a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|Charles Hyland is the sort of math professor who can be totally distracted by a mathematical question while he and several academic colleagues are under attack by an enemy army on the moon. (Specifically, he is wondering whether Latin squares of order six form a single equivalence class under rotations of intercalary squares.) This science fictional scenario provides the author an opportunity to explore the innermost desires of a stereotypical mathematician.|
In attempting to escape, the team of professors (along with the captain of the vessel they were in) stumble upon an ancient spacecraft and the mummified remains of its alien crew.
Hyland is able to connect to the ship telepathically. However, rather than being able to control the alien vessel as they had hoped, he becomes lost in a virtual reality based on his own fantasies. The others try to lure him out of it, but he is too captivated by the dream world in which he has found the secret of eternal youth and is lauded for his research.
Among the mathematical ideas discussed in this story are the smallest number that can be expressed as a sum of three fourth powers in two different ways, the question of whether ππ is transcendental, and the difference between a homomorphism and a homeomorphism. But the main idea, according to the author (see here) is the way that the others are eventually able to use Hyland's interest in math and his habit of consulting a computer named "Thoth" for assistance with computations to convince him that he is not a celebrity mathematician being interviewed for his adoring fans as he imagines but rather is still strapped in a chair in the alien spacecraft.
This story was published in the Planetary Anthology Series: Luna edited by Declan Finn.
|Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com.|
|(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)|
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)