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The Annotated Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions [Paperback]

Ian Stewart
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 22 2008 0465011233 978-0465011230 Reprint
Flatland is a unique, delightful satire that has charmed readers for over a century. Published in 1884 by the English clergyman and headmaster Edwin A. Abbott, it is the fanciful tale of A. Square, a two-dimensional being who is whisked away by a mysterious visitor to The Land of Three Dimensions, an experience that forever alters his worldview.Like the original, Ian Stewart's commentary takes readers on a strange and wonderful journey. With clarity and wit, Stewart illuminates Abbott's numerous Victorian references and touches on such diverse topics as ancient Babylon, Karl Marx, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Mt. Everest, H.G. Wells, and phrenology. The Annotated Flatland makes fascinating connections between Flatland and Abbott's era, resulting in a classic to rival Abbott's own, and a book that will inspire and delight curious readers for generations to come.

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The product of an agreeably dotty cleric named Edwin Abbott Abbott and first published in 1884, Flatland distills all that the Victorian era knew of higher mathematics--and then some--into a witty, complex novel of ideas.

Ian Stewart, the author of the equally witty sequel, Flatterland--which adds to Abbott's store of science the key discoveries made since--does a superb job of explaining the original book's enigmas, allusions, ironies, implausibilities, and what Douglas Hofstadter would call "metamagical themas." Among other things, Stewart comments on Abbott's comments on such things as the nature/nurture controversy, the fourth dimension and beyond, the role of multidimensional spaces in economic systems, infinite series and perfect squares, celestial mechanics, and other matters close to the hearts of cosmologists and science buffs alike.

Stewart's notes make an entertaining and learned addition to an already classic bit of writing--one that has never been out of print since its first publication. For both devoted Abbott fans and newcomers to his work, this is the edition to have. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In The Annotated Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, Ian Stewart (Does God Play Dice?) introduces and explains Edwin A. Abbott's 1884 math-geek classic. Stewart, a mathematics professor at Britain's University of Warwick, discusses Abbott's milieu and friends (including George Eliot and H.G. Wells), Victorian literary conventions (e.g., his protagonist gains understanding of the three-dimensional world in a dream), the low social status of Flatlandian women, Abbott's class and political affiliations, and a host of other entertaining and enlightening tidbits. Photos and illus.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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5.0 out of 5 stars A true classic! June 13 2004
Format:Hardcover
Written over a hundred years ago, this book by Edwin A. Abbott is still by far the best introduction to the mathematics of many dimensions. This does not mean that it is a college-text-type of math books that contain complicated derivations and proofs. It is a novel. Ian Stewart's commentary makes it even easier to understand. Even the appendix written by Stewart is a valuable read which gives a brief intro to 4-dimensional mathematics.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book for all philosophy fans Sept. 9 2003
Format:Hardcover
I understand this book was written by a mathematician and possesses a juvenalian look at Victorian satire- but this book is so much more!! It is philosophy embedded in delicious metaphor and social commentary threaded in the tapestry of extended metaphor. And who said math was boring? This book is a must for every intellectual!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual Fun with Commentary June 2 2002
Format:Hardcover
Flatland is a novel originally published in 1884 by Edwin A. Abbott. It is told from the point of view of A. Square, that four-sided resident of the titular country. The first part of the book consists of a description of what it is like to live in a two-dimensional world. The second part concerns A. Square's encounter with a sphere and his subsequent "visions" of pointland, lineland and spaceland.
The purpose of this novel is two-fold: to introduce the casual reader into the concepts of multi-dimensional spaces (i.e. what will become the concept of four dimensional space-time) and to provide social commentary on Victorian society. I cannot comment much on what he achieves in terms of opening the eyes of the Victorian reader to the ills of that society; however, I find his ability to illuminate the concepts of dimensionality extra-ordinary. As a math and physics teacher, I am always looking for ways to open my students' minds to visualizing what they are doing. Even after well over 100 years, few people have approached Abbott's clarity in helping people visualize the difference between different dimensions. One of the best examples: a square only "looks" like a square to someone who can see in three dimensions. A square itself, trapped in a plane, would see another square (or, indeed, any figure) only as a line. This leads to intriguing thoughts on what creatures who live in higher dimensions than our own see as they look at us.
Of course, the story of Flatland alone is wonderful but Stewart's annotation and commentary take the book to another level. On nearly every page, Stewart offers insight and background into the text. Unable to resist the pun: he added another dimension to the book. Having read Flatland many years ago and enjoyed it, I felt I understood the book much better this time around with Stewart's help. Anyone with an interest in math and physics should not pass up the opportunity to read this edition of Flatland.
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