“Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” by Edwin A. Abbott

2013/04/03 § 2 Comments

“Flatland” is a mathematical satire and religious allegory, written in the shape of the memoirs of A Square, an inhabitant of a two-dimensional world, who had visited other lands – Pointland, Lineland and Spaceland – and gained invaluable insights into the structure of the Universe.

Lineland (illustrated by the author)

Though these journeys and dreams/visions sound like a religious experience (and Edwin Abbott himself was a theologian), the main goal of “Flatland” – to make us think outside the observable world and imagine new dimensions, dimensions we can’t perceive – is not necessarily religious in nature. This Square hopes that his account “may stir up a race of rebels who shall refuse to be confined to limited Dimensionality”: “like a second Prometheus, I will endure this and worse, if by any means I may arouse in the interiors of Plane and Solid Humanity a spirit of Rebellion against the Conceit which would limit our Dimensions to Two or Three or any number short of Infinity.” I thought this was quite interesting and nicely done. Also, in the first part of the book, Abbott cleverly uses geometrical concepts to criticize his own society (e.g. social stratification is depicted as hierarchy of geometric figures), which I found particularly amusing.

Title page (illustrated by the author)

Bear in mind that “Flatland” was written in the 19th century, and if you like math, social critique and enjoy pondering the nature of the Universe (or Multiverse) – you’ll like this book. A religious person might experience it on a different level, but I guess they’d like it as well.

FLATLAND: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884) by Edwin A. Abbott

[LibraryThing] Read/download (free): [1] [2] [3] [4]

Also:

“Flatland: The Movie” (imdb) trailer:

“Flatland” (imdb):

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§ 2 Responses to “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” by Edwin A. Abbott

  • I wonder if it will have any relationship or influence with this theory http://youtu.be/zqeqW3g8N2Q

    • Thanks for sharing this video. Bryanton is obviously inspired by the book, as he uses the concept of Flatlanders to help us make the same shift in thinking that Abbott’s two-dimensional hero had to make to visualize our 3D world.

      Abbott didn’t elaborate on how we could imagine higher dimensions (after all, he wrote this in 1880s). But take a look at chapter 19 (http://www.eldritchpress.org/eaa/F19.HTM), where A Square tries to conceive the 4th dimension, which he describes as “some yet more spacious Space, some more dimensionable Dimensionality”.

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