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Full title Flatterland: Like Flatland, only more so [permalink]
Language English
Author Ian Stewart (author)
Publisher Basic Books
Categories Mathematics, novel and science fiction
Publication year 2001
ISBN 978-0-7382-0675-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 294
Synopsis

Flatterland is sort of an unofficial sequel to Abbott's classic Flatland, written in modern non-Victorian English. Although Victorian English gave the original a pretty classy feel, Flatterland doesn't disappoint. Its aim is similar to that of the original: To explain new mathematical concepts to lay people in lay language.

Review

The book succeeds brilliantly. It's filled with illustration to help visualize the concepts, and the stories around which the concepts are introduced are reminiscent of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (well, the fact that chapters have names like The Topologist's Tea-Party and Along the Looking-Glass probably helps), and this gives the book a whimsical tone (that's a benefit). Here's a sample:

"Is Planiturth's universe built from mathematics? Or is mathematics built by the minds of Planiturthians? Planiturthian mathematicians would like to think that their universe is built from mathematics, but that's only natural, after all. Planiturthian physicists would like to think that the Planiturthian universe is built from physics. Planiturthian biologists would like to think that the Planiturthian universe is built from biology. Planiturthian philosophers would like to think that the Planiturthian universe is built from philosophy. (Let me tell you a secret: it is. The fundamental unit of the Planiturthian universe is the philosophon, a unit of logic so tiny that only a philosopher could hope to split it.)"

The book also ventures a little into physics, explaining things like the Schrödinger's cat, the double-slit experiment, time travel, and forces. But the meat of the book is mathematics.

Images Back of Flatterland.Spine of Flatterland.Front of Flatterland.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • From Flatland to Flatterland
  • 1 The Third Dimension
  • 2 Victoria's Diary
  • 3 The Visitation
  • 4 A Hundred and One Dimensions
  • 5 One and a Quarter Dimension
  • 6 The Topologist's Tea-Party
  • 7 Along the Looking-Glass
  • 8 Grape Theory
  • 9 What is a Geometry?
  • 10 Platterland
  • 11 Cat Country
  • 12 The Paradox Twins
  • 13 The Domain of the Hawk King
  • 14 Down the Wormhole
  • 15 What Shape is the Universe?
  • 16 No-Branes and P-Branes
  • 17 Flatterland
  • 18 The Tenth Dimension
Full title Letters to a Young Mathematician [permalink]
Language English
Author Ian Stewart (author)
Publisher Basic Books
Categories Mathematics and science
Series Art of Mentoring (11/14)
Publication year 2007
Original publication year 2006
ISBN 978-0-465-08232-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 203
Synopsis

Letters to a Young Mathematician is written as an update on G. H. Hardy's classic A Mathematician's Apology, but the book is not an exercise in apologetics.

"Attitudes change. No longer do mathematicians believe that they owe the world an apology."

It follows an imaginary girl, Meg, from her school years through her ensuing career, and each chapter is a letter to her at crucial steps in her career. Some parts are musings on math (pure vs applied) while others are specific career tips (solitary work vs collaboration). The book is virtually devoid of any actual math, so I think it's safe for mathophobes. In fact, for this very reason, it might even help to partially cure the phobia of those unfortunately inflicted.

Review

I really liked the light-hearted way the book is written. Perhaps someone who is planning on embarking on a mathematical career would enjoy it even more.

Images Back of Letters to a Young Mathematician.Spine of Letters to a Young Mathematician.Front of Letters to a Young Mathematician.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • 1 Why Do Math?
  • 2 How I Almost Became a Lawyer
  • 3 The Breadth of Mathematics
  • 4 Hasn't It All Been Done?
  • 5 Surrounded by Math
  • 6 How Mathematicians Think
  • 7 How to Learn Math
  • 8 Fear of Proofs
  • 9 Can't Computers Solve Everything?
  • 10 Mathematical Storytelling
  • 11 Going for the Jugular
  • 12 Blockbusters
  • 13 Impossible Problems
  • 14 The Career Ladder
  • 15 Pure or Applied?
  • 16 Where Do You Get Those Crazy Ideas?
  • 17 How to Teach Math
  • 18 The Mathematical Community
  • 19 Pigs and Pickup Trucks
  • 20 Pleasures and Perils of Collaboration
  • 21 Is God a Mathematician?
  • Notes and References

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