What is Space?

Astrid Ressler- Staff Writer

As part of the LEAD program and the Diversity Series, the sociology department on campus led an enthralling discussion on Wednesday about the question, “What is space?” They invited professors from a variety of disciplines to speak about what their thoughts were when it came to the idea and concept of space.
The panel included members from the physics, mathematics, geography, sociology and philosophy departments here at SUNY Oneonta.
Dr. Faux of the physics department addressed the gathered audience first with his concept of space being formed by the use of the dimensions we all know of. The first dimension is that of a line, the second of a flat surface, the third of an object that has depth to it and the fourth dimension being time. This is how space can be defined to the best of his discipline.
Dr. Brown of the mathematics department confronted the question of space using a mathematic term called topology. Topology is a geometric notion that explains how the spatial relations and properties of an object are unaffected by the change of the shape or size of a figure. He used many different examples of this idea including that of a donut slowly taking the shape of a coffee cup but still retaining all of the same properties that it had before.
Dr. Olstad of the geography department brought up the use of maps to measure and determine what a space looks like. She pointed out that geography is essentially all about labeling and mapping out sections of space.
Dr. Lowe of the sociology department focused his discussion of space on the idea of first, second and third space. The first space is considered that of the physical and perceived space that a person takes up. The second space is the mental and conceived space that a person may use. The third space is the social space or a space that is directly lived in.
And finally, from the philosophy department, Dr. Koch referred to the German philosopher Martin Heidegger for his answer. Heidegger believed that existential space was derived from the idea of temporality, meaning that to exist within space depended upon time, or the fourth dimension used to measure space according to physics.
What was agreed upon throughout each area of study during this discussion was that space itself is sort of a mystery, and that no matter how we try to measure it, describe it, shape it or live in it, that it is always going to change on us. That from day-to-day or even minute to minute, the same space will never be as it was the moment before.
The panel at this discussion presented many wonderful ways to think about what space is, and I believe that the audience went away thinking very differently than they did when they arrived.

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