The first three dimensions of Einstein’s space-time continuum are easy–X, Y, and Z vectors give our world a shape. The fourth dimension is time, but it’s a bit more complicated than just looking at a clock because it’s actually all times happening at once. “The separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one,” Einstein once said. That’s a nice soundbite, but how do you wrap your brain around it?
How about a simple piece of furniture?
The Fourth Dimension is a table by Axel Yberg that imagines all four dimensions in a quantifiable shape. The glass on top represents the space-time continuum. Meanwhile, the four supporting beams are each of the principle’s vectors, tenuously balanced on one another and connected by cable. It’s actually as much inspired by Yberg’s own family as it is theoretical physics: His brother’s family had a child at the same time they’d lost a beloved dog.
“The four legs of the table [also] represent the four members of their family and the cables represent how they are all connected. Bound together as a family, they rely on each other for support. If any of the cables were severed, the table would collapse,” Yberg writes. “Through this piece, I would like the public to see and feel how tenuous our relationships can be in this world, or dimension.”
It’s a beautiful thought, and a powerful sculpture. Though the geek in me almost wonders if an even better visualization of space-time would be to have a table with three legs (representing 3-D, or Euclidean space behind our world) with the supportive cabling representing time roping it together. Because the geek in me is insufferable.