A. K. 杜德尼(A. K. Dewdney),生于1941年,加拿大西安大略大学计算机科学系荣退教授、滑铁卢大学计算机科学系荣退教授,还曾在西安大略大学环境科学与可持续发展中心以及生物学系担任教职。在其学术生涯前期,主要研究算法分析、计算与复杂性理论等,后期的主要研究兴趣则转向种群生态学、数理生物学等。从1984年起,他接替马丁·加德纳为《科学美国人》撰写数学专栏,直到1991年。他曾拍过实验电影,写过小说,还是位环境保护者和阴谋论者。在杜德尼的作品《平面宇宙:与二维世界的一次亲密接触》中,他对于二维世界阿尔德的物理学、生物学、工业技术等细节的描述之丰富,刻画之可信,使得本书在1984年首次出版时,令不少读者甚至信以为真。如今本书已经成为一部经典之作,在数学家和计算机科学家当中备受推崇。

iTuring: It's hard to imagine a two-dimensional universe, but your book provides clues which enable curious readers to picture themselves in such a plane world. How do you come up with the way you used to describe everything in Arde?

To arrive at the proper design for the features of Arde, including the creatures, I applied simple physical principles. For example, Ardean creatures cannot eat and digest as we do. If their intestine went through their bodies, they would immediately fall into two parts! So they must vomit up what they eat. Did I say that because I like the idea of vomiting? Certainly not! Two-dimensional physics forced that conclusion on me!

iTuring: Is it possible that a two-dimensional universe exists?

I can’t find any reason why a two-dimensional universe should be impossible. But if one exists, it almost certainly is not contained our universe. “You can’t get there from here!"

iTuring: You have designed some ingenious structures in Planiverse, such as anatomies of creatures in Arde. If your are going to write a book about a one-dimensional universe in the same manner, would this very universe be more complicated or simpler?

The British author Edwin Abbott tried to design a one-dimensional universe. He called it “Lineland”. Given my design criteria, however, two is the smallest dimension any universe can have. The “bodies” of one-dimensional creatures could have no mouths, no brain, no nothing!

iTuring: Why would you leave fantasy and metaphorical hints in this story? Why didn't you make the planiverse as real as possible (although some people had already take it for real)?

I tried to let the story follow the requirements of a two-dimensional world. Although the Planiverse is a metaphor for our world, the Ardeans have the same philosophical questions that we do> “What lies beyond the boundaries of our universe? Is there anything “outside” of it?

iTuring: Where are the boundaries between science and Sci-Fi?

As it happens, many scientists like to read science fiction or watch science fiction movies. Sometimes they watch to enjoy the story if it is realistic and sometimes they watch in order’s criticize the story. For example, a recent movie has dinosaurs and ice-age creatures living at the same time, No one who knows that dinosaurs lived millions of year before the most recent ice age would not be able to enjoy such a movie. Sometimes new science looks like science fiction. Can you imagine telling someone from 150 years ago about electricity. They simply wouldn’t believe you!

iTuring: Why do you change from a deductive scientist (computer science) to an inductive scientist (environmental science)?

First, biology has always interested me. So has applied mathematics. Because of my involvement in biological issues prior to my retirement in 1995, I was invited to join the Biology Department at my university as an Adjunct Professor. At that time I decided to tackle one of the outstanding problems in population biology: How are the abundances of plants and animals distributed. I analysed over 100 biosurveys and compared them with a theoretical distribution that was derived deductively from a simple hypothesis. The comparisons came out so well that I immediately began to publish the results in journals, culminating in the book I am currently in the process of publishing.

iTuring: Godel, Escher, Bach is a brilliant book, which according to some reader of yours shares similarities with Planiverseon conception level. These two great books had been first published almost at the same time around 1980, do you think they might have the same source of inspiration?

The only answer I have to that question is almost sociological. At the time the two books were written, there was an atmosphere of new thinking, especially in the direction of syn- thesizing new worlds, so to speak, by putting together old fields of science, even art. The dream was to arrive at a new way of thinking in which science and art were blended in some manner.

iTuring: How is your new book The Stochastic Community? What is this book about? What field would your research in the book have impact on?

The book I am currently publishing is called The Stochastic Community. It is directed mainly at population biologists and ecologists generally. It is rather technical based on the hypothesis that all populations tend to fluctuate randomly over time, One may then prove mathematically that abundances follow a definite distribution that I call the “J distribution”, essentially a hyperbola. It will take along time for the correctness of this theory to be widely understood because there are several other distribution competing for the crown, so to speak.

iTuring: An American popular TV series called The Big Bang Theory is also catching on in China, this series tells stories about a bunch of physics scientists who talks about string theories and other interesting concepts including two-dimensional universe. Do you think in our age, science is becoming more and more incorporated in pop culture?

I am afraid that, as science penetrates pop culture, it becomes distorted and somewhat sensationalised. In the west we have a very big educational problem called “The great dumbing down.” Science and math curricula are being systematically gutted. The ultimate outcome might be new levels of ignorance that will extend even into governments and governing institutions. I understand that China has preserved high educational standards and I hope these are never abandoned. Some day China may have to save the world!


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