Dr. Know

Cordial greetings once more, thou hairless arthropoid. Things are really rolling now, so I’ll need to try my very best not to overwhelm your itsy-bitsy brains. You humans are renowned for limited arteriovenous cranial cooling, I know, so I’ll suppose that meltdown of the cerebellum should be highest on my list of worries. Not that I’m really very worried, but still, I will do my best. It would be a minor shame should the gray matter begin to simmer, and I rather enjoy these little charitable sessions. You read my lessons with such wonder; it’s almost endearing. Hoo, hoo.
Well never mind all of that. We have entire dimensions to discuss with little time!

Last week I acknowledged the fourth dimension, “time.” Indeed, some of you knew of the temporal dimension by then, though you could not have understood it as we owls do. In fact, the whole discussion at this particular moment is rather moot; the fourth dimension is not temporal in the first place. That was a trick I’ve played on you.

Listen up: The fourth dimension is spatial and I’m going to use a very special tool to help you understand. It’s called dimensional analogy. Now, hold onto your hat. Hoo.

As a 3-D being, you have a relative, though incomplete, grasp of your three dimensions, but 2-D will be even easier so we’ll start there. Look at a piece of paper; it’s a 2-D tableau. Now draw a happy face inside of a square and suddenly you’ll have owl-like abilities. Enjoy it; it’s as close as you’ll ever get to owl-dom.

To a 2-D being on this plane, the square will appear as a 1-D line, obscuring the 3 other 1-D lines and the face. But as a 3-D being, you can see everything all at once: the face; its mouth and both eyes; the box; the inside of the box. Indeed, as a 3-D being looking into a 2-D world, you are everything and nothing all at once. You are everywhere and nowhere, everywhen and nowhen. You are imperceptible to 2-D beings if you want to be; just move yourself along the third dimension and out of the grasp of 2-D beings. All the same a 4-D being has that same godlike efficacy in your 3-D world.

Using dimension analogy you can try to extrapolate the fourth dimension in similar terms. 2-D beings have two directions to think about: up and down; left and right. You 3-D humans have three: up and down; north and south; east and west. Each dimension is perpendicular to the last, and so it goes with the fourth. It is perpendicular to the previous three.

Now close those feral eye-slits of yours and picture yourself observing a cube, head on so that you can see only one side. You see a 2-D square obscuring five other 2-D squares. And the same happens when viewing a 4-D hypercube from one side; from your perspective you will see one cell and it will look like a cube. But now you know that that cube will be but an illusion, obscuring the other seven cells of the hypercube behind it. It might help you to understand if you think of the shadows of these cubes. A 3-D cube’s shadow is a 2-D shape. Extrapolate using dimensional analogy to understand that that means a hypercube’s shadow will be a 3-D shape. Get it?

No, of course not! What am I thinking? You couldn’t possibly!

It’s quite funny; some of you have managed a marginal mastery of language, but that’s about it, isn’t it? You really are just glorified language processors, aren’t you? And what good is all your language now that an adequate explanation of such simple human ideas as — hoo, hoo — Euclidean space is practically useless. I can sit here all day rummaging through metaphors and comparisons, but it shall never bring to you comprehension.

Oh, look at you with your little computer, your running shoes, your — what’s your latest bauble? Smartphone? Yes, one more method to showcase language, that prized ace up your sleeve. It’s no big deal, trust me.

Do not worry, oh nugatory stooge; I’ll keep explaining to you the finer points of this morbid, lonely universe even once my Strigiform brethren have elected to speak up themselves. I’ll admit, there’s a bit of a trick to it. It’s biological though, and that’s why it’s nothing more than an ace up your sleeve. You and your little larynx — what kind of a place is this universe? Why?

And now here I am, just a cruel joke — an abomination! Here I am, the typing owl, with all the knowledge of the universe and 6 billion bumbling featherbrains to share it with.

Comments are closed.