Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's a 2-D World

Years ago I picked up a science fiction novel called The Planiverse, by A.K. Dewdney. Somewhat in the spirit of Edwin Abbott's Flatland, The Planiverse tells the story of how mathematician, computer scientist, and teacher Dewdney has his students create a two-dimensional world on a computer system as a course project. To their astonishment, the fairly simple program somehow connects to a real two-dimensional universe where they are able to communicate with one of the inhabitants who is called Yendred. Dewdney uses the framework of the story to present Yendred's world and show us how it all works. We're able to peer inside buildings and even see the workings of Yendred's body . And the plot keeps things interesting enough so as to not get all bogged down in the physics of it all. I really dig this kind of thing...books where the author goes to great lengths at planning out the world that we are visiting. Not to mention that the plot contains a hero's journey as well.

I saw the book tucked away on my shelf the other day and started flipping through it again. Oh, how I wish someone would create a 2-D artificially intelligent version of this for my computer, replete with little Yendreds walking around, building things, going fishing, with their insides all pulsing.

As an homage, I designed a book cover for it. I thought that maybe we'd view Yendred like we would an X-Ray or an image from an electron microscope. I actually used the line drawing that the author made of Yendred, altering it somewhat to match what he might look like if we came across him today, as opposed to seeing him on one of those green CRT displays from back in the 80's when the novel takes place.

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