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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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:
What if there existed a world consisting of only two spatial dimensions? This mind-bending supposition is the jumping-off point for one of the literature's most celebrated oddities: the 1884 novella Flatland, one of the earliest instances of modern speculative fiction, and perhaps the only instance of mathematical satire.
In Flatland, a lowly square, whose polygonal betters exhibit more sides, discovers pathways to other worlds where, alas, thinking is as rigidly defined as in his own. Class structures, the position of women (who are but mere lines), and the stolidness of religious and political leaders are sent up with chilly aplomb.
Beloved by fans of science fiction, students of dimensional physics, and readers of Victorian literature, this belongs on the shelf of any serious home library.
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