Surfing Through Hyperspace: Understanding Higher Universes in Six Easy Lessons

Clifford A. Pickover, Author Oxford University Press, USA $55 (272p) ISBN 978-0-19-513006-5

Hyperbeings have kidnapped the president! Prolific Discover magazine columnist Pickover (Time: A Traveler's Guide, etc.) alternates expositions of math, physics and geometry with episodes of instructional science fiction while showing interested amateurs the mathematical and physical properties of higher spatial dimensions. Familiar analogies from Edwin Abbott's classic Flatland link up with odder ones from Baha'i and Christian scripture, The X-Files and the superstring theories of modern cosmologists, as Pickover explains how to trap a 4-D organism or why one twirl through a fourth dimension could turn you into your mirror image. Pickover's usual whimsy is in full force here, as he focuses on what four-dimensional organisms could (or do) look like to us: 4-D lifeforms, he explains, could make any 3-D object vanish (or reappear) by lifting it out of (or dropping it back into) our 3-D space. And 4-D creatures with anatomies analogous to ours would probably look, from our limited perspective, like sets of floating, unconnected flesh blobs. In the book's science fictional sections, ""you"" (a Mulder-esque FBI agent) team up with a skeptic named Sally to investigate mysterious hyperbeings. These second-person adventures seem aimed at young readers, though they don't get in the way of the more sophisticated ideas. Several substantial appendices describe puzzles and games related to hyperspace, while others explain related topics (like the mathematical entities called quaternions) or suggest further reading. Line drawings throughout. (Oct.)