Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions Mass Market Paperback – May 3 2005
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This pre-Einstein geometrical fantasy is one of the best things of its kind that has ever been written, for it is more than an ingeniously sustained fantasy: it is a social satire, with wit as sharp as the sub-lutrous end of a Flatland woman; it is aneasy philosophical introduction to the Fourth Dimension; and it is a rebuke to everyone who holds that there is no reality beyond what is perceptible by human senses. (Saturday Review)
This pre-Einstein geometrical fantasy is one of the best things of its kind that has ever been written, for it is more than an ingeniously sustained fantasy: it is a social satire, with wit as sharp as the sub-lutrous end of a Flatland woman; it is an easy philosophical introduction to the Fourth Dimension; and it is a rebuke to everyone who holds that there is no reality beyond what is perceptible by human senses. (Saturday Review) --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.
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In order to understand this twenty-two chapter book (first published in the mid-1880s) by Edwin A. Abbot (1838 to 1926), you have to understand what is meant by the word "dimension," a word in the book's subtitle "A Romance of Many Dimensions." A dimension is any measureable distance such as length or width. So something that has one dimension has only one measurable distance, something that has two dimensions has two measurable distances, and so on. You also have to realize that there are geometrical forms that can be drawn in these dimensions. Thus a line is such a form that only has one dimension, a triangle is such a form that has two dimensions that appears flat and non-solid, and a sphere is such a form in three dimensions that appears solid. (Another name for three dimensions is space.)
Part one (twelve chapters) of this book gives us a glimpse of the two-dimensional land where the narrator, Mr. "A. Square," comes from. This place, called "Flatland," is inhabitated by two-dimensional beings of which Square is one. These beings no nothing of "up" and "down." Square tells us details of Flatland society such as its resident's domestic life and its political turmoil. It is a place dominated by such things as a rigid social hierarchy, sexism, and closed-mindedness.
Abbot was a Victorian and his description of Flatland is meant to be a parody (using wry humor and biting satire) of English Victorian society. Abbot seems to have fun mocking the upper classes of the 1880s in his book. I found that much of what Abbot says can be applied to modern society.
As an example, Square tells us of the social hierarchy that exists: "Our women are straight lines.Read more ›
I came across this book in a lecture about mathematics, as a suggestion to help listeners understand the idea of other dimensions. It was a great recommendation, as the book served this purpose. I've been studying physics on my own, casually, for a few years now, and this is the type of book that really helps me move along in my understanding. I'm not looking to learn everything, or become a physicist, but merely learn for interests sake and because much of the basics add to my understanding of life. In this respect, Flatland is a great read.
Parts of the book were difficult, not because they were hard, but they were a bit boring...maybe tedious concepts to grasp. Maybe it was the parts about societal standing that seemed to lack some, but several curious ideas rose out of this aspect to the story (one of which is the role of females and their similarity to higher status beings). I'm not sure in the language had anything to do with it, but it is possible. It's an easy read, but still a little removed from our own common use of English. The ending was powerful, however, and some of the concept explanations are very clear, and very easy to understand and potentially useful as review material. It's little wonder that this book has lasted so long.
Edwin Abbott (1838-1926) was a clergyman and a math geek. He was an educator, an expositor of English literature and New Testament studies, a notable headmaster, and the author of something like 40 books on widely varied themes. Today you will probably have a difficult time finding any of his other volumes, but Flatland is said to have never been out of print since it was first published in 1884.
No need to retell A. Square's big adventures here, other than this bit of dialog between our two-dimensional thinker and his three-dimensional visitor/teacher (Square is given to thoughts of still higher-dimensional worlds):
"SPHERE. But where is this land of Four Dimensions?
[A. Square]. I know not: but doubtless my Teacher knows.
SPHERE. Not I. There is no such land. The very idea of it is utterly inconceivable."
Abbott offers his allegory of physical and conceptual limits with an economy of word and thought that is nothing less than extraordinary. A great many volumes, five to ten times as large, conclude having said far less than this little parable. Read it. You will take from it what you are willing to take. If you find little or nothing here, you are indeed a citizen of Flatland.
Most recent customer reviews
This product arrived quickly. The book was new and very clean.
The book itself is a must read! It is a philosophical/math book.
The book was a good read overall. I didn't enjoy the first part of the book. This is the section that explains how the inhabitants in Flatland live and function. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Jeff
The original must-read story for math nerds. I love this book. Everyone needs a copy in their home.Published 6 months ago by S. McGillivray
Do you read sci-fi? Have you read this? No? You don't read sci-fi.Published 8 months ago by jeffrey macdonald
Wow, I didn't expect that! This short book is really good and eye opening. I recommend it if you loved Interstellar (you read that right) and if you love to question things.Published 9 months ago by Gérard Denis
Fun tour into higher dimensions and very easy to read.Published 10 months ago by philippe castonguay
Victorians...endlessly obsessed with class distinction and using physical attributes to segregate and classify all facets of society into categories of relative merit. Read morePublished 10 months ago by cellomerl
This story is a simple plot line of many dimensions, it tackles tough questions, our justifications, our actual responses. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Adrian de Jong
A short read (~90 pages) and well worth it. I stayed up late to finish it the day I started and quite enjoyed it. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Rob Mills