You say you need how many now?

It has always struck me as rather odd when I hear someone use the term "three dimensional". It bothers me. I get the impression that they believe that there are three (or more) discrete dimensions that are somehow combined to create a physical object. In general, these people are usually referring to an actual object (this pen on my desk is three-dimensional) or to some media which presents the illusion of containing volume which is not actually present (such as 3D video games, holograms, and stereoscopic images). However, in the end, "3D" references bother me much less than references to the fourth and fifth dimensions.

Ultimately, I blame Geometry. These terms represent concepts found in any high school textbook. Most students can easily understand them. The first dimension is length. A line is one-dimensional. The second dimension is width. A square is two-dimensional since it has length and width. The third dimension is height. A cube is three-dimensional because it has length, width, and height. More advanced texts will go into fourth and fifth dimensional geometry. Of course, all of this is further confused by the popular use of the fourth and fifth dimensions to reference time and space or to combine them into a single dimension of space-time.

The big problem here is that it is all gibberish. In his forward to the 1910 book The Fourth Dimension Simply Explained the editor, Henry Manning, Ph.D. (an associate professor of Mathematics at Brown University) wrote:

"These suggestions come more readily when the real subject matter of geometry and the nature of geometrical reasoning are understood. Geometry does not deal with material things like a string or sheet of paper, but with abstract lines and surfaces. Nor does geometry deal with actual facts. It only shows what would be true if certain other things were true."
In short, these are all abstract concepts that simply don't reflect the real world. In the real world, you cannot have an object in only "one dimension". You cannot have an object in only "two dimensions". And you cannot even really have an object that exists in only "three dimensions" either. The key word here is "in". It seems to me that the popular usage of the term dimension is as a medium in which "things" exist.

According to Webster's, dimension is defined as "1 a (1) : measure in one direction; specifically : one of three coordinates determining a position in space or four coordinates determining a position in space and time". In other words, dimension is a property or attribute rather than a medium. So how do we describe objects in the real world? In what do they exist?

For me, the answer is rather obvious; the medium in which everything real exists is properly called "reality". Can we determine anything about reality? What are its properties, attributes, dimensions? Now, because the popular concept of dimension is that it is a medium, and also because I have some familiarity with Object Oriented Programming (OOP), I have come to prefer the term attribute instead of dimension. There are many OOP concepts that are readily applied to reality and I find myself using many of them when considering this subject.

To be continued...