I’ve been interested in the fourth dimension for most of my life, at least since I discovered Flatland in my junior high school library around age 12. My recent obsession with 4D comes from the coincidence of two recent events
- My discovery on the web of the text of C.H. Hinton’s classic The Fourth Dimension and a printable PDF showing the colors of his Hinton Cubes, which are a sort of toy to help learn to visualize the fourth dimension.
- My watching the 1939 movie of The Wizard of Oz with my wife Marty and her sister Meredith, the night before Thanksgiving this year. When Dorothy’s house landed and she stepped from the sepia world she knew into the full-color Land of Oz, Marty and Meredith remarked how perfectly the Technicolor simulated a new world full of things so far beyond one’s previous experience and conceptions that one had to find a completely new way to understand and represent them.
I wanted that. I ached for that. Once I found new vistas in pot and LSD, but then I discovered that madness runs in my family. I can’t discover new things that way any more; it’s too dangerous for me. But the fourth dimension is waiting.
That’s supposed to have its dangers too. When Martin Gardner popularized the Hinton Cubes back in the 1950s, he received some letters with warnings about forbidden knowledge that sounded practically Lovecraftian (even the dates are right):
Dear Mr. Gardner:
A shudder ran down my spine when I read your reference to Hinton’s cubes. I nearly got hooked on them myself in the nineteen-twenties. Please believe me when I say that they are completely mind-destroying… It is not difficult to acquire considerable facility… but the process is one of autohypnosis and, after a while, the sequences begin to parade themselves through one’s mind of their own accord. This is pleasurable, in a way, and it was not until I went to see Sedlak in 1929 that I realized the dangers of setting up an autonomous process in one’s own brain…
My inclination is to understand this dreadful, “mind-destroying” process as nothing more than the Tetris Effect. I survived “Tetris dreams” in the 1980s like everyone else. If I’d had them back in 1929, they might have scared me out of my wits, but I predict that’s about the worst they can do. Of course, if this blog goes silent for a few months, please google my name to see if the cops found a slack-jawed vegetable in a Seattle suburb, still clutching what looked much like a Rubik’s Cube — but somehow disturbingly different…
Aiiiee! The unspeakable angles!
Meanwhile, here are a bunch of the most interesting links I’ve found about the fourth dimension. Hey man, the first hit’s free.