Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Möbius Strip Roller Coaster!

Can you picture it? Somebody should make a möbius strip roller coaster, where the cars are zipping around on both the top side and underside of the track! You'd be upside down much of the time of course, so it wouldn't be for the faint of heart. Could be quite a spectacle! Does such a thing already exist or have I stumbled upon a new idea here?

This idea occurred to me as I was answering a question posted to me on YouTube about whether a "flatlander on a möbius strip" is kind of like looking out at the track in front of a roller coaster. With the 2D flatlander example, he's twisting and turning in the next dimension up, but unaware of this additional motion. But what is the corresponding "next dimension up" for we human beings? Here's the answer I gave.

Yes, we're made out of 3D atoms and molecules, but we can't move without using time, so you and I are really in the fourth dimension, traveling in a specific direction which we call "time". My point is that as we travel in the fourth dimension we would be like the flatlander on the möbius strip - we can think we are traveling in a straight line, but we're really branching and twisting in the fifth dimension.

But wait, doesn't that mean the flatlander can't move without using the third dimension? And if we live in "spacetime", is the flatlander really in "planetime" or some such term? That's certainly true. As I've always said with this project, it's quite useful to say that "time" can be thought of as a direction in the next dimension up to whatever spatial dimension you're considering, but saying those words doesn't always clear things up for people. These are the kinds of language traps we can fall into when we're talking about "time" in the context of spatial dimensions. Am I a 3D creature or am I a 4D creature? Depends upon the frame of reference you're using, either is true in its own way.

But I'd still like to see somebody build a Möbius Strip Roller Coaster!

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While it's not a roller coaster per se, the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts has a display of a Mobius strip in their Mathematics exhibit. A track runs the Mobius strip and if you press a button, an arrow mounted on a little car will traverse the track, demonstrating that it only has one side.

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