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9780691025254

Flatland

Abbott, Edwin Abbott Author

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Over a hundred years ago, Edwin Abbott Abbott wrote a mathematical adventure set in a two-dimensional plane world, populated by a hierarchical society of regular geometrical figures-who think and speak and have all too human emotions. Since then Flatland has fascinated generations of readers, becoming a perennial science-fiction favorite. By imagining the contact of beings from different dimensions, the author fully exploited the power of the analogy between the limitations of humans and those of his two-dimensional characters.

A first-rate fictional guide to the concept of multiple dimensions of space, the book will also appeal to those who are interested in computer graphics. This field, which literally makes higher dimensions seeable, has aroused a new interest in visualization. We can now manipulate objects in four dimensions and observe their three-dimensional slices tumbling on the computer screen. But how do we interpret these images? In his introduction, Thomas Banchoff points out that there is no better way to begin exploring the problem of understanding higher-dimensional slicing phenomena than reading this classic novel of the Victorian era.

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Review:

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.

From the Back Cover:

Flatland (1884) is an influential mathematical fantasy that simultaneously provides an introduction to non-Euclidean geometry and a satire on the Victorian class structure, issues of science and faith, and the role of women. A classic of early science fiction, the novel takes place in a world of two dimensions where all the characters are geometric shapes. The narrator, A Square, is a naïve, respectable citizen who is faced with proof of the existence of three dimensions when he is visited by a sphere and is forced to see the limitations of his world. The introduction to this Broadview Edition provides context for the book's references to Victorian culture and religion, mathematical history, and the history of philosophy. The appendices contain contemporary reviews; extracts from the work of fellow mathematical fantasy writer/mathematician Charles Hinton; Hermann von Helmboltz's "The Axioms of Geometry" (1870); and autobiographical passages from Abbott's The Kernel and the Husk (1886).

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Abbott, Edwin Abbott Author
Published by Princeton University Press (1991)
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