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9780333783122

Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So

Stewart, Ian Author

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This text follows the adventures of Victoria Line, the great-great granddaughter of A. Square, the hero of "Flatland". Through Victoria's travels we meet various characters and encounter different mathematical problems. This book provides an accessible guide to mathematics and our understanding of the shape and origins of the Universe, the nature of space, time and matter and the variety of geometries found in modern mathematics - non-elucidean, projective, topology, finite and many more. The Space Hopper that Victoria meets can hop from one mathematical space to another, and why are the Paradox Twins are never the same age?

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With Flatterland, Ian Stewart returns with more fantastically mind-bending mathematical puzzles. 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 satirised 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, Stewart, 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 one 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

Review:

"The most exciting book I have read this year...truly amazing." A.S. Byatt, Daily Telegraph "A book in which the hard science is as gripping as the fiction" The Times "A provocative, ambitious, and enjoyable attempt to ask and answer some of the most interesting Big Questions of modern science..." New Scientist

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