Just kidding. I don’t even eat artichokes!
But I wanted a clickbait title.
I’m reading a science fiction book about space. It’s a fun book–so far–but for the frustrating trite trope that aliens achieve > light-speed travel through “bending” space or utilizing hidden dimensions to find shortcuts over otherwise impossibly distant locations. EVERY STORY THAT EXPLAINS THIS USES THE EXAMPLE OF FOLDING A PIECE OF PAPER SO 2D “FLATLAND” PEOPLE CAN QUICKLY GET TO EACH OTHER ON A MAP.
I have given much thought to this and come to the irrefutably correct conclusion that THIS KIND OF TRAVEL IS IMPOSSIBLE!!!
Try to imagine the fourth dimension for a moment. Or at least, try to imagine the fourth dimension as a SPACIAL dimension. Since it’s slightly easier to conceive of the fourth dimension as time (TEMPORAL).
Spoiler alert: you can’t. It’s impossible. The fourth dimension is infinitely greater than our 3D world, just as our 3D world expands infinitely off from a 2D surface. We can very crudely describe 4D shapes just as we can draw 3D shapes in 2D. Tesseracts, or “hypercubes”, are fascinating for their hints of a world ‘beyond’ our own, a glimpse into the next frontier.
But accessing this fourth dimension as a means of circumventing the rules of e=mc2? I am skeptical!
Let us turn again to the oft-used analogy of the folded piece of paper. As you can see from the picture below, the conventional wisdom is that when the folded sections “touch”, they form a connection to one another.
This is only superficial. In truth, we have no way of knowing whether two-dimensional beings could travel in such a manner. The paper trick is actually a poor analogy because as this thin as it is, there is still ‘depth’ to the sheet. The two sheets “touch” but they don’t actually become ‘one.’ I don’t think there’s any way a two-dimensional plane with ZERO depth could be linked by a 3D mechanism. Imagine being a “2d” being on this piece of paper, which we will call “flatland” because everybody does because it was the title of the Edwin Abbott book.
As the other side of Flatland was folded towards your side, you would not be able to see any of this happening (I suppose if you could look far enough and the view was unobstructed you would notice your 2d universe bended back on itself). The descending portion of Flatland is unlikely to affect the other half of Flatland in any way, until it actually touches. But I still don’t understand how they might ‘join’ together in a way that you can travel between the two parts of Flatland. Because Flatland has no third dimensions, the two halves of their universe could be infinitely close and yet have no affect on one another, nor a way to bring the two together. The two sides of Flatland could somehow “join” together in some crazy cataclysmic scenario; or one side could actually fold ‘into’ the other. But in that case, the two halves of Flatland are connected via an infinitely small portion of 2d space. No matter what the case, whatever contortion of Flatland that allows such tricky travelling requires the aid of an extra-dimensional “force”, for which we currently have no analogy.
We envision a helper mechanism in a “wormhole”, some kind of tunnel between two portions of 3D space that allow one to circumvent the rules of sublight travel.
It’s some awesome, heady stuff. Perhaps there are 4d aliens who can not only see 3d beings but for some benevolent urge decide to “help” us by construction such connections.
As of yet, however, there’s nothing in OUR technology or even understand of physics that would allow for such a thing to exist. We’ve never seen one and we don’t even really know what one would look like (although the most interesting guesses in fiction involve a spherical “portal” through which you can see the other side, as in the film “Interstellar”. I think it’s wonderful to imagine such a device and it would be foolish to say such things cannot exist, after black holes exist and they don’t make a lick of sense, either.
But as of now I still view extra dimensions as things that are inaccessible, possibly even non-existent except as mathematical concepts. Or they may be beyond the grasp of three-dimensional humans (or other aliens/animals).