- Paperback: 96 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications; New ed edition (21 September 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780486272634
- ISBN-13: 978-0486272634
- ASIN: 048627263X
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 0.6 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 99.8 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 227,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions Paperback – Unabridged, 21 Sep 1992
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About the Author
Fifty Years in the Flatland
2012 will mark the 50th anniversary in print with Dover of one of the most significant and influential books of the past century and a half. The mathematical, satirical, and religious allegory Flatland by a little-known but immensely prolific Victorian English schoolmaster and theologian Edwin Abbott Abbott, was first published anonymously in England in 1884 — Abbott wrote it under the name "A Square." The unique geometrical romance which is Flatland posited a world and its inhabitants that exist in only two dimensions and forces the reader captivated by the originality of this central idea to think deeply about the meaning of such a world. Generations of readers and students swept into the romance and fascination of geometry and other branches of mathematics and philosophy owe their introduction to this world to Flatland, which continues to entertain and stimulate new readers today, still going strong 126 years after the first edition was launched. Abbott revised the text somewhat for a second edition published just a few months after the first. Dover's 1952 edition was the first American reprinting of the amended second English edition and was published with a new Introduction by physicist Banesh Hoffmann.
From the Book:
"I CALL our world Flatland, not because we call it so, but to make its nature clearer to you, my happy readers, who are privileged to live in Space. Imagine a vast sheet of paper on which straight Lines, Triangles, Squares, Pentagons, Hexagons, and other figures, instead of remaining fixed in their places, move freely about, on or in the surface, but without the power of rising above or sinking below it, very much like shadows — only hard and with luminous edges — and you will then have a pretty correct notion of my country and countrymen. Alas, a few years ago, I should have said 'my universe': but now my mind has been opened to higher views of things."
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If you're about to read this excellent book for the first time, you'd be robbing yourself of the experience by trying to follow this garbled, text-only version. If you're already a fan, you'll just find this edition frustrating. So, whether or not you've read Flatland before, please spend the $1 for a nice, edited version with the illustrations included: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (Illustrated)
Shape is destiny! The more sides one has, the better. Women, alas, aren’t even 2-diminsional. They are a simple one-dimensional line. Men are the only ones that have breadth. The simplest are isosceles triangles, low on the societal pecking order. Equilateral triangles a bit higher, squares higher still, then pentagons… and on, to ones that have so many sides they approximate a circle, who effectively are the High Priests. And the ones that are irregular shapes: they are the outcasts.
Abbott pushes the reader’s imagination by examining the question of how various entities recognize each other in 2-dimensions, when, on first glance, everyone should appear as a line. He posits that the fog in northern climates provides a mechanism for recognizing if an object is more than a line, since the brightness of the line would fall off in the fog. With careful training, how fast the brightness falls off would denote shape and societal status, not much different, I suppose, from how clothes labels do today. One could imagine Abbott chuckling to himself when he proposed that there was a movement called the “Chromatistes” who felt that shape recognition could be enhanced by simply requiring each shape to have a standard color. There was a conflict on this issue, and the “lines” (the women) and the “circles” (the high priests) were aligned against all other shapes on the issue of the “Universal Color Bill.”
Other dimensions are visited… both below, that is, 1-dimensional space, and no dimensional space (periods), as well as above, 3-dimensional and beyond. Each dimension has grave difficulties envisioning any other world, much like we do in our own. In fact, those who advocate recognition of worlds with different structural dimensions are subject to criminal prosecution. Abbott does recognize a serious flaw in his “flatland” model in that in true 2-dimensions, no shape could really see another, so he fudges the issue a bit by indicating that each shape does have an intrinsic height, and fudges it more by calling it “brightness.” Oh well, all too many paradigms contain their own contradictions.
Overall, a stimulating read, which paved the way for the “space-time continuum” universe of four dimensions. Still, there is the flaw in his 2-dimensional world of “brightness,” the status of women, and some archaic prose. 4-stars.
I believe anybody who loves science fiction, sciences, writing, or world building who love this book. In fact they NEED to read this book. Even Carl Sagan mentioned the book in his Cosmos television series when talking about dimensions. It has also been turned into short films by different artists. Something about it is just so...cool!
Also, I noticed a few reviews complaining about the lack of drawings but my edition, the Dover Thrift Editions, does have the drawings which are referenced in the text. At about 83 pages this book could easily be finished on a rainy day, a bus ride, or during a pretty boring family reunion.