Clifford Pickover is IBM's Renaissance-guy-in-residence. His job is to play with cool ideas--time travel (Time: A Traveler's Guide
), extraterrestrials (The Science of Aliens
), and the line between genius and crackpot (Strange Brains and Genius
). His latest game is an oldie but goodie: trying to imagine the fourth dimension.
Like a number of his other books, Surfing is structured as a fiction, in this case an X-Files romance--Pickover clearly has a deep and personal appreciation for Scully (whom he calls "Sally," presumably on advice of counsel). You, dear reader, are the FBI's chief investigator of four-dimensional phenomena. As you and your cohorts chase bizarre manifestations from "upsilon" (4-D up) and "delta" (4-D down), Pickover provides explanations, paradoxes, and problems, with many helpful drawings and computer-generated illustrations.
Pickover's book, like every work on higher dimensions, is something of a sequel to Edwin Abbott's classic story, Flatland. Like Abbott, Pickover doesn't just look at the mathematics: "I want to know if humankind's Gods could exist in the fourth dimension." Not for the theologically squeamish, this book is lively, provocative, outrageous, and fascinating. --Mary Ellen Curtin
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From Publishers Weekly
Hyperbeings have kidnapped the president! Prolific Discover magazine columnist Pickover (Time: A Traveler's Guide, etc.) alternates expositions of math, physics and geometry with episodes of instructional science fiction while showing interested amateurs the mathematical and physical properties of higher spatial dimensions. Familiar analogies from Edwin Abbott's classic Flatland link up with odder ones from Baha'i and Christian scripture, The X-Files and the superstring theories of modern cosmologists, as Pickover explains how to trap a 4-D organism or why one twirl through a fourth dimension could turn you into your mirror image. Pickover's usual whimsy is in full force here, as he focuses on what four-dimensional organisms could (or do) look like to us: 4-D lifeforms, he explains, could make any 3-D object vanish (or reappear) by lifting it out of (or dropping it back into) our 3-D space. And 4-D creatures with anatomies analogous to ours would probably look, from our limited perspective, like sets of floating, unconnected flesh blobs. In the book's science fictional sections, "you" (a Mulder-esque FBI agent) team up with a skeptic named Sally to investigate mysterious hyperbeings. These second-person adventures seem aimed at young readers, though they don't get in the way of the more sophisticated ideas. Several substantial appendices describe puzzles and games related to hyperspace, while others explain related topics (like the mathematical entities called quaternions) or suggest further reading. Line drawings throughout. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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