09 December 2009

3D or not 3D

We're now knee-deep in the Panto season, and I have noticed a curious phenomenon sweeping seasonal shows across the land: 3D. From Bromley to Aberdeen, pantomimes are being advertised as starring a particular children's character in 3D, illustrated above by a snippet from a promo for St Alban's theatre. (Incidentally, why are all panto posters set out the same way, regardless of location, star, story or quality? It's like a state industry - has no-one ever heard of design?)

I was always under the impression that the point about theatre is that it's all 3D. I can't recall a night at the live performing arts where someone didn't occupy the space in three directions, though obviously some occupy it better than others. Advertising a theatre show as "3D" is like advertising ice cream as cold, though in the case of Keanu Reeves' Hamlet, I suspect some clarification might have been needed.

Such multi-dimensional confusion is not confined to the stage; conversations with expectant parents have made me aware of something called a 4D scan that creates a very high resolution image of a child in the mother's womb. Because this is such an improvement on the normal ultrasound scan in terms of clarity, it was felt calling it a 3D scan just wasn't enough. It needed taking to the fourth dimension, although as I understand it, there is no prediction for the baby's development, unless the foetus is so wrinkly it also shows what the child will look like as a pensioner.

Spacetime is a slippery phenomenon even for those scientists who know what they are talking about, so I would suggest the lay world tries to cope with getting its use of 3D right before they start dabbling with String Theory. The metaphysical equivalent of remembering their lines and not bumping into the furniture.

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