The Devil’s Details: Flatland and a Nine-Year-Old

Off the grid.

Off the grid.

A conversation about Star Wars turned into multiverse theory, the shape of the universe, and infinite dimensions this morning.

There’s a wonderful book called Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott. It’s essentially a discourse on the theory that there can be an infinite number of spatial dimensions under the guise of a delightful fictional story. A square lives in Flatland, where his entire world is in two dimensions.

Flatland Illustration 1

One day he meets a sphere, but of course can’t quite understand what he’s looking at: to him, he simply sees a line getting gradually bigger, and then gradually smaller.

Flatland Illustration.004

To help him understand the limitations of his two-dimensional universe, the sphere lifts the square high above his kingdom, where he can now look down upon all that he has, unto this point, seen only as lines.

Flatland Illustration 2.002

He eventually travels to a one-dimensional kingdom as well, before suggesting to the sphere that there could, in fact, be any number of higher dimensions, simply unobservable to our eye. The sphere rejects this notion as absurdity, and the square returns to his land, only to be accused of blasphemy for speaking of his adventures, and spends the rest of his life in jail. Fun stuff.

I tried reading Flatland to Little Satis once, but the language was too high for him. It’s a shame, because the concept within is presented in a wonderfully clear and understandable way.

Satis Logo with ©

4 thoughts on “The Devil’s Details: Flatland and a Nine-Year-Old

  1. I’ve heard this theory before, explaining why there might be such things as higher beings such as Angels that are always around but we just can’t comprehend them.

    • It’s an interesting one, isn’t it? By this reasoning, we should be able to see angels or gods or what-have-you as living, three-dimenional creations – but they might sort of pop in and out of existence.

    • It was something my physics teacher gave to me one day (because I was asking too many questions!), and it really ended my mind to a whole new way of thinking. I highly recommend it.

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