The 4th Dimension, God, and Buckaroo Banzai

In The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!, the hero drives his amazing rocket car into the eighth dimension, through a mountain, and  re-materializes on the other side. The titular character (physicist, neurosurgeon, race car driver, and rock star) explains that he didn’t actually drive through the mountain. He drove onto another plane. For all the faux science-speak the movie has, it holds a grain of truth. Even if the magical machine really worked, he *didn’t* drive through the mountain. He drove around it.

Every dimension is at right angles to all the ones before it. The y-axis  makes a 90 degree angle with the x-axis in the 1st dimension, and the z-axis makes 90 degree angles with the x and y axises. So the 4th dimension must also be at right angles to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd dimensions. But what on earth does this look like?

Being In Two Places at Once

The 4th dimension is the only place  in which we can have two 3-D objects at the same point in 3-D space. In the 0th dimension, there can only be a point, but in the 1st dimension there can be an infinite number of points, forming a line. In the 2nd dimension, there can be an infinite number of lines, forming a long rectangle. In the 2nd dimension, there can be an infinite number of squares, forming a tunnel. In the 4th dimension you can somehow have an infinite chain of tunnels. So, in effect, the 4th dimension contains an infinite number of alternate worlds.

It’s pretty universally agreed that time is the 4th dimension. Normally, we move along time like a point on the number line or a square in a square tunnel. If 4th dimension is time, than 3-D beings can move through any point of  time, just as a point can move forward or backward on a number line in the 1st dimension, a line can move forward or backward on an elongated rectangle in the 2nd dimension, or a square can move forward or backward in a tunnel in the 3rd dimension (as long as nothing gets in the way).

Furthermore, if a line can contain an infinite number of points, a square an infinite number of lines, a cube an infinite number of squares, and the 4th dimension an infinite number of worlds, than someone in the 4th dimension can be in two places at the exact same time, just as a line can have two different points.

Not Seeing Everything

This brings up a fascinating point. Each higher dimension can only “see” in lower dimensions and guess the existence of their own dimension. However, each higher dimension can see inside lower dimensions. A point in the 0th dimension can see nothing. A line in the 1st dimension x-axis can see only a point in the 0th dimension. A square in the 2nd dimension x-y plane can only see a line in the 1st dimension, but it can see the middle of a line, which the line cannot. A cube in the 3rd dimension x,y,z can only see shapes in the 2nd dimension. This is why we use paper instead of  cubes. We see one side of the cube. We feel the other sides. We cannot read both sides of the paper at once. Someone in the 4th dimension can actually see inside 3-D objects, but even he can only see his fellow man in terms of the 3rd dimension.

Having More than One Facet

When a higher dimension encounters a lower dimension, the effects are very weird. If a 2-D circle passed through a 1-D plane, first a short line would intersect, than the lines would grow longer and longer until the middle of the circle was reached and the lines grew smaller and smaller until they vanished. A 3-D circle passing through a flat 2-D paper would start out as a dot and grow into a larger and larger circle until it began to shrink again. A person from the 4th dimension who carried his entire life with him would intersect the 3-D plane as a baby, and grow and grow until he reached adulthood, at which point he would begin to shrink until he finally died, but the rate at which this happened would depend on how fast he was moving through time.


I think the implication here is people don’t belong in the 3rd dimension. We’re stuck here. We have 4th dimensional quantities, such as time, although we’re stuck at a certain age rate. Yet, I’m not sure time travel the way we try to invent it is possible. Never mind Doctor Who, there would be some very wonky results, such as a person living out their entire life in both medieval France and modern Germany.

The 4th dimension explains how God is omnipresent: someone in the 4th dimension can be two places at once. It explains how he is omniscient: he can see the inside of us, of our minds. It explains how God is undying: He’s a time traveler, and time traveling involves being able to move between times with your entire life. It explains how some people can sense God: we cannot see all three dimensions, but we infer that they are there. Likewise, we cannot see or touch time, but we can infer its presence. Similarly, sometimes, we can infer God.

I am not arguing that God is confined to the 4th dimension. (Even higher dimensions have similar properties with added benefits, but God doesn’t have to confine Himself like that.) I am arguing that if math makes room for a combined physicist, neurosurgeon, race car driver, and rock star, then math can make room for God.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal ~1Corinthians 4:18

For another look at the dimensions see Imagining the Tenth Dimension.

Reference: Flatland by Edward Abbott Abbott


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