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Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions Paperback – June 1, 2007
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Flatland is one of the very few novels about math and philosophy that can appeal to almost any layperson. Published in 1880, this short fantasy takes us to a completely flat world of two physical dimensions where all the inhabitants are geometric shapes, and who think the planar world of length and width that they know is all there is. But one inhabitant discovers the existence of a third physical dimension, enabling him to finally grasp the concept of a fourth dimension. Watching our Flatland narrator, we begin to get an idea of the limitations of our own assumptions about reality, and we start to learn how to think about the confusing problem of higher dimensions. The book is also quite a funny satire on society and class distinctions of Victorian England. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
“Part mathematical exploration, part satire, and part fairy tale, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbot has been around for more than a century and remains a standard in mathematics education…The Broadview Edition of the book combines the text with a variety of notes and essays that enhance the reading and study of this classic.” ― Bill Wood, The Mathematical Association of America
“Handing its reader the full range of Abbott’s cultural sources and pedagogical motives in one volume, Lila Marz Harper’s edition of Flatland is a welcome event. Her detailed introduction provides a comprehensive overview of Flatland’s intellectual landscape and a generous sampling of current critical discussion. The content of the appendices is well chosen; especially useful is the lengthy selection from Jowett’s translation of Plato’s allegory of the Cave. Placing Abbott’s perennial mathematical parable and curious social critique squarely into its Victorian contexts, Harper also traces Flatland’s deep philosophical roots and spiritual aspirations.” ― Bruce Clarke, Texas Tech University
“Among the most enduring works of Victorian fiction, Flatland justly continues to attract both popular and scholarly attention. Lila Marz Harper’s richly annotated edition rewards readers by illuminating a variety of perspectives that can be profitably adopted when exploring Abbott’s imaginative worlds today. Her introduction effectively contextualizes Flatland as reflecting mathematical innovations, progressive hermeneutics, spiritualism, social institutions, and national identity in nineteenth-century England. The meticulously compiled appendices are invaluable for providing contemporaneous responses and intellectual alternatives to, as well as appropriations of, Abbott’s genre-defying work. Harper has made an outstanding, multidimensional contribution to Flatland scholarship.” ― K. G. Valente, Colgate University--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Flatland takes you on a journey into dimensions, exploring how we see the world with our "single" focus, yet there is nothing singular about the dimensions. We are all the dot, the line, the square, the cube, and the 4th dimension...
Within the story there is also a message on equality, which from my reading of the author, appears to not be a focus area. However, it is there to read. The judgement, the rationalisation, and the setting of expectations of women. You would think that we would have come further since the 1880s, but alas it seems from an equality perspective we have a long way to go, where we judge the person less for how they look.
A short book worth reading, and persist through it, because you leave all the better.
I somehow lost my paper copy of this and am glad that there is a kindle version - actually several versions. Some of them lack the illustrations.
The story itself requires considerable visualization, even with the illustrations. The acts of envisioning a two-dimensional world by a three-dimensional being such as myself resulted in some very satisfying intellectual gymnastics. Highly recommended and the book invites multiple re-reads.
This book is a classic short read. The concept of dimensionality has made it into common parlance, so the novelty of this book is a little lost in the modern age; however, read with the spirit of grounding abstract and mathematical ideas in our daily life, this book is a little gem. There are vasts swathes of math that have yet to find direct application in engineering or whatnot; however, Abbott shows us that mathematical concepts also have the ability to provide fodder for novel metaphors to use in our daily lives. This helps provide context to our current beliefs and ideas, potentially shedding light on them in some new, thought-provoking way.
For such a minimal price and a small demand on you time, I would encourage anyone to pick up this book.
Several figures were referred to, but my edition had none of them. Evidently they add a lot to the narrative. The edition I read was called "Xist Classics", and had green, white, and red triangles all over the cover.
The story narrative itself was something cannot read quickly. There is a lot of depth to the story, and the concepts are rather "cerebral" in nature. When one remembers that the story was originally written in the 1880s, when understanding of such concepts were a bit different, the depth is quite surprising. What I could not figure out, though, was why they never identified Time as the fourth dimension. Was that not an accepted theory at that time?
From what I read in other reviews, it sounds like I should try to read perhaps a library edition to get the full concept of the story. Overall, the story is one that makes you think, and makes you try to think in different numbers of dimensions. I enjoyed the attempt, but I felt something was missing.
Flatland describes a society of two-dimensional being, beings incapable of understanding a third dimension. Such is the ingenuity and insight by which this society is explained that all their objections against the possibility of a hypothetical 'third dimension' seems perfectly reasonable. Similarly, every attempt to explain it works equally well on a fourth dimension- as inconceivable to us as three dimensions to the poor Flatlanders.
Amazon is ripe with religious books, all of which deal with the idea that there exists things beyond human understanding. I remain unconvinced. This book of logic and math, however, does not attempt to open your mind with promises, but with a crowbar, and makes a very logical argument for the idea that there are aspects of the universe that the human race simply do not have the faculties to understand.
And I have rarely heard a more hopeful moral than that.