Tesseract

To be clear here, the word I’m using as the title of this post — “tesseract” — has two meanings here at Arrow In Flight HQ…

First, there’s its “real,” scientific, actual, literal meaning: the tesseract is essentially a four-dimensional analogue of the three-dimensional cube.  The tesseract is to the cube, as the cube is to the two-dimensional square.  In fact, the tesseract is often referred to as a hypercube.  If you’re not a mathematician, an advanced geometrician, or otherwise really, really smart, thinking too intensely about tesseracts may result in your head spinning about like a carousel gone mad.  Fear not, though: we won’t dwell on this kind of tesseract for too awfully long…

A two-dimensional rendering of the four-dimensional tesseract created for our three-dimensional spatial sensibilities...go ahead and grab yourself some Ibuprofen, or maybe a stiff drink, I'll wait...(visual by Jason Hise)...
A two-dimensional rendering of the four-dimensional tesseract created for our three-dimensional spatial sensibilities…go ahead and grab yourself some Ibuprofen now, or maybe a stiff drink, I’ll wait…(visual by Jason Hise)…

The other meaning I associate with the word “tesseract” is technically “not correct” — that is, it’s not one of the standard dictionary definitions of the word.  It is, however, the first “definition” that was ever supplied for the word before the eyes of the young me, and it’s stuck with me ever since.  I need to bring you back to my grade school years in order to furnish you properly with this definition: I was a youngster living just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, then, and I was already at that modest age, a voracious reader, especially when the subject was in some way fantastical (that is, I devoured things like mythology, fantasy, science-fiction, and super-hero comic books).  My class at school was assigned a book called A Wrinkle in Time, by one Madeleine L’Engle, which book could certainly be deemed “fantastical”…

Madeleine L'Engel's popular children's science-fantasy novel...
Madeleine L’Engle’s popular children’s science-fantasy novel…

The story is about a girl named Meg Murry, whose scientist parents had cracked the problems of creating and manipulating what Ms. L’Engle calls a “tesseract” phenomenon, and Meg ends up being whisked off on an adventure to try to save her kidnapped father…  The thing to note here is that the book uses the word “tesseract” essentially as a synonym for something like what we today would call a “wormhole” or a “teleport gate.”  It’s not so much about actual physics and hyper-geometry as it is about general mentions of being able to “fold time and space” — simply put, the book’s version of a “tesseract” is something that can be used to shunt a person immediately from a place of origin at Point A to a destination at Point B, whether that Point B is next door to Point A, across town from it, or several galaxies away.  Regardless of physical distance, the trip via L’Engle’s tesseract is virtually instantaneous.

For the remainder of this post, when I speak of tesseracts, I’ll now mostly be referring to Madeleine L’Engle’s version of the word (i.e., the wormhole kind)…

So while I don’t believe that our leading physicists have ruled out the possibility that such a teleportation mechanism capable of instantly transporting physical matter across great distances might be feasible in theory, I’m also pretty sure we haven’t yet doped out how to actually make and use such a thing (of course, the government may already be working with this kind of tech in some Area 52 sort of super-secret facility — even more hush-hush than Area 51! — but if so, I haven’t been invited to that particular party…).

Let's assume we don't yet have tesseract technology of the L'Engle variety humming away beyond signs such as this one in secret government installations...
Let’s assume we don’t yet have tesseract technology of the L’Engle variety humming away beyond signs such as this one in secret government installations…

But it seems to me that on one level, at least, we do have a sort of tesseract gate available to us in this bright, busy Digital Age: I’m talking about the internet, and the kinds of instantaneous, real-time communication possibilities it affords us.  Now, back when I first read A Wrinkle in Time, if I had wanted to convey my thoughts about it to someone in, say, Japan, I would have been obliged to record those thoughts on paper, and then mail them overseas to my recipient, which would have involved the time of the recording, the probably exorbitant (for the times) price of the mailing, and the long lag between my sending my document and my recipient receiving it, as the parcel made its way laboriously across the vast seascapes that would have separated us.  There would have been nothing even close to “instantaneous” about the whole process, and by the time my partner in the exchange finally did receive my written report on Ms. L’Engle’s book, I might have even re-read that book and changed my mind about it significantly from what my stance had been when I first jotted down my initial review.  In other words, information conveyed in that old-fashioned way would generally have arrived dated at best, and completely obsolete at worst.

Howdy!  Got a message for you from a lifetime ago...
Howdy! Got a message for you from a lifetime ago…

Now, however, thanks to our comparatively blazing communications technology, I can capture similar thoughts in electronic document form, and then, with the push of a button, I can instantly beam them into someone else’s hands, even if I’m in Los Angeles, and that someone else is in Tokyo.  And that’s just with emailing or blogging.  We now also have the option of even removing the time required for reducing thought into writing by entirely sidestepping that process: with mechanisms such as Skype and other varieties of real-time “chat” now easily within our grasp, we can simply appear in each others’ spaces across continents and oceans, and converse as if we were in the same room with each other…which, in a sense, we now are.  We can’t yet send matter through portals such as these, but we can send information — meaning, content, imagery, emotion, music, art, math, language — and that’s no small thing.

I bring all this up because ever since I first began blogging here on WordPress, I’ve been astounded and intensely gratified to see that anything I post can be — and sometimes is — read by people I don’t know who live in far-off lands I’ve never visited, from Monaco to the Seychelles…from Norway and Finland to Indonesia…from Cape Verde to Peru…from Australia and New Zealand to Iceland…from Korea to Egypt to Brazil to the Ukraine…  It humbles me to know that in some small way, I’m helping to knit these far-flung places together, possibly enabling residents of these scattered lands to be looking at the exact same bit of information at the exact same moment in time, thereby connecting points on the globe in ways they might never have otherwise been connected.  And you can do this, too, as easily as I can…

Sure, these connections are ephemeral, maybe only conceptual, and it’s not like my blog is helping us to teleport antibiotics or wholesome food directly into trouble-spots a world away…but I can’t help thinking that this kind of thing is a start toward such an admirable goal, and that all of us communicating on the internet with each other is a definite pathway toward the kinds of improvement we desperately need to realize if we’re going to truly be a civilization, and not just a giant mass of beings barely removed from the caves who only pay lip service to notions of being “civilized.”  I do believe we’ll get there, and I also believe that the “tesseract” gate possibilities represented by the internet will prove to be critical portals leading to that brighter future…

2 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s