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Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So Paperback – April 16, 2002
Attention Science Fiction Fans
Man vs. machine, humans vs. aliens, paranormal activities – discover the best of science fiction with these collectible books. Learn More.
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In 1884, an amiably eccentric clergyman and literary scholar named Edwin Abbott Abbott published an odd philosophical novel called Flatland, in which he explored such things as four-dimensional mathematics and gently satirized some of the orthodoxies of his time. The book went on to be a bestseller in Victorian England, and it has remained in print ever since.
With Flatterland, Ian Stewart, an amiable professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick, updates the science of Flatland, adding literally countless dimensions to Abbott's scheme of things ("Your world has not just four dimensions," one of his characters proclaims, "but five, fifty, a million, or even an infinity of them! And none of them need be time. Space of a hundred and one dimensions is just as real as a space of three dimensions"). Along his fictional path, Stewart touches on Feynman diagrams, superstring theory, time travel, quantum mechanics, and black holes, among many other topics. And, in Abbott's spirit, Stewart pokes fun at our own assumptions, including our quest for a Theory of Everything.
You can't help but be charmed by a book with characters named Superpaws, the Hawk King, the Projective Lion, and the Space Hopper and dotted with doggerel such as "You ain't nothin' but a hadron / nucleifyin' all the time" and "I can't get no / more momentum." And, best of all, you can learn a thing or two about modern mathematics while being roundly entertained. That's no small accomplishment, and one for which Stewart deserves applause. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Higher mathematics and low comedy intersect acutely in this fuzzy follow-up to Edwin Abbott's 1884 classic, Flatland. Where Abbott's compact fable about a two-dimensional world discomposed by the discovery of a third dimension was a jeu d'esprit that slyly satirized rigid Victorian society, Stewart's sequel is an episodic ramble through the "flatterland" of modern mathematical theory that begins when teenaged Flatlander Vikki Line, great-great-granddaughter of Abbott's narrator, uses her ancestor's "hysterical document" as a passport to the Mathiverse. Accompanied by a Space Hopper guide, she tours landmarks of the post-Einsteinian universe that include fractal geometry, black holes, cosmic strings and quantum theory. Stewart (The Science of Discworld) keeps the tone light with incessant puns (a one-sided cow named "Moobius") and plays on names ("the Hawk King," who presides over a wormhole-ridden realm in the space-time continuum). The many line drawings that illustrate the text are both amusing and instructive. But the terrain Stewart sets out to explore is vast and abstract, and not all of the subjects he covers find a proper social analogue or cultural referent. The result is that lessons Vikki learns on some of the more abstruse principles still have a textbook stuffiness that even the author's Carrollian wit can't leaven. Though perplexing in spots, the tale is ever enchanting, and its user-friendly blend of fiction and nonfiction proves that the comic and cosmic need not be mutually exclusive. (May 1)Forecast: With advertising in Scientific American and the New Yorker and a 50,000-copy first printing, this should be a hit with the literate elite who also appreciate math and science.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I took off 1 star for the following reasons. (1) Some of the math is very difficult to understand and is very advanced for the casual reader. While I guess it does make sense to do it this way since theory of the 3rd dimension (sphere) was not known or believed in during Abott's day. (2) The book certainly does not have the same ingenius level of political satire and commenatry as the original. Flatland was filled with social and political commentary and accusations of government coverups as well as social inequality during 1800s England and this books does not even even come close in doing this in any spirit. Again, I guess the author knew his limitations and this makes sense.
This book is definately a great read and is really really interesting. Some parts of it can be very hard to get through as the math can get very murky and in depth. The book is definately a very fast read and the ending is quite good. The overall spirit of Flatland is present in this book, but I definately recommend reading the original one before reading this one to get a hang of whats going on to some tangential degree.
Definately get this book, I am glad I read it and I loved it.
It is very irritating to be trying to work out the math, and finding that the 0's have been converted to o's and 1's to l's, I's to /s, etc. This is just very sloppy work, and it's not the first time that Amazon conversions have garbled text in similar ways.
When I called to complain I got shuffled around a bit, and told I needed to reboot my Kindle, which of course did no good. I finally got someone to give me a partial refund. Please do the same if you buy this book as a Kindle version so that they get the hint that they are not saving money.
I first read Ian Stewart's writing through Terry Pratchett's 'Science of Discord' series. Respect grows!