I remember the first time I read Rudy Rucker’s The Fourth Dimension, in the hills of Cameron Highlands where I was more in touch with nature than usual.
The title makes the book sound like one of those New Age-type quick-fix theories for attaining love, peace and happiness – which is unfortunate, because the book is anything but. It’s purely scientific and reads more like a children’s textbook than any condescending pseudo-science on reaching “higher dimensions of being”. The book, unlike others with similar titles, actually talks about the 4th dimension and what it possibly looks like.
The Fourth Dimension explains in very simple terms the concept of a fourth dimension (space-time being the addition to our 3 dimensions), first suggested by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and made popular by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Using examples from Edwin Abbot’s Flatland (another fantastic book), which describes how a two-dimensional being first discovers the 3rd dimension, Rucker explains how we might be able to conceive of a fourth dimension, even if we can’t discover it experientially. The book has lots of diagrams and quirky little pieces of trivia which, combined with its simple language, makes it a wonderful read for anyone who wishes to get acquainted with crazy scientific theories of dimensionality.
Although this is a science book, it does require the reader to be open to new perceptions of the universe we live in – which is why being around nature (as in Cameron Highlands) really helps a person become awed by the both the book and the intricate web that is our world. However, some say the information in the book is outdated – only expected, considering it was written in 1984 and literature can’t really keep up with science these days.
But plenty of people have taken these ideas seriously, and have used technology to aid in visually perceiving the fourth dimension. Check out this cool video:
PS: Any idea of the fourth dimension should not be confused with the movie that just came out – the one with Val Kilmer – which looks dismal.