This weekend I read Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. I liked it a lot, but I feel as though the fourth dimensional segments were quite sloppy. I realize he was trying to add to the senseless, chaotic, and indifferent aspects of war, but it seems t me he could have created a four dimensional being that is more consistent with the facts of the fourth dimension, instead of coming across as being, well, lazy.
However, he did get me thinking about some interesting things. First, the four dimensional creatures spoke through telepathy, and thus Billy, the main character, could not hear them. Merely because one is four dimensional, does not grant one access to telepathy. But , whatever. I was thinking about if a person could talk purely in the fourth dimension. Well, a Flatlander’s ears are only made to accept sound form the Flatland plane, not from the three dimensional space above or below it. But, if A sphere was out of Flatland and talking, the sound waves would be scattered in many directions. If a sound wave was traveling at a 45 degree angel to the Flatland plane, it is moving in two directions, horizontal and vertical, so the Flatlander WOULD hear it. The Flatlander would not hear sound waves exactly parallel or perpendicular to their world. or sound waves traveling away from Flatland.
I have little conception of the fourth “direction” the fourth dimension is. So, I was wondering if these four-D creatures could actually converse in a way which we could not hear. From what I have learned thus far, it doesn’t seem as though the physical world of a four dimensional creature would be any different. By this I mean that although they can transcend some impediments we as three dimensional beings experience, sound waves would function in a similar manner. Or would a sound wave take on different properties, since it was released from a different direction?
The second thing I thought of was regarding Vonnegut’s discussion of time travel. I think that Mike Matthews had brought this up before, that if one were to travel backwards in time and change even the littlest thing, then the course of human existence could be change - the actual circumstances that brought about the existence of the time traveler would change, which would create a royal mess.
Naturally he avoided addressing this, which is understandable because it is irrelevant (as were most other facts about the fourth dimension in the story). What Vonnegut was trying to say, I think, was that in war especially, man is subject to forces beyond his control, and is just kind of moved around without rhyme or reason. Past, present and future can be viewed by the four-D creature like we would the Rocky Mountains, and that is that.
But, if time travel were possible (in the way in which Vonnegut describes it, using an idea roughly similar to the time snake idea), what would happen if one were to change things? Would those “Rocky Mountains” of time which the four-D creatures saw by altered with each new decision the time traveler made? Or would there become a separate branch of the original Rockies? Another fact one must consider, is that for every moment someone does not make a decision, they are deciding NOT to do everything else besides what they are doing. SO, as soon as the time traveler returned, for one moment, there would be infinite other “rocky mountains” of time created.
On final note on polygons and polyhedra. As I described in more detail last week, if one imagines an octagon balancing on a plane and then a dodecahedron and then an icosahedron the surface of the polygon approaches the plane increasingly, with an increasing number of sides. SO, what happens with polyhedra? Since the three dimensional polygons approach a 2-D plane, wouldn't the polyhedra, approach something 3-D, some volume? I would imagine this four dimensional space can somehow approach our universe - or our conception of the universe - but I’m not quite sure how.