Four-Dimensional Space

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Four-Dimensional Space  (1885) 
by Anonymous
Nature, Vol. 31, Iss. 804, p. 481, Online


Four-Dimensional Space


Possibly the question, What is the fourth dimension? may admit of an indefinite number of answers. I prefer, therefore, in proposing to consider Time as a fourth dimension of our existence, to speak of it as a fourth dimension rather than the fourth dimension. Since this fourth dimension cannot be introduced into space, as commonly understood, we require a new kind of space for its existence, which we may call time-space. There is then no difficulty in conceiving the analogues in this new kind of space, of the things in ordinary space which are known as lines, areas, and solids. A straight line, by moving in any direction not in its own length, generates an area; if this area moves in any direction not in its own plane it generates a solid; but if this solid moves in any direction, it still generates a solid, and nothing more. The reason of this is that we have not supposed it to move in the fourth dimension. If the straight line moves in its own direction, it describes only a straight line; if the area moves in its own plane, it describes only an area; in each case, motion in the dimensions in which the thing exists, gives us only a thing of the same dimensions; and, in order to get a thing of higher dimensions, we must have motion in a new dimension. But, as the idea of motion is only applicable in space of three dimensions, we must replace it by another which is applicable in our fourth dimension of time. Such an idea is that of successive existence. We must, therefore, conceive that there is a new three-dimensional space for each successive instant of time; and, by picturing to ourselves the aggregate formed by the successive positions in time-space of a given solid during a given time, we shall get the idea of a four-dimensional solid, which may be called a sur-solid. It will assist us to get a clearer idea, if we consider a solid which is in a constant state of change, both of magnitude and position; and an example of a solid which satisfies this condition sufficiently well, is afforded by the body of each of us. Let any man picture to himself the aggregate of his own bodily forms from birth to the present time, and he will have a clear idea of a sur-solid in time-space.

Let us now consider the sur-solid formed by the movement, or rather, the successive existence, of a cube in time-space. We are to conceive of the cube, and the whole of the three-dimensional space in which it is situated, as floating away in time-space for a given time; the cube will then have an initial and a final position, and these will be the end boundaries of the sur-solid. It will therefore have sixteen points, namely, the eight points belonging to the initial cube, and the eight belonging to the final cube. The successive positions (in time-space) of each of the eight points of the cube, will form what may be called a time-line; and adding to these the twenty-four edges of the initial and final cubes, we see that the sur-solid has thirty-two lines. The successive positions (in time-space) of each of the twelve edges of the cube, will form what may be called a time area; and, adding these to the twelve faces of the initial and final cubes, we see that the sur-solid has twenty-four areas. Lastly, the successive positions (in time-space) of each of the six faces of the cube, will form what may be called a time-solid; and, adding these to the initial and final cubes, we see that the sur-solid is bounded by eight solids. These results agree with the statements in your article. But it is not permissible to speak of the sur-solid as resting in "space," we must rather say that the section of it by any time is a cube resting (or moving) in "space."

S.

March 16

This work was published before January 1, 1923 and it is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 128 years or less since publication.