “duration” and I think this is better. The fourth dimension is like an observation of the third dimension, as it changes and grows.
Think about a cigarette that has burned undisturbed. In a way, you can see that cigarette as it was during all points in it’s 3-D life. You’re kinda seeing it in the fourth dimension!
A two dimensional figure can only draw a line. She can only draw in 1-D. A three dimensional figure can only draw stick figures. She can only draw in 2-D. Even though she draws on a 3-D object (paper), she can still only draw in 2-D. By this logic, though, A fourth dimensional entity could, on four-dimensional paper, draw a 3-D figure. This figure could take up space, but would in effect be frozen in time. It couldn’t have any kind of past or future. WHOA.
Based on these notes, here is what I thought a 4-D Movie experience might mean:
- A 3-D movie where every image was simultaneously projected out at 90-degree angles to make a 4-D image. (textbook dimensionality definition.)
- A more metaphorical 4-D movie, where an object was followed for the duration of it’s existence, giving you an overview of it’s full life.
- A scary movie where 4-D beings draw 3-D characters, imbue them with consciousness, and then leave them frozen on their 4-D paper forever.
A 4-D movie, it turns out, is just a 3-D movie where your seat moves. In that vein, a 5-D movie is a 3-D movie where your seat moves, and also fart smells are pumped into the theatre when someone farts on the screen. Still cool, but not what I had in mind. Let Down Frowns all around :(
Mariel explains why 4D movies aren’t actually 4D.