In my story, there is a 10 meter wide room with a 'special box' in the middle. The box is represented in the picture with the blue outline.

enter image description here

The box is 2.5 meters wide. So when you measure from the left wall of the room to the box, you should get 3.75 meters.

What makes the box special is that, when you measure the distance, you get 5 meters instead. The same phenomenon is observed when you measure the distance between the right wall and the right side of the box. It is also 5 meters instead of being 3.75 meters. ( The box is 2.5 m in length, 1.5 m in width and 1.5 m in height).

This special box in the story obviously does not take up space, but is still there sitting in the room.

Can you guys suggest what kind of space-time phenomenon/space warping phenomenon/ physics phenomenon , no matter have farfetched, would help create such a phenomenon?

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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, I think not explaining it is generally the best way to go. House Of Leaves didn't bother, and it worked out alright there. $\endgroup$ Jan 16, 2023 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ What happens when you measure the three lengths, and the length of the back wall, at the same time? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 16, 2023 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ Look at the TARDIS. It's just "bigger on the inside", "smaller on the outside", "dimensionally transcendental" or "holding it's tummy in". Anything more elaborately pseudoscientific would frankly seem silly. $\endgroup$ Jan 16, 2023 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings The question is specific. It doesn't ask to brainstorm, but to solve a specific story need. He already has the idea, he wants the justification for it. If this is a bad question, they all are. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Jan 16, 2023 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ One of the principles of Gallifreyan dimensional engineering is that, since things are smaller at a distance, you can fit anything into anywhere if you can have it far enough away, right here. The theory of operation in this particular case is that all observers of the room must be local while all observers of the box must be positioned at infinity. Simple relative perspective takes care of the rest. $\endgroup$ Jan 17, 2023 at 0:47

4 Answers 4


Extra Dimensions

In two dimensions your box works like this:

enter image description here

Spacetime bulges near the box to put more space between the walls.

The two red lines are 5m even though they do not reach the middle of the room. They get the extra length by moving upwards rather than staying on the flat plane.

Note the ants living in this universe cannot see in the up-down dimension. Light follows the curve of the surface. To them, the curved red and blue lines appear to be straight lines. They cannot see how the space extends into an extra dimension. They can only add up how the distances are not what they are used to.

Your box works the same way. It creates an extra-dimensional bubble that lets it have more space inside than it should. As you move the box around, the bubble moves with it.

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    $\begingroup$ I would like to know what tool you used to create that super-clear illustration. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Jan 16, 2023 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Tom Looks like MSPaint to me. You can tell because there are pixels. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Jan 16, 2023 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. The exact length of an orbit around the earth cam be determined mathematically. Yet, how do we measure it? If we do it using a speed and time to get distance, then through time dilation and falsely assuming NO time dilation, the distance comes out wrong. But try to get a measuring tape to measure it is futile. However, using geometry it can be done indirectly. $\endgroup$ Jan 16, 2023 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ I'm with @Tom. +1 just for the graphic. The cool thing about this answer is that from the perspective of a person walking along the surface of the rooms, they would appear as straight lines. The headache that comes when you pull out a tape measure is just an added bonus. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 17, 2023 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Tom It is the Wikipedia image for "Bump Function" with some nifty colored lines drawn on top. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 17, 2023 at 12:47

Curved Walls and Floor!

This is a bit of a deviation, since the room is special, not the box, but I want to mention it as an alternative. If the grid itself is on a curved surface, you can have right-angled and "flat" walls but still have these funky measurements without, say, generating crazy strong tidal forces due to enough gravity bending spacetime in such a small space. Instead, you need something like Star Trek's Gravity Plating or the funky gravity generation to be under the floor.

Now, depending on the length of the room and the curve of the surface, this becomes more or less noticable to your average human. The "tall" dimension on the drawing wasn't really specified, so that is variable to play with. (It will likely be more like a hall than a square room.) A person would be able to tell that something is wrong with this room/hallway, but close examination of walls and corners reveals all right angles and flatness.

Something similar happens in CS Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet with a room in a spherical spaceship.


Your box is a hologram.

hologram rhino

Amazing Must See Technology 7D hologram Shown in Dubai, Poland and Japan

Depicted: hologram rhino.

The box is projected on a transparent screen which is effectively 0 width. If measured by a tape measure laid on the floor under the box the box is 2.5 meters wide. If you truck out there with a tape measure you do not meet resistance until you get to the screen. Then you leave fingerprints on it groping it up like you do. You had to go right from the fried chicken to the hologram screen didn't you.

  • $\begingroup$ To be consistent with your graphic, it would have to be fried rhino rings. $\endgroup$ Jan 17, 2023 at 17:11

Here's a simple two-dimension solution that works in our boring 3-dimensional world.

Simply turn the box at an angle. Now there are several ways to, "...measure the distance between the right wall and the right side of the box. It is also 5 meters."

enter image description here

The image suggests the box and room are orthogonal, but it is not constrained as such. Even an imperceptible angle of 0.0001 degrees would allow these measurements to be made. Similarly, the description does not say at what point on the box you measure to.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi David, and welcome to Worldbuilding. The OP asks for an explanation using space-time phenomena. Additionally, not sure how turning the box at an angle would make it measure 5 meters from the wall in every direction? From what I understand, a box turned at an angle would still take up space. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2023 at 5:05
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, thanks. I overlooked OP's request for the space/time factor. As for the rest, I believe this solution meets all the other requirements. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2023 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ If indeed there was some phenomena that ROTATED space/time, so that what looked 'straight ahead' was really 'around a curve', this idea might have possibilities. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2023 at 16:09

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