Gweek 046: How to See the 4th Dimension


Gweek is Boing Boing's podcast about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, board games, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff. My co-hosts for episode 46 are Dean Putney, Boing Boing’s software wrangler and the Johnny Appleseed of weird awesomeness, and Glenn Fleishman, a long-time tech reporter, a hacky perl programmer, and one of the writers of the’s Babbage blog on technology and culture.


In this episode:

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 3.41.30 PmDean was accidentally the first male guest on the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout podcast!

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 3.55.54 PmGlenn initiates a discussion about Kickstarter, and his plans to kickstart a book about Kickstarter. "Having brought in $84 million in cash for 12,000 projects in 2011 and just having had its first three million-dollar-plus projects in rapid succession, how is Kickstarter changing funding for artists, filmmakers, and industrial designers?"

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 3.47.24 PmGlenn has been reading Suicide Squad’s New 52 reboot. "I’m not a fan of the whole DC thing, and haven’t been a solid comic reader in years. But I love Suicide Squad and I’m afraid that says something terrible about my psyche."

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 3.52.09 PmDean liked Craig Thompson's massive, award-winning graphic novel, Blankets. Mark told Dean to read Thompson's most recent graphic novel, Habibi

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 4.04.09 Pm-1Mark recommends Ryan Rigney's book, Buttonless: Incredible iPhone and iPad Games and the Stories Behind Them

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 4.06.56 Pm-1Glenn says: "I’ve been watching (via UK feeds) BBC’s Dirk Gently, the three episode adaptation of Douglas Adam’s character. Remarkably good." How does Glenn get around the region-blocking technology that the BBC uses to lock out non UK viewers? Tunnelbear!

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 4.13.16 PmDean's mind-blowing website of the week is Stratocam.

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 4.14.28 PmDean explains the appeal of the iOS app, Draw Something.

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 4.30.05 PmGlenn talks about Pokemon: "My older son is learning the game, and I have some reflections on getting sucked into his madness."

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 4.18.08 PmMark was impressed by The Fourth Dimension, an app that helps you visualize the fourth dimension.

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 4.23.44 PmMark likes Snapheal, a simple OS X app that lets you easily remove unwanted objects from your photos.

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 4.24.54 Pm-1Dean raves about Luma Labs's Cinch camera strap.

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 At 4.27.51 PmMark describes why he likes Rickshaw bags so much.


  1. That’s pretty wicked. I’d like to try that 4D app for fun, because it is very hard to visualize extra dimensions for sure. Nice find!

    Imagine looking at a 2D overhead map of a 3D terrain, and watching some object cross the map at a constant speed. As the object starts to climb a mountain, it **appears** to slow down as it starts to move upward instead of across the map, although the object still has its constant speed. If the mountainside is practically vertical, the object will **appear** to be not moving at all, although we know it is moving up the mountain at its constant speed. This is just common sense.

    Imagine looking at a 3D overhead map of a 4D terrain… and you may have an analogy for 4D spacetime. Movement in space and time are mutually exclusive, somewhat like in our the previous example where movement across the map and up the mountain are mutually exclusive. Well, sort of, but the awesome thing about analogies is that they are never exact.

    1. This was my first thought; what are people actually referring to when they use ‘the 4th dimension’ in this context?  As I’ve always know the fourth dimension as time.

      1. NathanHornby, sometimes people deal with Euclidean 4D space. Like you, they also sometimes deal with Minkowskian (or … Poincaréan, Lorentzian, if you’re a history buff, and you think that Minkowski was a lazy dog) 4D spacetime.

        The analogy I gave in my other comment about maps above is for a Minkowski spacetime, where movement along the temporal dimension and movement along the spatial dimensions are mutually exclusive. In Euclidean space, the movement is not really restricted as such. This is all effectively encoded by the metric’s signature — (+, +, +, +) for Euclidean versus (-, +, +, +) for Minkowskian. I’m sure you’ve also heard of / would be interested in Wick rotation, which muddies the waters in quite interesting ways.

        Be sure to double-check everything I say here, before you accept it as fact. I am a bit of a left-wing deluded nutjob that hates science.

  2. BBC is funded by license fees. If you don’t pay these fees how is it alright to” get around the region-blocking technology that the BBC uses to lock out non UK viewers”?

    1. The BBC offers no option for people outside the UK to obtain content through legal means other than wait and hope it gets picked up locally. The BBC could streamline the process in the US by providing immediate turn-around through BBC America or iTunes or NetFlix or PBS affiliates. But the BBC just sits on the content. The shows they make don’t even require translation.

      Is using a proxy to watch the iPlayer content illegal? Maybe. The BBC should sell their content overseas and pass the savings on to the UK through less expensive license fees.

      If the BBC World Service were providing year old news through international affiliates they would be considered complete fools, but if they expect the modern “gotta see it before the fanboys” consumer to wait a year or several to watch a new show… they may resort to privacy or simply avoid the show altogether.

      1. BBC News knows that I’m outside the UK and feeds me ads. I don’t see why they can’t do that for other content.

        1. The fact remains you’re taking something not offered to you. You make suggestions on how BBC could offer products to non-UK residents, but is it right to take these now?

          1.  If the BBC isn’t offering their wares to non-UK residents, how can the BBC lose anything from non-UK residents viewing their wares?

      2. For most kinds of content I’d agree, but the core reason that the BBC is license funded and not ad funded is to a) reduce bias, and B) to ensure the content is free from ad-performance metrics , focussing in good content instead of high revenue programming for advertisers.

        So actually I don’t care that it’s illegal; but there’s a good reason for the license system and if your allowed to choose to pay for it then it becomes no different to an ad based channel.

        So ye, take all the channel 4 content you like, but kindly stay off of the BBCs lawn, or send the license payer a subsidy, not the BBC.

        1. The solution for a company as connected as the BBC is simple: Create a BBC International Streaming site that streams ad-supported videos to non-UK residents.

          My mother is a UK citizen and prior to the advent of the internet would have her brother physically mail PAL VHS cassettes of interesting shows to her. She, in turn, would go to an Indian grocery and paid 5-10 dollars to have each cassette converted to NTSC. Thoughout this transaction, the BBC, Channel 4, etc made F.A. off of their product. If they had offered the shows at a fair price she’d gladly had paid for them.

          Streaming offers an almost instantaneous turnaround if the content provider is willing to make their content available. Any loss in current or future revenue due to piracy or (as I mentioned before) “diminished hype” IS the fault of the content provider.

          If your company chooses to make a product unavailable in a market, local competition in the market is likely to produce a knockoff in its absense unless you can make the proper arangements for distribution. In the case of internet streaming, the logistical problems of shipping and negociating merchandising agreements are pracitically eliminated. There is NO REASON to delay international distribution to English-speaking countries.

          The arguement of “people shouldn’t take what isn’t offered to them” is acceptable to an extent, but as a person who waited 4 years for a Japanese distributor to NOT pick up the rights to distribute “The King of Kong” and still has not licensed the 1983 movie, “A Christmas Story,” if you are not offering me a product and I take it anyway to no detriment to your physical inventory, who suffers?

  3. I know I’ll come across as a punctuation nazi, but I think you meant to type “Douglas Adams’ character”.

      1. Well, it’s common knowledge that some studies by some people may actually show that Hitler may have been almost in fact actually considering development of 4D technology for deployment on the Russian front.

  4.  About the bag… anybody knows where I can find cell phone bags with a vertical velcro on the back so it can be tied to a backpack shoulder strap ? I had one that came with a cheap backpack but I lost it and cannot find another.

  5. On the legality of using tunnelbear to watch BBC from the US (or Netflix from Europe), the question should be if using a VPN results in “Circumvention of Technological Measures” as defined by the DMCA (or it’s European equivalents).

    I have no idea if this is the case, but perhaps there are legal professionals in Gweek’s audience that might be able to enlighten us.

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