Title Thumbnail

A Theory of the Mechanism of Survival: The Fourth Dimension and its Applications

Walter Whately Smith

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
The main line of thought developed in these pages has no claims to originality. Professor Zöllner of Leipsic was an ardent exponent of the theory in the "seventies" and some authors hold that even the ancient writings of the East contain attempts to express Four-Dimensional concepts. Whether this is actually so is open to doubt but it must be remembered that in the days when these writings were produced mathematical knowledge was itself in its infancy and that there was, therefore, no terminology available in which the Higher Space concepts could be suitably expressed even supposing that the ancient philosophers had them in mind. It is only through accumulated knowledge, especially the work of Gauss, Lobatschewsky, Bolyai, Riemann, and others that modern mathematicians are able to deal easily with space of more than three dimensions. It may be noted that Kant says: "If it be possible that there are developments of other dimensions of space, it is very probable that God has somewhere produced them. For His works have all the grandeur and glory that can be comprised." According to Mr. G.R.S. Mead similar ideas are to be found in certain of the Gnostic cosmogonies. But a detailed historical review would be out of place here and I will therefore proceed at once to a discussion of what is meant by the term "fourth dimension" and will try to explain how it is that we can determine some of the necessary properties of four-dimensional space, even although we cannot picture it to ourselves. At this point I would urge the reader to try to believe that the subject is not one of great difficulty. As a matter of fact it is really exceptionally straightforward if only one faces it and does not allow oneself to be frightened. I know that it is impossible to form any clear mental picture of four-dimensional conditions, but that does not matter. The ideas involved are admittedly unprecedented in our experience, but they are not contrary to reason and I do not ask more than a formal and intellectual assent to the propositions and analogies concerned. Let me start, then, by defining what is meant by a Dimension. The best definition I can think of is to say that, in the sense in which the word is used here, a Dimension means "An independent direction in space." I must amplify this by saying that, "Two directions in space are to be considered as independent when they are so related that no movement, however great, along one of them will result in the slightest movement along, or parallel to, the other. That is to say, at right angles, or perpendicular to one another."