Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So

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9780738206752: Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So

First there was Edwin A. Abbott's remarkable Flatland, published in 1884, and one of the all-time classics of popular mathematics. Now, from mathematician and accomplished science writer Ian Stewart, comes what Nature calls "a superb sequel." Through larger-than-life characters and an inspired story line, Flatterland explores our present understanding of the shape and origins of the universe, the nature of space, time, and matter, as well as modern geometries and their applications. The journey begins when our heroine, Victoria Line, comes upon her great-great-grandfather A. Square's diary, hidden in the attic. The writings help her to contact the Space Hopper, who tempts her away from her home and family in Flatland and becomes her guide and mentor through ten dimensions. In the tradition of Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Toll Booth, this magnificent investigation into the nature of reality is destined to become a modern classic.

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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

About the Author:

Ian Stewart is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick and is well known for his writing and broadcasting about mathematics for nonspecialists. He has written over 140 research papers on such subjects as symmetry in dynamics, pattern formation, chaos, and mathematical biology, as well as numerous popular books, including Letters to a Young Mathematician, Does God Play Dice?, What Shape Is a Snowflake?, Nature's Numbers, The Annotated Flatland, and Flatterland. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2001. He lives in Coventry, England.

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