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The Planiverse: computer contact with a two-dimensional world (1984)
A.K. Dewdney
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

In this modern take on the "Flatland" theme, some academics investigate the virtual two-dimensional world they have created inside a computer. The sophisticated simulation includes sentient beings, one of whom is able to communicate with the human investigators. Though there is a somewhat mathematical flavor to the book, I would have prefered an even more mathematical account. For instance, the chapter in which we view the two-dimensional shallow sea would have been a marvelous opportunity to discuss KdV solitons and Kelvin-Helmholz instabilities!

Contributed by anonymous

"I believe this is one of the best blends of Math and Imagination ever written. Very thoroughly researched. This world could exist, it's so detailed! (There is, I suppose, the population/ecosystem problem) This is also the only Math/Science book that has made me cry..."

Contributed by Nils Tycho

This book is probably my favorite work of math/science/computer fiction. It is also the only work on this I have taken the time to review.

If you read Flatland, and were critical of squares moving and talking, puzzled by strange hierachical orders based on symmetry and vertices, and wondered how a triangle was able to eat, breathe, think---then this book is for you. Starting--OK, well it's in the appendix--with two-dimentional atoms, working up to planetary physics and ecology, and even sketching out two-dimentional neuroscience, Dewdney thoroughly explains in real terms how the world of Yndred and his friends might function. With a remarkably small amount of willing suspension of disbelief--2D brains would not be complex enough for consciousness, the inverse-square law of gravitation might not be compatible with 2D planetary systems, etc--Dewdney explains the world that Abbot discovered.

For the record, it is also one of the very few books that made me cry. For many people, this confirmes my nerd-status.

N.B. Although this book is built on mathematical concepts, it is more science- and technology oriented. For this reason, I was forced to give it a 3 rating on "Math."

Contributed by Robert Munafo

I have that book, the original version (published in 1984, ISBN 0-671-46363-2). I designed the clock shown in the appendix (page 260 in my edition, probably somewhere around 238 in the 2000 edition, assuming they didn't edit for content)

Although it didn't make me cry I do give it a very high rating for attention to detail and believability, also it has the necessary items of plot complexity, characters you believe and sympathize with, and so on. (Literary quality: 4 for 5)

Contributed by anonymous

This wasn't fiction was it? Yendred lives!

In sub-genre of works featuring two dimensional universes, this is by far the most compelling and informative, describing the implications of dimension on weather, biology, engineering, physics etc, indirectly giving more insight into our own three-dimensional universe.

Contributed by Damian Hallbauer

I read a huge amount of this book in the mall bookstore when i was 16, in 1984. I was so exited i was trying to explain it to my mother, the immigrant woman who provided me with the desperately needed answers to such basic questions as "what is that", and, "that" and "that" , pointing all around... until she answered "air" in french. I became obsessed with the book until now and would put it with Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" as to how enlightening, empowering and stimulating it was. In Hawking's book he uses the analogy of 2 dimensional beings to explain why time seems to pass by, what is the past, and the future. This is explained in the chapter the Arrow of Time, a chapter which gave me vertigo and i felt i cease to "be" for a moment. To visualize the spacetime continuum, with the 2D character in "The Planiverse" , as sympathetic as the one asking the questions in it, gives us the opportunity to care, and to dare, to humble ourselves to consider where we are in this possibly 11- dimensional world. At the same time, being made of matter of three dimensions and easily understanding that which is so difficult for the 2d creature, that dimension orthogonal to all the space he has, and which to him, could be "time" itself. To model it, his universe may on the surface of a 3d object, which is possibly expanding like a balloon. With this superiority and ease of understanding, we may extrapolate to the desire to acquaint ourselves with our higher dimensions, and possibly embolden ourselves to try such things as to "Know rather than to learn". This is ancient Sufi Islam concept, (a basic and animist, and, sadly, increasingly illegal form of islam) most often missed by the readers of this rich work. Anyways i've been obsessed with the character so much i've spent 8 years doing what the students in the book did, build a 2d world simulation. Using modern 2d physics engines like box2d making a video game inspired by it, called Kontrol, in which you can act out the drama of the creatures life, which is modeled as a 2d semi-automatic puppet.

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Works Similar to The Planiverse: computer contact with a two-dimensional world
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Message Found in a Copy of Flatland by Rudy Rucker
  2. Plane People by Wallace West
  3. Cascade Point by Timothy Zahn
  4. Factoring Humanity by Robert J. Sawyer
  5. Diaspora by Greg Egan
  6. Spacetime Donuts by Rudy Rucker
  7. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott
  8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  9. Contact by Carl Sagan
  10. Sphereland: A Fantasy About Curved Spaces and an Expanding Universe by Dionys Burger
Ratings for The Planiverse: computer contact with a two-dimensional world:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
2.87/5 (16 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.68/5 (16 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifHigher/Lower Dimensions,
TopicComputers/Cryptography, Geometry/Topology/Trigonometry,

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