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On Time and Tesseracts

time_and_tesseractsRecently, thanks to Daniel Brenton, I was reminded again of Madeleine L’Engle‘s book for children, A Wrinkle in Time – one that intrigued me as a child. Daniel also wrote a wonderful piece on Madeleine L’Engle and A Wrinkle in Time on his blog.

The title of the book refers to the ability to travel through space and time by means of a ‘tesseract’. This is described as a ‘fold’ in the space-time continuum – as if a piece of cloth were folded so two segments usually some distance from one another are adjoined.

The idea of being able “to tesseract” (for some reason the concept stayed with me as a verb) has continued to fascinate me.

As a child, I thought wistfully of the tesseract on many a weary walk home from school. Even as an adult, it’s jumped into my mind when there when there have been far too many things to do in too short a time. The idea of being able to complete different tasks synchronously within parallel universes definitely holds great appeal!

For the curious who are unfamiliar with L’Engle’s books … the dictionary definition of a tesseract is the generalisation of a cube to four dimensions – a hypercube. It comes from Greek – tésseres meaning four and aktís meaning ray.

A web search for “tesseract” produces a large number of maths and science websites, amongst others, as it is primarily a mathematical concept.

However I discovered it is also the name of a progressive rock band from the San Francisco Bay area, currently on ice, and of an Australian company called Tesseract Research Laboratories which was an artistic collaboration exploring electronica + visual media within environments and performance, from 1997 until 2004.

Amazing! I’m sure you’ll be as fascinated as I was by that that information. :)

But for me, under the influence of L’Engle’s books, the whole concept of the tesseract remained as a way of being in two places at once – of exploring parallel universes in space and time.

I find myself reflecting that perhaps the fantastical and magical sense I had about the tesseract as a child has been transferred in adulthood to discovering magical parallel universes in different people and places. That fascinating experience of both similarity and “otherness”. And who knows, maybe web travelling is also a kind of tesseract into a parallel universe? :)

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