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HG Wells: The first to call time a fourth dimension?

  1. Feb 15, 2009 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    The claim was made tonight on a program about science fiction writers that HG Wells was aware of a geometry of 4 dimensions, and then made the leap of faith that time was a 4th dimension - ten years before Einstein came along.

    Did he really conceive of this before anyone else? I never read the novel and probably assumed that any such allusions in the movie to the 4th dimension had been added by Hollywood [long after Einstein published].
     
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  3. Feb 16, 2009 #2
    Re: HG Wells: The first to call time a forth dimension?

    Undoubtedly lots of people had the basic idea of time=4th dimension before Einstein. Surely you yourself had this idea in gradeschool when you learned about cartesian coordinate systems and wondered what it would be like to have a 4th dimension. The real insight with relativity was that spacetime isnt just a standard R4.
     
  4. Feb 16, 2009 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: HG Wells: The first to call time a forth dimension?

    Well, hindsight is very convenient, and no, I don't think time as a 4th dimension is obvious even given knowledge of a respective geometry. It might seem that way now, esp to a scientist, but we are talking about a fiction writer in 1895. Was he the first to publish this idea? If so I think that would be quite interesting.

    Perhaps this idea was already floating in the scientific literature of the day? My understanding was that Einstein's paper was considered to be quite novel even in scientific circles.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2009
  5. Feb 16, 2009 #4
    Re: HG Wells: The first to call time a forth dimension?

    Well, I mean, if you are studying a time-dependent PDE like the 3D heat equation or whatever else they were doing back in the day, the natural domain is R3 x [T0,T1], which is R3 x an_interval_of_R. How could a mathematician not see that it is just adding another "dimension"?
     
  6. Feb 16, 2009 #5
    Re: HG Wells: The first to call time a forth dimension?

    Whoever was the first to call time a forth dimension surely wasn't proud of it because "forth" is not an adjective!
     
  7. Feb 16, 2009 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: HG Wells: The first to call time a forth dimension?

    I would assume then that you can direct me to something showing that everyone in mathematical and scientific circles was talking about it before Wells came along; and of course before Einstein came along.

    I think the point you're missing is that physical dimensions were viewed only as spatial dimensions. My impression is that time as a fourth dimension was completely counterintuitive at the time - even to scientists. But if you can show that mathematicians or scientists were expecting this - that time was a fourth - that might explain how Wells made the leap.

    Wells had a BS in Zoology.

    heh, fourth.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2009
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