Illustration of a simple house in Flatland.
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884) is a classic 19th century short story by Edwin Abbott Abbott, still popular among mathematics and computer science students, and considered useful reading for people studying topics such as the concept of other dimensions. As a piece of literature, Flatland is respected for its satire on the social hierarchy of Victorian society.
The story posits a world that exists only in two dimensions, and our narrator, a humble square, guides us through some of the implications of that. He is visited by a three-dimensional sphere, which he cannot comprehend until he sees the third dimension for himself. The role of women is explained, along with a class system, both of which are a satire of Victorian society at the time.
It poses several interesting thoughts, including the idea that higher dimensional beings have god-like powers over lesser dimensions. In the book, the three-dimensional Sphere has the ability to stand inches away from a Flatlander and observe them without being perceived, can remove 2-D objects from locked containers and "teleport" them via the third dimension apparently without traversing the space in between, and is capable of seeing and touching the inside and outside of everything in the 2-D universe; at one point, the Sphere gently pokes the narrator's intestines as proof of his powers. The book implies that higher dimensions than our own exist, and that a 4D being could have the same powers over our world as the Sphere had over Flatland.
Numerous companions to Flatland have been written by various authors, including:
Short stories inspired by Flatland include:
- "Message Found in a Copy of Flatland" by Rudy Rucker (1983)
Last updated: 05-21-2005 10:27:09