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Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So Paperback – April 16, 2002

3.4 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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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Product Details

  • Series: Art of Mentoring (Paperback)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 073820675X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738206752
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a high school student, I was tortured into reading this book for Math Analysis. Having previously read Flatland, I was not keen on the idea of reading the sequel. My grade-conscious self got the better of me and I started to read the book. From the first chapter I was enthralled! Ian Stewart knew how to write and keep my attention. My parents had to threaten me so I would put it down so I could eat. (Imagine: a high schooler entranced in a MATH book!) I so totally recommend this book because I would have NEVER understood Mandelblot (er... Mandelbrot) nor would I have read on to discover a plethora of new dimensions (one and a quarter). I would recommend any person, avid mathematician or high schooler, to read this. It was easily understood and Ian Stewart is a fantastic writer! Too bad they didn't have ten stars!
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Format: Hardcover
When I first struggled with the concepts of multi-dimensional space a friend recommended I read "Flatland" by Edwin A. Abbott. It was a best seller during the reign of Queen Victoria and I didn't expect to find it in a high street store. However, much to my delight, I found it in the mathematics section next to a book called "Does God Play Dice" by Ian Stewart. I bought them both and they had a profound effect on my choice of career. In "Flatterland" both my favourite subject and author have been combined in one book. Ian's style, both humourous and informative, brings the flatland characters into the context of this millennium and opens the readers mind to the rich complexity of the world of mathematics. The adventures of Victoria Line carries the reader through the book in an effortless ease. Ian is a winner of the Faraday Award, for the public understanding of science. His unique style carries the reader from chapter to chapter on a voyage that will enhance the readers understanding of some of the most challenging concepts and problems in mathematics. It may be a record for a sequel (over 100 years) but, having read it with the same enthusiastic delight as "Flatland" and "Does God Play Dice", it is not hard to picture a high street store 100 years from now with "Flatterland" still on the best seller list.
Dr. G. Keith Still (Head of Mathematical Modelling - Starlab, Brussels)
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By A Customer on June 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've used Flatland and Sphereland in my High School Pre-Calculus class. They're both entertaining books, but also ones that are a bit elementary for the class. I would say they are written for entertainment first, enlightenment second. Flatterland is NOT the same type of book. I have never been an Ian Stewart fan, but I do like this book. While the first two books are easy enough for a 7th grade student to understand, the topics in this book will require most high school students to be walked through the material. It's not an easy read. I will use this book with some of my students in the future, but only those that enjoy a challenge. It's true that the book tries to cover too much, but I think you should view it as a survey of modern mathematics. In my opinion, this is some of the best writing I've seen from Stewart, but definitely not up to the literary level set by Flatland and Sphereland.
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Format: Paperback
A little more than a century ago, an English minister named Edwin Abbott Abbott penned a remarkable story called FLATLAND. In it, Abbott laid out his case for the seemingly incomprehensible notion (certainly to his fellow citizens of Victorian England) that the universe might contain spatial dimensions beyond the three we recognize. Abbott built his argument through a form of inductive reasoning, much like a mathematical proof by induction, in which he took his readers on a journey through four dimensions, from Pointland (zero dimensions) and Lineland (one) to Flatland (two), and finally Spaceland (three). Each of these "worlds" could be easily imagined by his readers, and movements from one to another required only moving in an obviously "perpendicular" direction into the next plane. This approach allowed Abbott to pose the rhetorical questions, "Why stop at three dimensions? Why not imagine moving `perpendicularly' into the fourth dimension?" Of course, Riemann, Poincare, Dirichlet, and other mathematicians and physicists had already long been at work on multidimensional and non-Euclidean spaces, and it would only be a few more years after FLATLAND's publication that Einstein would put their ideas to revolutionary use.

In the present day, mathematician and writer Ian Stewart set out to build on FLATLAND and introduce modern readers to the many new worlds of multidimensional mathematics that have evolved since Abbott's time. Dangerously for a writer of any talent, Stewart opted to mimic the structure and style of a literary classic and, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen's memorable Vice Presidential debate putdown of Dan Quayle, "Mr. Stewart, you are no Edwin Abbott Abbott."

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The heroine Vikki Line is a great-great-granddaughter of the narrator A. Square of Edwin Abbott's classic book, "Flatland." The teenaged Flatlander heroine goes to a tour to higher dimensional worlds guided by a Space Hopper. She visits the Fractal Forest, Topologica, Platterland, Cat Country, the Domain of Hawk King, etc., and learns, together with the reader, about many concepts of modern mathematics and physics. The author Ian Stewart, a winner of the Royal Society's Michael Faraday Medal for furthering the public understanding of science, writes the story in the style of "Alice in Wonderland" by using enjoyable wordplay and putting exotic and cute creatures he invented to familiarize the difficult concepts.
Some topics are treated in a manner to give the reader good understanding, but others are described only superficially. There are simple errors in giving a number for fractal dimension and describing the behavior of the decoherence time. (I leave it to the reader as exercises to spot them.) The author explains the particle nature of the photon by the uncommon use of the process of electron-impact photon emission, while the orthodox explanation uses the inverse process, i.e., the photoelectric effect.
In spite of these minor defects, this is a joyous read for holidays. The heroine is depicted as such a clever, adventurous and charming linear being (near the end of the story she comes to know that she is something superior to a line) that I think how I would have been happy if I had had a girlfriend like her in my youth. Her guide and tutor, the Space Hopper, often shows a big grin, reminding us of the popular physicist and good lecturer Richard Feynman.
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