The Fourth Dimension: A Guided Tour of the Higher Universes

By Rudy Rucker

A twisty turny topsy turvy tome about math, topology, higher dimensional physics, and other heady material, made fun via a blend of “[t]ext, pictures, and puzzles” and more.

Rucker takes us on a tour of the fourth dimension — “a myth, a reality, a dream, an equation, a hypercube, the face of God, the photography of everything at once…” The book is in part an homage to, and extension of, Flatland — an early chapter gives a quick overview of that influential book — but it extends to worlds far beyond.

Rucker tackles visualizing hypercubes; he gives us interesting historical color on the spiritual dimension of higher dimensions; he offers reformulations on how we think about space and parallel worlds. From time travel to telepathy, this book takes us through a fascinating array of topics that defy comprehension. Problems are transposed; dizzying topics wrapped in parable and metaphor.

The book contains over 200 illustrations and diagrams, as well as sidebars, puzzles, and thought experiments that make the book more accessible than it might first appear. There’s some neat experimental stuff, too, like a part written in a “spacetime diary” format.

In particular I love the interspersed puzzles — this seems a minor feature, but I think makes the concepts more tangible, and therefore makes the whole book more interactive and engaging. This would be high on the list of books I’d gift a smart twelve-year-old…or anyone who aspires to think like one!

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