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Gold Dust and Star Dust (1929)
Cyrill Wates

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

Gold disappears overnight! From a locked warehouse! Obviously, our detective, Mr. Corwin, immediately figures out that the stuff has fallen through a crack in the fourth dimension. It has not been stolen, it remains in place, waiting to be brought back. Which is accomplished by reversing the process which created the crack in the first place, with the added bonus of the discovery of a new element...

There is a detailed explanation of 1-D constructions becoming 2-D and extrapolations to higher dimensions. The idea of 8 cubes arranged in a particular fashion and “given a tilt” in the fourth dimension to collapse into a tesseract is very reminiscent of the house which folded itself through the fourth dimension due to a seismic tremor in “And He Built A Crooked House” by Robert Heinlein. There is some handwaving about how the higher dimensions are more amenable to discovery by touch rather than sight but that part of the “explanation” is incorrect and perfunctory. However, the author does make an admirable attempt to explain the higher dimensions through some neat geometrical drawings. Indeed, his expatiation on how a few heavy boxes of gold could have fallen into the fourth spatial dimension due to a rubber-band-like action of an “ether beam” getting turned off suddenly at a new power station nearby is quite well-imagined and illustrative.

At one point, Corvin says, “I have long held the theory that magnetic lines of force are actually the result of a strain in the ether acting in the Fourth Dimension.”. He might have done well to reference the Kaluza-Klein Theory in which a 5-dimensional version of General Relativity captures Maxwell’s EM equations.

The end of the story devolves into some needless nonsense about a new element, “Corwinium” which Corwin had found through a spectroscopic analysis of the “double-star in Andromeda, forty thousand light-years away”. The distance is off by a factor of 50+ , perhaps attributable to uncertainties in cosmic distance measurements which prevailed around the time the story was written. But it has a good nugget about the curvature in a higher dimension reducing the shortest distance between 2 points in 3 dimensions, when Corwin explains:

(quoted from Gold Dust and Star Dust)

“That planet may be, in fact is, forty thousand light-years away in three dimensions. But due to the curvature of space, it is touching our own earth in the Fourth Dimension.”

Worth reading for the geometric explanation.

Originally published in the September 1929 issue of Amazing Stories.

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Works Similar to Gold Dust and Star Dust
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. And He Built a Crooked House by Robert A. Heinlein
  2. The Land of No Shadow by Carl H Claudy
  3. Into the Fourth by Adam Hull Shirk
  4. The Captured Cross-Section by Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
  5. The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator by Murray Leinster
  6. Technical Error by Arthur C. Clarke
  7. The Cube Root of Conquest by Rog Phillips
  8. The Fifth-Dimension Catapult by Murray Leinster
  9. The Gostak and the Doshes by Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
  10. The Dangerous Dimension by L. Ron Hubbard
Ratings for Gold Dust and Star Dust:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
1/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifHigher/Lower Dimensions,
MediumShort Stories,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)