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FLATLAND Revisited (The Movie and Sequels)

Continuing with the discussion on my old favorite FLATLAND: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884) by Edwin Abbott....

When teaching at the high school level, I always showed my students a copy of the movie verson of FLATLAND, and encouraged them to read the book. At that time the movie was available on loan from the local library. Now, it has become scarce...and I finally have purchased a copy on Ebay (the only copy I have seen sold in five years).

After considerable searching elsewhere, I discovered a DVD version of the FLATLAND movie is now available, though the price is somewhat expensive. But when considering this is a classic, money becomes unimportant...right! For your copy (and you probably will be the only prowd owner in your block...city...or possibly even state), contact Documentary Educational Resources (617-926-0491). The FLATLAND video (Item code VS548) will cost $75, plus $10 for shipping.

A new Annotated FLATLAND (2001) is available and it is a great supplement (and something you could leave on your coffee table)! Respected mathematics author Ian Stewart does the annotation, and he explains "the original book's enigmas, allusions, ironies, implausibilities..." and comments on "Abbott's comments on such things as the nature/nurture controversy, the fourth dimension and beyond, the role of multidimensional spaces in economic systems, infinite series and perfect squares, celestial mechanics, and other matters close to the hearts of cosmologists and science buffs alike."

Several sequels to FLATLAND have been written. I recommend them as being interesting but they all fall short of the original:

  • Dionys Burger's Sphereland (1965)
  • A.W. Dewdney's The Planiverse: Computer Contact with a Two-Dimensional World (1984)
  • Ian Stewart's Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So (2001)
Finally, mutiple books have be written that focus on explaining/exploring the fourth-dimension, while mentioning Abbott's FLATLAND. Some good examples that I recommend are:
  • Tom Banchoff's Beyond the Third Dimension: Geometry, Computer Graphics, and Higher Dimensions (1990)
  • Rudy Rucker's The Fourth Dimension: A Guided Tour of the Higher Universes (1984)
  • Tony Robbin's Fourfield: Computers, Art, and the 4th Dimension (1992)
  • Henry Manning's The Fourth Dimension Simply Explained (1960)
  • Linda Henderson's The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art (1983)
Using this last mentioned text as a catalyst, be sure you and your students study Salvador Dali's Corpus Hypercubus which is classic art connection to the fourth dimension and the "unfolded" tesseract or hypercube...and it figures in the science fiction book Factoring Humanity(1998) by Robert Sawyer.

As one can see, the list and connections goes on and on......as many web sites and articles have been devoted to ideas about FLATLAND and the fourth dimension. Future columns will discuss these web sites and articles, as the list is quite long.