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Carl Sagan and the Mystery of the Fourth Dimension

One day, when I was 8, I turned on the TV and I saw a man playing with a bunch of geometric cutouts called Flatlanders. These odd flat creatures, as the man explained, knew about left and right, back and forth, but didn’t have a clue about up or down ... They did not know the third dimension, as we do. If one of them were to meet a three-dimensional being (an apple, say, who approached Flatland in a gesture of "inter-dimensional amity"), or if somehow the being pushed the flatlander from below and send him fluttering above the two dimensional world, the innocent flat creature would not understand anything. And afterwards, he would not know how to describe that mystical dimension called "up".

And what about the fourth dimension? What about that place which is not left or right, front or back, up or down, but in another direction that we, normal people, cannot point at? Could we ever experience the same strange inter dimensional encounter, as the flatlander?

At that time I knew nothing about Science, but Carl Sagan’s words fascinated me completely. And I have never forgotten that fascination. Carl Sagan's books occupy a place of honor in my library.

The set depicts the scene in which Carl talks about Flatland (a mathematical thought experiment designed by Edwin Abbott), which can be seen in The Edge of Forever, the original series 10th episode (

). It includes a figure of Carl, along the desk and the elements of the explanation: the plane, the colorful cutouts that represent the Flatlanders, the apples and the glass cubes which are used to think about a four-dimensional cube, also called a hyper-cube or tesseract.

There is also a representation of the painting, “Another world”, by artist M.C. Escher, which is part of the original scene. I have to thank my wife Susan, who recognized the artist's work and helped me find it. This painting is very important, because it shows the paradox of seeing a landscape from different perspectives simultaneously.

Thank you for visiting and for reading!

 

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

Carl Sagan.