Monday, May 5, 2008

Flatlanders on a Line

A direct link to the above video is at

A direct link to the above video is at

I see that "Flatland: The Movie" is now available on DVD. This animated short is based on Edwin A. Abbott's 1884 book "Flatland: a Romance of Many Dimensions". Abbott's Flatlander concept is one of the starting points for my project, and calling the 2D "one-eyed Jack" creature in the tenth dimension animation a Flatlander was a deliberate tribute to Abbott's work. Let's talk about how the Flatlander idea is so powerful in the way of visualizing reality we're playing with here.

Invisible Motions
Imagine a Flatlander travelling on a line that is twisting and turning in the dimensions above. A mobius strip provides us with an easy way to visualize that, but no matter what higher dimensional shape the line is travelling through, that higher dimensional motion will be invisible to the Flatlander, who will only continue to feel like he is travelling on a line within his 2D plane.

Traditionally, the Flatlander imagery is used to help people imagine the fourth spatial dimension: "here's what 3D would be like for a 2D creature, does this help you imagine what 4D could be like for we 3D creatures?".

Realizing that our reality comes from the fifth dimension, though, shows how the Flatlander analogy is even more apt. Our reality comes from a fifth dimensional probability space: but as powerful as our set of choices from moment to moment might be, there are still parts of our reality that are no longer available to us because of what has come before, and what we are headed towards.

Waking Up
In Abbott's book, the startling moment of awakening for the 2D Flatlander is when he is lifted off of his 2D plane, and from the third dimension is able to see everything about his world at once, all of the things that were invisible to him from his limited 2D perspective.

Let's take this analogy out to the idea that time is a direction, and that our reality is twisting and turning through the fifth dimension's available choices at both the quantum and macro level. If, like the Flatlander, we could lift off of the fifth dimension, and view our spacetime tree from the sixth dimension, it would be like someone who had been travelling through a labyrinth being handed a large balloon that lifted them above the walls of choice, chance, and circumstance that they had been travelling through. From the sixth dimension they would be able to see how Everything Fits Together: all the good and bad choices, all the random circumstances and deliberate actions that had contributed to their current "now" being one way and impossible to be some other ways, would be clearly visible from the landscape of the sixth dimension.

Last blog, we talked about the fifth dimension as a logical structure, formed by underlying patterns. Like the Flatlander, we are left to imagine and theorize about those patterns: because we can never actually lift ourselves into the extra dimensions to see what we, as creatures constrained by a 3D and 7D brane, in a 4D spacetime being constantly created one planck length after another in the fifth dimension, might really look like from the extra dimensions (part of a Calabi-Yau manifold, perhaps?).

Taking Action
But we should always keep in mind that Abbott's powerful visualization of the Flatlander was intended not just as an intellectual pursuit, but as social comment as well: so, by realizing what decisions have been made, and what back-room deals have been struck, to make some realities inaccessible from our current position in the fifth dimension, we can all become more politically aware, and conscious of what good choices remain available.

Enjoy the journey,


Next: Crossing Your Arms to Change Your Trajectory

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