Sunday, August 26, 2012

Check out Flatland 2: Sphereland, now on DVD

Many of us have likely seen the movie Flatland and/or read the book back in high school. This is a classic book that tells the story of flatlanders, who live on a two-dimensional world, only to be visited by SPherius, who shows two mathematicians of Flatland the 3rd dimension.  It is such a creative way to present the concept of dimension to math students, and the movie has been shown to millions of students around the world.

A sequel to Flatland is now out, with Kristen Bell once again being the voice for the main character, Hex.  It continues the story to where flatlanders want to explore their 2-D universe, but a young mathematician's measurements show something strange - straight lines that are not straight, and triangles whose three angles add up to more than 180-degrees.  This is the basis to the geometry on 3-D surfaces, and this story provides a very good extension on the concepts used in the original Flatland movie.  The notion of a 4th and higher dimensions is brought up in Sphereland, which coincides with modern physics ideas of general relativity and string theory.  In addition, the idea of multiple universes (the so-called multiverse) is used in the story.  Again, this provides a very creative way to add visuals and a story to get students to think about these really strange, abstract ideas in math and physics.  There are also worksheets for many of the math and physics concepts on the Sphereland DVD (yours truly helped out with these).  Check out the Sphereland Facebook site for more news on this project.


Delnai said...

Looks fun! So there are maybe some new movies to supplement Donald in Mathmagic Land on long ETHS math team bus rides.

I recommend those interested in the geometry of space (from a mathematical perspective) read Jeff Weeks's "The Shape of Space". The book is perhaps a bit demanding, but you could learn a lot if you haven't thought much about basic geometry/topology before. (Incidentally, Weeks's PhD advisor was Bill Thurston, an immensely influential geometer who revolutionized our understanding of several areas of geometry, and who passed away last week.)

Mark Vondracek said...

Thanks for the suggestion. So you are a former ETHS student? Recent? Sorry I can't tell from the name.