Using 3d printing to share 4-dimensional spheres with kids

A few weeks back we did a project on 4-dimensional spheres intersecting a different sorts of 3d worlds:

What if Flatland wasn’t a plane!

Last night I got around to 3d printing some of the shapes from that project:

Today we talked through the idea of how objects from higher dimensions “look” as they pass through lower dimensional shapes. We started by talking about the idea from Flatland – a 3d sphere passing through a 2d plane. After that we moved on to talking about what the intersections would look like if the sphere was passing through a plane that was creased in to a “V” shape:

Next we moved on to talking about a 4d sphere intersecting the same sorts of objects – a flat 3d space and a “V” shaped one. To create the “V” shape, I just assumed that the 4th dimension – call it w – had a value equal to the absolute value of the x-coordinate.

Next we looked at the 3d printed shapes I made last night. These shapes show a few different stages of a 4-d sphere passing through the “V” shaped 3 dimensional space:

Finally, rather than looking at 4d sphere passing through a “V” shaped 3d space, we went and looked at the shapes made when a 4d sphere passes through a 3d space that is bent like a parabola. So, using my language from above, the 4th coordinate in the space, w, is set equal to x^2.

The shapes here are really cool and also pretty surprising.

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