Salvador Dali was a man of contradictions. Around the end of WWII, he surprisingly converted to Catholicism and started using overtly Christian themes in his surrealist paintings. But at the same time, the genesis of the atomic age and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave Dali a morbid fascination with nuclear science.

You might think Catholicism and nuclear science don’t go together—but who better than surrealist Salvador Dali to bridge the gap? It was the convergence of these two seemingly incompatible themes that inspired his 1954 painting Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus).

Incomprehensible Concepts

Anyone who’s gone down the physics rabbit hole knows that things quickly become extremely abstract. Case in point: Physicists will talk about extra dimensions, but how the heck is that supposed to work? We live in a three-dimensional world, so when you hear some egghead talking about a “four-dimensional hypercube,” you can be forgiven if it breaks your brain.

One way mathematicians might try to help explain a hypercube is by using a “net.” If you unfold a cube made of paper, you’ll get a “net” of six squares. Simple so far, right? Well, here’s where the brain breaks. If the net of a 3D cube is six squares, the net of a 4D cube is…eight cubes.

If I’ve lost you, don’t worry: I’m lost too. But this is where Dali comes in.

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