Day 93: Flatland Uni

Today my Muse and I are laying low, working on ID cards for a secret project of hers, and taking in some Olympics action.

We also took a walk, and found this sign.

Poor little lost ball. I hope they didn’t lose it on one of these hills.

So in 93 days of posts, you haven’t had to put up with my crazy ramblings about things that don’t make sense. No really, you haven’t.

Usually my muse has to put up with those nuggets of questionable reasoning. Today it’s you.
She says to say “Thanks, I owe you one.”

Crazy Rambling #1: Sea Urchin Intelligence

So you might not remember this, but I do. When I stepped down on a sea urchin (45 days ago in St. Croix), I collected about ten small-to-medium spines in my foot, as well as two big thick ones. One of those, right in the middle of the heel, is still there.


I can still see it (I’ll spare you the photo), and some days while walking with my muse I have to stop and say “Hang on a sec love, my urchin’s hurting,” and she understands, and I love her.

This isn’t a complaint; it’s some background info for something that would otherwise sound too random. Specifically, this:

It’s talking to me.

No, not the spine. That would be silly.
The urchin.

It’s not speech really, more of a thought-directing thing, but it’s got me realizing some things about urchins I hadn’t considered before.

As you can see here, urchins are complex and beautiful. They’re also all about sex and food, with no brain to speak of. So we understand each other pretty well.

…so now for the physics part. Oh shush.

We’ll borrow some well-known ideas from Flatland (by Edwin A. Abbott in 1884) and from Richard Feynman (Gravitation lecture, “smart bugs on a hot plate”).

Imagine a two-dimensional guy in a two-dimensional world. Flat-guy isn’t just very flat, but perfectly flat. He can’t see outside the 2D world, can’t leave it, and can’t even picture what a third dimension would be like.


He lives in a flat. He enjoys flat coffee, rides a flat bus, and uses a flat ATM to get flat money.

Now imagine his flat world happens to intersect a three-dimensional sea urchin. He can’t imagine a 3D urchin at all, but in the places where the spines pierce his happy flat-world, our flat-guy sees a bunch of round spiky purple critters.

Or if he doesn’t see them, he might step on them by accident. Oh, what a dumb little flat-guy.

He’s seeing a 2D projection of a 3D creature, and what he sees still isn’t too far from what we see.

BUT, what looks to him like a whole bunch of urchins is really just some very small parts of a single urchin. If he dissects them, he won’t find a brain, because it’s not there. He’ll conclude that they’re not intelligent. So sad.

SO… back in the three-dimensional world, where does that leave us? Anywhere we find a sea urchin, you’ll usually find a whole bunch of them.

Maybe we’re just seeing a 3D projection of a 4D (or 6D) creature. Maybe they’re all parts of the same creature, and maybe the most important parts are beyond our view.

SO… if sea urchins are intelligent multidimensional critters, then could a guy with a large painful sea urchin spike in his foot (just anyone, really) learn to cross over into other dimensions? I’ll try.

If it works, I have promised my muse I won’t wear the Captain Goldfish hat while traveling interdimensionally.


I think her reply was “Whew.”

Random assertion: Sea urchins may be the second-most intelligent creatures on Earth, just below aspen trees. Still, they’re tasty.

Steganographic data: 1822/1.8

8 thoughts on “Day 93: Flatland Uni

  1. Twocomments: 1. Brilliant and VERY EJ. And 2.I have infinite and newfound respect for all that S must endure 🙂

  2. I think this hat is 3-dimensional (spatially), but have no proof.

    Honey Mushroom? Yikes! It’s so huge you migh tbe able to start a mushroom mine and harvest it. Or try, anyway.

  3. Where did you get that captain goldfish hat? I have been looking for it for many years. I can’t remember the name of the catalog but remember thinking they will have it in the next issue and I never saw it again. I wonder if you got it there as well.

    1. The hat company is called “Bula” (that’s what it says on the tag), but I don’t see the ‘fish on their catalog now. My best friend (since we were both 2)’s dad gave us matching goldfish hats for xmas when we were, well, 28. I put mine on, Hans put his on, we looked at each other, and Hans said “I can’t look as dumb as you.” That’s the moment I realized I love that hat. Sometimes I’ve put it on when stuck in traffic, just because. It freaks out whole minivans full of kids in the next lane.

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