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

In summary: dimension. yeah, i remember that too. my fourth grade teacher made us read a scientific article about how the universe is really just a 4th dimensional space.
  • #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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  • #2


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 isn't just a standard R4.
 
  • #3


maze said:
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 isn't just a standard R4.

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.
 
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  • #4


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"?
 
  • #5


Whoever was the first to call time a forth dimension surely wasn't proud of it because "forth" is not an adjective!
 
  • #6


maze said:
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"?

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

1. What is the significance of HG Wells' book "The Time Machine"?

"The Time Machine" is considered to be one of the earliest and most influential science fiction novels. It introduced the concept of time travel and the idea of a fourth dimension, which had a significant impact on the development of the genre and scientific thinking.

2. How did HG Wells come up with the idea of a fourth dimension?

Wells was heavily influenced by the work of mathematician and philosopher, Charles Howard Hinton, who popularized the concept of a fourth dimension in the late 19th century. Wells also drew inspiration from the theories of Albert Einstein and his concept of space-time.

3. Why did HG Wells refer to time as the fourth dimension?

In Wells' novel, the Time Traveler explains that the three dimensions of length, width, and height are all physical and can be perceived with our senses. However, time is not physical and cannot be perceived in the same way, leading Wells to refer to it as the fourth dimension.

4. How did HG Wells' concept of a fourth dimension impact society?

Wells' concept of a fourth dimension had a significant impact on both literature and science. It opened up new possibilities for storytelling in science fiction and also influenced scientific thinking and theories about the nature of time and space.

5. Did HG Wells' book accurately depict the concept of a fourth dimension?

While Wells' depiction of time as a fourth dimension was groundbreaking and influential, it was not entirely accurate. Scientists and philosophers continue to debate the nature of time and whether it can truly be considered a dimension in the same way as length, width, and height.

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