Flatterland: Like Flat Land Only More So Hardcover – Apr 11 2001
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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
From Publishers Weekly
Higher mathematics and low comedy intersect acutely in this fuzzy follow-up to Edwin Abbott's 1884 classic, Flatland. Where Abbott's compact fable about a two-dimensional world discomposed by the discovery of a third dimension was a jeu d'esprit that slyly satirized rigid Victorian society, Stewart's sequel is an episodic ramble through the "flatterland" of modern mathematical theory that begins when teenaged Flatlander Vikki Line, great-great-granddaughter of Abbott's narrator, uses her ancestor's "hysterical document" as a passport to the Mathiverse. Accompanied by a Space Hopper guide, she tours landmarks of the post-Einsteinian universe that include fractal geometry, black holes, cosmic strings and quantum theory. Stewart (The Science of Discworld) keeps the tone light with incessant puns (a one-sided cow named "Moobius") and plays on names ("the Hawk King," who presides over a wormhole-ridden realm in the space-time continuum). The many line drawings that illustrate the text are both amusing and instructive. But the terrain Stewart sets out to explore is vast and abstract, and not all of the subjects he covers find a proper social analogue or cultural referent. The result is that lessons Vikki learns on some of the more abstruse principles still have a textbook stuffiness that even the author's Carrollian wit can't leaven. Though perplexing in spots, the tale is ever enchanting, and its user-friendly blend of fiction and nonfiction proves that the comic and cosmic need not be mutually exclusive. (May 1)Forecast: With advertising in Scientific American and the New Yorker and a 50,000-copy first printing, this should be a hit with the literate elite who also appreciate math and science.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
There is basically no plot, except some bare bone stuff to lead from one explanation of dimensional concepts to the next (what is intended to hold the semi-essays together is Vikkie Line a grand-grand-child of Abotts A.Sphere from Flatland ... Vikkie emerges into Spaceland and meets Space-Hopper who explains things line n-dimensions or n-fractional dimensions, etc.)
The explanations are bit like essays, their style somewhere between childlike and the stuff you read in mass market science magazines.
Now and then the auther manages some invent some witty and funny play of words, especially when it comes to the characters, so you can't help but smile in a couple of places.
So the book may be ok if you are not from a technical profession and looking some easy to read math and science articles, e.g. to read a chapter on the bus each day, and if you do not expect any useful plot.
But nontheless, the book comes nowhere near Flatland. Compared to that it makes the impression of just having been stiched togeteher from a couple of magazine essays.
Flatland was interesting and entertaining both mathematically and for its social satire. Sphereland was also interesting and entertaining. But Flatterland tries too hard. In the inroduction the author says he had the idea for explaining multiple dimensions using a similar approach to the earlier books, and then developed those ideas into this book. Sounds like a good idea, but the book lacks the wit to keep it interesting. And in some places lacks adequate explanations of concepts. I can imagine that somoene already familar with the concepts and enamored of the topic might think the author did a clever job of explaining someting that they have had difficulty explaining themselves. But, for someone who doesn't work in the field and hasn't had the challenges of explaining the concepts this book is nether fascinating nor interesting and only sometimes achieves the goal of explaining. It is mostly boring, although the introduction is interesting and explains a possible satirical reference to the origin of A. Square's name that would have probably eluded anyone not from London.
On page 32 there is the assertion that a cube of side 1.06 can fit through a cube of side 1. There is an illustration to demonstrate that. The illustration is not clear and I believe it has errors in it. Unfortunately there is no information to find other sources that explain this obscure factoid. On page 72, in the chapter explaining fractals he makes the assertion that if you take one segment of a snowflake and fit together four copies you will have an area three times the size.Read more ›
One of my favorite universes was Platterland, a 2D hyperbolic universe. While in Platterland she learns many things about hyperbolic geometry, including that straight lines appear to be curved, squares can have five sides and five right angles, and things shrink as they get closer to the edge of the universe!
Another one of my favorite universes was Topologica, a 3D topologic universe. While there Victoria learns about topology and how two-holed doughnuts can turn into coffee cups! She also meets Moobius, a cow shaped like a Möbius strip (a 2D shape with only one side), who gives milk in Klein bottles! Klein bottles are bottles in which the top curves around and goes back into the bottle!
Throughout the book there are many funny puns, right down to the name of the main character. Victoria Line is a subway line in London! The puns go very deep. One pun is about two people called Twindledum and Twindledumber. They are named after Tweedledum and Tweedledee from Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass"! Another character is called the Hawk King, named after Stephen William Hawking!
I really enjoyed reading this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes math and knows a little bit about it or just enjoys reading funny books! It helps if you have read "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass". Many of the puns come from them. This book is definitely not for young kids though, some parts were way over my head. All in all, I understood most of it-and it was great!
The most troubling part of this book is the neverending cutesy play on words and banal dialog that hurts the readers train of thought in trying to grasp a concept more than it helps. If you don't feel embarrassed for the writer when coming across such passages you are likely still in elementary school. By the end of the book you will be able to foresee these passages dotted between the 'meat' of the text so as to avoid them outright. This book could have been written in a quarter of the space since the other three quarters reminds me of bad puppet theater.
Most recent customer reviews
I've used Flatland and Sphereland in my High School Pre-Calculus class. They're both entertaining books, but also ones that are a bit elementary for the class. Read morePublished on June 21 2004
As a high school student, I was tortured into reading this book for Math Analysis. Having previously read Flatland, I was not keen on the idea of reading the sequel. Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2004
This book is a sequel to Edwin Abbott's "Flatland" and makes its heroine a granddaughter of the hero of Abbott's book. Read morePublished on Sept. 4 2003 by Bruce R. Gilson
When I first read Flatland (the original) I was deeply inspired and fasinated by the 4th dimensional ideas it brought up. Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2003
In this book agonizingly simple theories and bits of logic are spun into a web of mixed metaphors and frustrating wordplay that is tedious, confusing, incessant, and causes the... Read morePublished on Nov. 30 2002
Stewart has some interesting math to give to the common person, however he isn't very good at setting it down. His jokes are horrible, and his narrative is slow. Read morePublished on Aug. 6 2002
A strange book. Chock full of interesting information but hard to read.
After reading, rereading much of the book, my feeling is this book needs an editor. Read more
Like totally. It is so bizarre to have to deal with Stewart giving voice to a adolescent girl's diary. Kind of distrubing actually. Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2002
Stewart takes the conceit of a descendant of Flatland's A. Square being given a similar tour as her ancestor and uses it to explain modern physics from a somewhat mathematical... Read morePublished on Feb. 1 2002 by Kevin W. Parker
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