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Flatterland: Like Flat Land Only More So [Hardcover]

Ian Stewart
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 11 2001
In 1884, Edwin A. Abbott published a brilliant novel about mathematics and philosophy that charmed and fascinated all of England. As both a witty satire of Victorian society and a means by which to explore the fourth dimension, Flatland remains a tour de force. Now, British mathematician and accomplished science writer Ian Stewart has written a fascinating, modern sequel to Abbott's book. Through larger-than-life characters and an inspired story line, Flatterland explores our present understanding of the shape and origins of the universe, the nature of space, time, and matter, as well as modern geometries and their applications. The journey begins when our heroine, Victoria Line, comes upon her great-great-grandfather A. Square's diary, hidden in the attic. The writings help her to contact the Space Hopper, who becomes her guide and mentor through eleven dimensions. Along the way, we meet Schrödinger's Cat, The Charming Construction Entity, The Mandelblot (who lives in Fractalia), and Moobius the one-sided cow. In the tradition of Alice in Wonder-land and The Phantom Toll Booth, this magnificent investigation into the nature of reality is destined to become a modern classic.

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From Amazon

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.

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Seen from space, it was a strange world, with the austere beauty of a page from Euclid. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good teaching tool June 21 2004
By A Customer
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. I would say they are written for entertainment first, enlightenment second. Flatterland is NOT the same type of book. I have never been an Ian Stewart fan, but I do like this book. While the first two books are easy enough for a 7th grade student to understand, the topics in this book will require most high school students to be walked through the material. It's not an easy read. I will use this book with some of my students in the future, but only those that enjoy a challenge. It's true that the book tries to cover too much, but I think you should view it as a survey of modern mathematics. In my opinion, this is some of the best writing I've seen from Stewart, but definitely not up to the literary level set by Flatland and Sphereland.
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5.0 out of 5 stars No Words to Describe It! Jan. 13 2004
By A Customer
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. My grade-conscious self got the better of me and I started to read the book. From the first chapter I was enthralled! Ian Stewart knew how to write and keep my attention. My parents had to threaten me so I would put it down so I could eat. (Imagine: a high schooler entranced in a MATH book!) I so totally recommend this book because I would have NEVER understood Mandelblot (er... Mandelbrot) nor would I have read on to discover a plethora of new dimensions (one and a quarter). I would recommend any person, avid mathematician or high schooler, to read this. It was easily understood and Ian Stewart is a fantastic writer! Too bad they didn't have ten stars!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable sequel Sept. 4 2003
This book is a sequel to Edwin Abbott's "Flatland" and makes its heroine a granddaughter of the hero of Abbott's book. Some people may find his playing with words excessive (his heroine is named "Victoria Line," combining the fact that she is literally a geometric "line" with the name of a subway line in London) but the book manages to cover a lot of territory in an amusing manner. I can't say I _learned_ a lot from the book, because I already knew most of its subject matter, but I'd certainly encourage someone who wanted to learn about curved spaces and higher dimensions to read it. The ultimate accolade: _After_ I had read it from cover to cover, I bought a copy, just so I'd have it in my own library.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Unimaginative and nowhere near Flatland Aug. 7 2003
The book advertised as a sequel to Flatland but lacks everything Flatland has.
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.
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By A Customer
When I first read Flatland (the original) I was deeply inspired and fasinated by the 4th dimensional ideas it brought up. When I picked up a copy of Flatterland, I had hoped for an interesting read with maybe a few new concepts at best, but I certainly got more than I bargained for. Flatterland takes you on a journey through much more than just the 4th dimension (which is interesting enough already.) He takes you through non-Eucludean dimensions, the world of 1.25 dimensions, theoretical dimensions, and even a world of infinite dimension. Ian Stewart brilliantly plays on words and makes you laugh at every step of the way. The ideas brought up are so fasinating and cutting edge, that it definately deserves more than one reading, and better still, they are explained in detail so that even the most complex concepts are easily understood. This book is clever, amusing, and perhaps even brilliant. I highly recommend it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Literature that makes me grind my teeth Nov. 30 2002
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 reader to fixate and break his or her reading 'stride' every other sentance to translate into "Planiturthian".
Entire chapters are devoted to simple mathmatical theories I recall from high-school algebra, which could be described to conclusion over the course of a brief paragraph (such as tacking an extra dimension onto a geometrical equation). After reading the first paragraph of any section and translating all the gibberish, your mind will leap to the logical conclusion about seven pages before the author does.
This book offers little educational or entertaining rewards. Reading it is more of a test of determination.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed - it left me flat
I enjoyed Flatland and Sphereland, so I received this book as a gift. It will be for sale, in mint condition, momentarily. Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2002 by Bernie
1.0 out of 5 stars should have handed his ideas to a better writer
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 more
Published on Aug. 6 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars �Is there an editor in the house�
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
Published on May 31 2002 by newton fisher
1.0 out of 5 stars Lame
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 more
Published on Feb. 4 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever, wide-ranging overview of modern physics and math
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 more
Published on Feb. 1 2002 by Kevin W. Parker
4.0 out of 5 stars A good sequel to Flatland
In Flatterland, Vicki Line, the granddaughter of the adventurer in Flatland, is taken by a multidimensional being named Space Hopper to visit various mathematical places. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2002 by Walter Chang
2.0 out of 5 stars Bride of Flatland
"Flatterland" is billed as the sequel to the book "Flatland" and like most Hollywood sequels, "Flatterland" doesn't measure up to the original. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2001 by K. Irwin
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