Monday, August 14, 2006

Web site review: Imagining the Tenth Dimension

Web site reviewed
Imagining the Tenth DimensionImagining the Tenth Dimension

Should you visit this site?
If you're even the slightest bit geeky, then yes! Narration and sound effects are an essential part of this site, so you'll need speakers or headphones.

My review

A Flash-based tutorial that quickly and effectively explains how to envision dimenions beyond the third.

Ever since I saw my abysmally low scores on the spatial reasoning portion of school standardized tests, I've known that this isn't really one of my strong areas. But I've always been fascinated by discussions of dimensions. I've vaguely understood that the 4th dimension is time, but beyond that, I usually get lost in the space-bending discussions of Möbius strips and the like.

And so, it was with great pleasure that I watched the Flash-based tutorial on the Imagining the Tenth Dimension site, which I came across via Bad Language. It's an amazing example of a succinct, well-designed tutorial that breaks down a complex (for me, anyway) topic into easily understandable information. As one StumbleUpon reviewer comments: "Great information and great design, combined. Now that's rare."

Anyone who has read Flatlandwill recognize parts of the descriptions of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd dimensions. The "zero-th" dimension is a point, the 1st is a line, the 2nd a plane, and the 3rd is space -- which is like one giant point. So in a sense, the 3rd dimension repeats the "zero-th."

Donnie DarkoThe tutorial then builds up to subsequent dimensions by repeating this point-line-plane cycle. The 4th dimension is a line (time) that connects 3-dimensional "points." I loved how the tutorial describes the 4th dimension as a "long, undulating snake," replete with eerie sound effects. Imagine your embryonic self at one tip of the snake and your (hopefully) old self down at the other. This brought to mind the scenes from Donnie Darko that show the wormlike timelines stretching out of characters' chests.

The tutorial works up from there: the 5th dimension is a plane of time, with an infinity of possible futures stretching forth from the current moment. The 6th dimension adds "depth" to the 5th-dimensional plane by including all possible timelines that may have occurred at any point in the history of our universe. This infinity of possible timelines shrinks to a single "point" in the 7th dimension, which is a line of 6th dimensional points (different universes). I won't attempt to explain the 8th through the 10th dimensions -- check out the tutorial!

Also quite interesting is the fact that this site, designed by OH! Media, is essentially a marketing vehicle for a book of the same name. This type of marketing -- online destinations that are effective educational tools of their own merit -- is great stuff.

I'd like to see more such sites. If you know of any, please add a comment!



Matthew Stibbe (Bad Language) said...

This is really cool. I found a site somewhere, posted it because I liked it. You saw it (thanks for the link) and wrote some really interesting commentary about it. This is the public conversation that everyone involved in blogging goes on about in real life. Thanks. Matthew

Armchair Anarchist said...

That's a great site, I saw it a while ago (on Metafilter, I think, it's in my somewhere). I really enjoyed it too; I was safe up until dimension 5, but then my head was totally twisted in a good way.

My only complaint was that it was so slow to load, but that was probably due to viewing it on a day when MeFi had linked it and everyone else chewing at the same bandwidth. I think we're going to get on just fine, you have a good eye for cool stuff. D'you read Futurismic? I blog there too...

Jonathan said...

Thanks, Matthew! I'm a big fan of your blog, and I'm honored that you commented on mine.

Paul, thanks for the tip; I added Futurismic to my Bloglines subscriptions. Looks like great stuff on there.