Liars! Every last one of you. Put your hands down. You can’t see 4D space. I can’t even see 4D space and I wear glasses to improve my 20/20 vision. But four dimensional space does exist (I checked, it’s on Wikipedia), it’s just very hard to wrap the noggin around because we don’t inhabit a traditionally four dimensional world. That’s where avant garde learning mobile app The Fourth Dimension comes in.
The app is ostensibly an interactive book that takes you through an understanding of dimension (start with the first) before working up to comprehending what four dimensional objects look like. For the folks at home, learning about complex mathematical concepts can be a challenge because mathematicians delight in shrouding their secrets in veils of monstrous terminology. Even the Wikipedia page on the fourth dimension feels like a fist to the frontal lobe. The Fourth Dimension gets colloquial to explain away the confusion.
Here’s my stab at it. We see three dimensional object everywhere. The device you’re reading this on is 3D, your hands are 3D, your pet chihuahua Sebastian is 3D, as is that Santa Claus who scared you at the mall when you were eight. All 3D. Touch them, smell them, taste them (not Santa). They exhibit the properties of objects in a three dimensional realm. Now look back at your computer screen. On it there are plenty of things that look 3D. Icons, pictures, that image of a cube. Touch them, smell them, taste them. They are very definitely not three dimensional objects. What you see is the projected silhouette of the object. Or a cleverly crafted illusion that tricks the mind into seeing three dimensions. In the same way we can see a cube on a piece of paper and recognize it as a three dimensional object, we can see projections of four dimensional objects and do the same.
With The Fourth Dimension you manipulate a 4D tesseract (the 4D analog to a cube) and can see how it creates a 3D projection. You alternate back and forth between manipulating the third and fourth dimensional versions of the tesseract, and eventually you will assume you have learned something.
If you’re particularly keen on vector math, creator Drew Olbrich explains the math behind creating a 4D controller (so you can, you know, use the app).
It’s a cool app that will help teach you something (no promises though). And for $2.99 that’s pretty cheap. Sure, after 15 minutes of play and one math-induced headache you might have spent your concentration on the app. Ultimately it seems worth it, if not just because I don’t think there exists another app that performs in a similar way. Math and Science literacy is all about communication. The Fourth Dimension handles that well.