By the way, Thimble Theatre is trying to explain the fourth dimension


I hope to have proper comment about it in the usual Sunday Reading the Comics post. But the “current” storyline in Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theatre comic strip — Popeye to normal people — is the 1936 introduction of Eugene the Jeep. If you’ve looked at my user icon here you know I like Eugene.

Anyway, Eugene the Jeep has wondrous powers. These include the power of prophecy and the power to disappear from even enclosed spaces. Segar’s explanation for this was that the Jeep can turn into the fourth dimension and so do things we can’t hope to do. Which is a fun premise, yes. More, though, it’s got to be a pretty early use of the fourth or other high dimensions in pop culture. Yes, there were some things normal people might know that talk about higher dimensions. H G Wells’s The Time Machine starts with talk about time as a dimension like space. Edwin Abbott’s Flatland is explicitly about two- and three-dimensions, although Square thinks of whether there could be four- or more-dimensional spaces.

Professor: 'I am Professor Gipf, solver of scientific mysteries. Have you a mystery to be solved?' Olive Oyl: 'I have! We locked this Jeep in a room and he escaped. He is also able to disappear right before my eyes.' Professor: 'Is Zasso? I suspect he has fourth-dimensional qualities. It's lucky I have my dimension detector.' (He pulls out many bundles of wires, and more and more, making a huger tangle.) Professor: 'Darn it! Oh, darn the luck!' Olive Oyl: 'Is something missing?' Professor: 'Yes. Have you got a piece of wire?'
Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theatre (Popeye) for the 25th of October, 2019. It originally ran the 26th of May, 1936. Fun fact: that last panel shows the extension strip in the living room where we have the TV, DVR, Blu-Ray, Switch, and record player plugged in.

Wikipedia helps me find a few pieces of literature mentioning the fourth dimension before Eugene the Jeep. And a few pieces of visual art as well. No mention of earlier comic strips, although there’s no mention of Eugene the Jeep in either. So, all I can say is this is an early pop cultural appearance of the fourth dimension. I can’t say it’s the first, even among major comic strips.

Do not try to use this to pass your geometry quals.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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