Saturday, May 10, 2008

Icosidodecahedrons, Psychobabble, Platonic Solids and Extra Dimensions

When my older sister was in high school she came one day with a football-like cardboard sculpture. She said: "It's an Icosidodecahedron". Icosi-dodeca-hedron. I said it again and again- like a mantra. Until the sounds stop being words and start being sounds again without meaning.

On that point i think it's fascinating to listen to foreign languages ( i don't understand any). German in particular sounds agitated and funny- think Siegfried from Get Smart (Shmart!). Danish sounds like English played backwards, Japanese: cold, constipated and forgetful (old joke). What does it sound like when Germans imitate English? Do they find it funny?

Once you learn a language, those arbitrary phonemes are no longer audible- all you hear is the meaning. I guess our brains are wired to accept language. Try and imagine what English sounds like to a native Japanese speaker. What does Japanese sound like to a Japanese?- the same as English to an English speaker.

When novels are translated, the settings and names are not. A "Raskolnikov" in an English translation of "Crime and Punishment" immediately sounds alien and foreign- "Roger" would be better. There was no intention of the author for the character to have a foreign name!

I digress-
My sister's Icosidodecahedron ended up being one of my prized possesions- suspended (next to my "airplant") on fine fishing line above my desk, slowly rotating in the breeze. It was composed of 20 triangles and 12 pentagons.

I was reminded of it having re-listened to a great lecture on extra-dimensional space by Prof John Barrow. Why is it that in 2 dimensions you can make a regular polygon with any number of sides above 2: triangles, squares, pentagons, hexagons, heptagons, octagons etc BUT there are only FIVE 3-D equivalents: the Platonic Solids.

Why is that? it seems God-the-Geometer has been bizarrely stingy. If the universe really has 11 spatial dimensions- are there ANY regular solids allowable?

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