Flatland: A life in two dimensions

Life in Flatland

Christina Sng for Maths@Singapore

One of the books that fascinated me the most as a child was Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, a novella published by the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott in 1884.

The book used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to comment on the hierarchy of Victorian culture, but what made it memorable was its examination of life in dimensions.

In Flatland, women were line-segments while men were polygons with a number of sides. The story was narrated by A. Square who guides the readers through some of the implications of life in two dimensions. 

Yet A. Square not just one-dimensional, if you’ll excuse an accidental pun. He, like us, wonder if there is something beyond our existence, our dimension. 

“Enmeshed in his two-dimensional world, the hero, A. Square, has an epiphany: there is an existence beyond his plane, a three-dimensional universe,” describes Michelle Press in her article “Flatland the Movie, against Happiness” in Scientific American. “By laying out how two dimensions relate to our three, Abbott entices the reader to imagine how our own world would relate to a fourth spatial dimension.”

It is intriguing to read about how life might be like in two-dimensions, as Abbot presents in the first half of the book. I was most intrigued by the mathematical shapes living life on a flat surface. 

Like trying to imagine life in four dimensions, as opposed to our three, it was a surprisingly difficult feat.

For more on Flatland, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatland

Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash 

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