

Lower Dimensions in Higher Dimensional Space
Name: Corey
Status: student
Grade: 12+
Location: OR
Country: USA
Date: Spring 2013
Question:
It is often said we live in a universe that has 3 spatial dimensions, and 1 of time. My question is: Is it possible for a 1D or 2D object to exist within a 3D space? And if so, is there any real testable examples of this within our universe?
Replies:
Hi Corey,
Thanks for the question. Yes, it is possible to model certain objects as a 1D object or 2D object. We do this because it makes the math simpler and the computations much less cumbersome. For instance, a chain of platinum atoms can be modeled as a one dimensional solid. The lipids that move in a cell membrane can be modeled as a two dimensional material. The oil that was spilled recently in the Gulf of Mexico can be (crudely) modeled as a two dimensional nonideal gasthis method can give order of magnitude approximations. In all of these circumstances, the reduction in dimensionality makes the problem much more tractable.
I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have more questions.
Thanks
Jeff Grell
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Corey,
I do not know of any complete objects that are 1D or 2D. Every atom is 3D. If the object is made of atoms, the object must be 3D. Still, parts of objects can be 1D or 2D. A surface is 2D. Your computer screen as a whole is 3D, but the surface of the screen is 2D. The line along which two surfaces come together is 1D. Consider a piece of paper sitting on a table. The line along which the edge of the paper makes contact with the table is 1D.
Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Physics Instructor
Illinois Central College
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