Flatland Questions

Michael Matthews

My initial reaction in attempting to understand what is going on in flatland is to relate it to our world in three dimensions. Flatland does not however translate directly because they are two deminsional beings w/ two degrees of freedom (movement), while humans on earth are three dimensional beings with only two degrees of freedom. Flatlanders seem to float, like we would in space, noting that there is a constant gravitational pull to the south, which is minimal in the temperate northern climates (pg 13; few paragraphes into section 4) and grows stronger the farther south one goes. Their movement might be like flying is for birds, except I would assume flatlanders can position their bodies in any direction, unlike birds on earth that in actuality have just expanded their two deminsional world on ground (birds don't often fly upside down and obviously don't "think" or "visualize" like an astronaut does in space, which is trully three dimensional). So flatlander's movements may translate into birdlike movement, but could also translate into movement like we would in space, only in flatland My first question, then, is where does the gravitational pull come from? The thin vertical aquarium idea you shared w/ Jeremy the other day (thin fish w/ differences in density) still relies on their being a gravitational pull downwards does it not? Ice wouldn't float in water if their was no gravity on earth. In general though, flatland is a different type of world than earth.

Do flatlanders have two dimensional atoms? cell membranes? molecules of oxygen? is their oxygen? then how do they breath? These are all questions probably beyond the realm of knowledge of Abbott when he wrote Flatland, but they are interesting. If it was trully flat, then molecules could not pass "over" one flatlander to the other, and it would be an easy task to suffocate someone or seal off an area just by encircling the area with connected isosceles. We could do the same in three deminsions, say in space, if we got enogh people and formes a perfect sphere, allowing no molecules to pass between the sphere. It is highly unlikely that we could be succesful, but the probability for success for this exprirment/occurence seems much greater in Flatland.

Along similar physical lines, what could the biology be for detection of ligh? Even if they don't have a sun in flatland and are illuminated from the sun in the third deminsion, how could they see light? This actually becomes a bit nit picky and I feel I could ask questions of this sort all day long. I'd be interested to read that article on the square bacteria Jeremy brought in. It would seem logical to me that they don't see anything, but feel with tentacles/ other sensory organs (sonic).

My last question is how literally translated from Abbotts world in Victorian England are the situations in Flatland. I know we will be doing research on this stuff for the next few days, but I still wonder what or if the "Color Bill/Revolution" translated into a large movement in England that I'm not recalling, or the whole Gymnasium business for the priests, was there related schooling in England's upper eschelans that 1 out of 10 made it succesfully. It seems like every paragraph, if it is not detailing mathematics, is raising more and more questions of this sort. The book is satire, so how much of it is true analogy, even if the analogies are beefed up a bit.

Michael Matthews