on 7 July 2003
Abbott's Flatland will always remain a classical inspiration for our understanding of higher-dimensional spaces. In drawing the analogy of the way that two dimensional people understand three dimensional space, Abbott allows the reader to ponder ways of investigating higher-dimensional space without the baggage of mathematical formalism.
However as Abbott's age and background are firmly rooted in the latter half of the 19th century, it would be thought that the finer nuances alluded to by the author would pass into obscurity. Here, the ingenuity of Ian Stewart comes to the fore. Prof Stewart refreshes Abbott's text with his annotations, detailing every minuscule reference that Abbott makes in his 19th century world. The result is an informed invigoration of a classic and opens more paths to inspiration in diverse disciplines such as theology and partical physics.
The book does require at least two readings; once for the story itself to bring alive the narrative of A Square, the second to fit in the background provided by Stewart around the story. One could almost say that Stewart uses a fourth dimension of time to expand a three dimensional tale that belongs in more dimensions.
on 29 December 2010
One might think that all the comprehensive annotations are superfluous or far off-topic. Well, in a way they are ;), but it's actually the very stuff you'd be googling sooner or later yourself - if you're the reflective/contemplative type, that is. Which you probably are, if you already intend to buy this book.