a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Please help us find these "lost" works of mathematical fiction:

I frequently receive e-mail messages from site visitors who are looking for stories that they remember reading a long time ago. Sometimes I am able to help them locate these stories, but not always. So, I am creating this list of ``lost stories'' in the hopes that you can help us find them:

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 1
Sought by Kerry
I was online trying to track a child's story and wondered if have come across it... I saw some Russian Children's books in your database that may be similar but this I'm not sure if it would be a translation. The book would have been available in the later 70s early 80s and has that kind of look board cover and lots of oranges and purples in the illustrations, a picture book.

I feel like the name is the Land of Nil or the Kingdom of Nil but those don't turn up any results and I could be wrong. It is the story of Nil (though I'm now wondering if the name was Zero) a lonely jester-like character in the kingdom with no real importance because he can't be added - multiplied - divided or subtracted like the other numbers.

The crux of the story is somehow related to the decimal point. The decimal point makes him a valued member of the kingdom and there is some kind of fairy who helps him discover this.

Just tossing this our in can you may have come across it. If it's already in your database and I missed it I apologize... I often think of the book but it's just outside memory's grasp.


If you have any information about this "lost story", please write to Thank you! -Alex

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 2
Sought by Marilyn
I have something to add to your database except that I can't find it and have been searching for a long time; as a matter of fact, I found your database because I was searching. It's a short story which is similar to one of Asimov's short stories (The Feeling of Power) except that it's a child in an arithmetic class who discovers arithmetic while using his calculator. I thought the title was 4 by 4x and that it was by Heinlein; however, that doesn't seem to be the case. At any rate, I read it many years ago -- probably around forty or so. Please let me know if anyone should come across it; I'd really, really appreciate it! Thank you.


This one seems to still be missing. Bob Sullivan from the Schenectady County Public Library wrote to suggest that it might be Young Beaker, published in 1973. However, Marilyn says that's not the one. If you have any leads please let me know!

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 3
Sought by Jacqueline
I read a story some years ago about a young man who lived in a time when all mathematics were done by a computer in a temple, in which the young man was a priest or attendant. When he discovers that he can do math himself, he is considered to be a threat to the worship of the computer. Do you have any idea what that story might be? I've been looking for it for years, but have no recall of the author or title....


I thought it might be Souls in the Great Machine, but apparently not. If you have any information about this "lost story", please write to Thank you! -Alex

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 4
Sought by Ken
I've been trying to remember the title of a book I read about where the premise was about the different route(s) the development of science could have taken if the initial conditions (e.g. the ancient Greek emphasis on the axiomatic development of geometry) had been different. Does that ring a bell for you? I've tried to have my history of math students think about this idea at times but I'm stuck trying to remember where I was reading about that in the first place. I certainly would apreciate if you could drop me an email if you do know of the book.


If you have any information about this "lost story", please write to Thank you! -Alex

Missing Mathematical Fiction: No. 5
Sought by Tal
A few years ago I partially read a short story which I cannot find. I read it in a book, a collection of science fiction short stories, at about 2004-2006. The book was translated to Hebrew and from a library, so the original could have been published even 10 years sooner.

It is about a female student (graduate?) who finds a flaw in a recent paper by a professor, the most appraised mathematician, now retired. He found a most extraordinary breakthrough, and has since published thousands of papers based on it, as has many mathematicians. Journals dedicated solely to him, etc. She comes to his house to show him her finding, and he realizes it means the original proof is false. He decides to tell her the truth: when he was young, he copied his brain to a computer so it would do his work for him. His consciousness resented being locked up for centuries, in a virtual room only writing proofs, and so conjured up the plan to present the false proof as revenge.

Any help locating the story will be greatly appreciated...


Sounds very interesting! I hope someone can help us find it. Please let me know if you have any ideas or clues that could help Tal relocate this missing story.

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)