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Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions Paperback – Sep 21 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; 1 edition (Sept. 21 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 048627263X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486272634
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.2 x 0.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 68 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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 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 the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko TOP 50 REVIEWER on June 5 2004
Format: Paperback
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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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By glen cochrane on Jan. 6 2013
Format: Paperback
An odd book. This is the thought that dominated the back of my mind throughout the first half of the story. The second half really picks up and makes this a worthwhile read, and a strong teaching tool for people interested in physics and contemplating the ideas of other dimensions. It's quite an interesting book, one that's had a lasting impact, I think because of its ability to communicate a difficult idea for human to imagine.

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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wesley L. Janssen on Oct. 10 2003
Format: Paperback
Do not miscast this wonderful little book as being merely "sci-fi". Two-dimensional "worlds" exist within ours, if only in a somewhat pragmatic sense. If we imagine some "thing" intellective within such a world, then we have little difficulty seeing that our humble narrator, Mr. A. Square, might be such a world's most insightful oddball. The book is a classic exposition in basic geometry, but it is more than this. Abbott uses mathematics to make some very telling observations about human minds and psychologies.
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.
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