Welcome to Friday Fiction Facts: sciency things that fiction writers need to know.

A Schlegel Image depicting a 3D shadow of a 4D object  (Image: Robert Webb’s Stella software)

It’s been a crazy busy week here, but I wanted to post a quick Friday Fiction Facts. Some of you are experienced sci-fi authors so I’m sure you already know the ins and outs of other dimensions. But for those of you who may be just introducing the idea into your Young Adult adventure or fantasy novel, here’s a quick primer on the 4th dimension.

The key points are this:

To explain how the 4th dimension “looks” to us, it is necessary to explain how the 3rd dimension appears to people who live in 2 dimensions — that is, to Flatlanders.*

Something from a “higher” dimension will always appear to pop in and out of a lower dimension.

Something from a higher dimension will always be distorted to viewers from a lower dimension, much like a shadow of 3-dimensional box  is a “distorted” 2D version of an actual box.

A 4D cube (or hypercube)  is called a Tesseract. We can’t see that but we know what its shadow looks like in 3 dimensions. See image above.

Here are 2 videos which will help illustrate the 4th dimension. First, the inimitable Carl Sagan —

And now something a little lighter, but just as explanatory —


*For a wonderful example of how a story would play out when a being tries to move beyond his dimensional constraints, read Edwin Abbot’s 1882 classic  Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. Don’t be fooled by the 80 pages. This book takes some extreme multidimensional thinking.

More on Flatland at Wikipedia.