My daughter’s eyes got wider as she was telling me. “There’s a new film just coming out, ” she exclaimed, “and it’s in 4D!”
I hadn’t been concentrating up till then, not really. I was doing my daily blogging visits.But that fourth dimension: that got me back pretty fast.
This is because I have always gone along with that ol’ classical physics definition of just what a dimension is, and what it can do.
So we move around in space using three basic directions: up and down, left and right, and forwards and backwards.
A line can only exist in one of those. It is one-dimensional. A plane – a flat shape – can exist left/right and forwards/backwards: two directions. And a cube can exist in three, because up-down comes into play too.
And now ‘Spy Kids’, that 2011 kiddie classic, claims to have not only found a fourth direction, but to be able to show an entire movie using it.
I believe that some of our scientists – labelled alternately fanciful and visionary – have identified a fourth way of moving through space: that of moving into the past, or into the future. Aka: time travel.
Could it be that my children were about to be offered such an opportunity?
Perhaps they and their father would be calling me to pick them up before they were dropped off at the multiplex to watch the movie.
I may have said some of this out loud. Maddie shook her head impatiently. “No, Mummy, this is 4D at the cinema. They introduce a fourth way to include your senses. Spy Kids has smellivision!”
Well, knock me down with a jumbo box of popcorn. This is high science indeed, this chamber of the fourth dimension down at the multiscreen gogglebox. Because ‘Spy Kids: All The Time In The World’, due to be released on August 19th, has its own revolutionary version of Wells’s Time Machine or the Back To The Future DelOrean.
Spy Kids has Aroma-scope.
Ready for the Science Bit?
There isn’t one. This, fellow travellers at the portal to the fourth dimension, is a scratch and sniff card. Kids wait until they are told to scratch, before obediently releasing the appropriate smell for the scene.
If only we had always known that 4D was so simple to access.
Maddie went on to explain further: 4D need not appeal to one’s sense of smell, but to other senses too. One might experience a soothing breeze as one watched a yacht scything across an azure sea; one’s chair might judder alarmingly in an aeroplane stall scene.
But how? How does one sit in an auditorium, and have these effects assail one’s senses?
I began to visualise a scenario worthy of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
Pratchett is one of the great geniuses of my formative years. To me, he is simply superlative. No-one will ever take his place.
His perfect sense of irony means that even in this semi-mediaeval flat world, devices exist to do many of the jobs our electronic gismos achieve in our world: but through means magical or mythical.
Much of the technology from Twoflower’s neck of the woods – watches, razors, eventually even movie cameras – is imp-powered.
Take the camera. In The Colour Of Magic, Rincewind the Wizard hooks up with a hopelessly naive tourist called Twoflower. And they come up against a big burly group of watchmen, as they are trying to flee the great chaotic city of Ankh-Morpork.
As befits a tourist, Twoflower whips out a black box with a lens on the front and a handle on the opposite side. “It’s a device for making pictures quickly”, he explains.
In the interests of co-operation Rincewind tells the Watch there’s a demon inside. And lo and behold, when the Wizard looks inside, there really is a very small imp completing a canvas at high-speed.
It is called an iconograph. When the light is too dim, a salamander is used to shed a little light on the subject.
Imagine, then, the possibilities for fourth dimensional thinking. We could sit in the auditorium while imps wafted us with fixed-leaf fans or held half-full colanders over our heads to simulate downpours. They could wheel in tiny imp-proportioned portable kitchens and create sumptuous baking smells, and pelt us with mini-missiles during warfare scenarios.
The possibilities are endless. Think of the kitchen scene in Alice In Wonderland, where plate-throwing is a central premise. There must be few sensory experiences which could not be recreated by imps, provided spectators wore a hard hat.
But we are not, regrettably, in Discworld, 4D is a marketing ploy, and time travel is a distant dream. Maddie and Felix are quite pleased enough with the scratch and sniff cards they will be given as a passport to the fourth dimension.
The new dimension will simply have to wait.
Image source here