If Jesus Came to Flatland

How to think about dimensions beyond our own. /

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” — Acts 1:11

“Be patient, for the world is broad and wide.” — Romeo & Juliet

We are three-dimensional beings in a three-dimensional world. We have escaped our planet, but even then we traveled only in the dimensions we understand: height, length, and width. We can go up, down, left, right, back, and forward. Voyager 1, for example, has traveled 21 billion miles through this three-dimensional space. But always through one of three dimensions.

What if we could move in a new direction, along a new dimension? What if Jesus already has?

Scientists in string theory posit that there could be 10, 11, or 26 different spatial dimensions in our universe, depending on their particular scientific bent. It can be easy to dismiss those claims simply as theoretical or as too arcane to even matter; after all, most of us have a hard enough time navigating around our three dimensions without stubbing a toe or getting rear-ended by the tailgater behind us. What possible use could there be for a fourth dimension … or a tenth? What would any of that even look like? Shouldn’t it be impossible to even theorize a higher dimension’s attributes given our three-dimensional reality?

Maybe not. Because we live in three dimensions, we have access to one- and two-dimensional reality as well. Let’s borrow an idea from Edwin Abbott’s satirical 1884 novella Flatland, in which points, lines, plane shapes, and a three-dimensional sphere think and interact with each other. Flatland is a world of two-dimensional shapes. We’d visualize them as squares, triangles, and other polygons, but to each other they appear simply as lines. ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 51 / June 23, 2016
  1. Editor's Note from June 23, 2016

    Issue 51: Our Special 3D Issue. /

  2. Beauty Can Be a Matter of Perspective

    We were created to view the world through two eyes. /

  3. An Object Can Be Worth 10,000 Photos

    Why I pursued 3D printing for Dallas Theological Seminary. /

  4. The Old West in 3D

    Photos that shaped a nation’s view of its expanding horizon.

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Issue 51: Links to amazing stuff in 3D.

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