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The First Task of My Internship (2020)
Ziyin Xiong

In this short piece (which is more of an extended joke than a story), the narrator is tasked with devising a method to literally fulfill The Olive Garden's promise of "unlimited breadsticks". Some of the resulting proposals are vaguely mathematical. One depends upon the fact (well, falsehood actually) that zero times infinity is zero. Two others rely on the distinction between discrete and continuous (in that the requests are discrete and that if the breadsticks are continuous then it would be possible to divide them into arbitrarily small pieces). And one other involves providing 3-dimensional slices of a higher-dimensional breadstick.

In the online version, the author explains that this work actually grew out of an essay she wrote as part of a college application:

(quoted from The First Task of My Internship)

The incentive to write came from an extended essay option from the University of Chicago, asking me to explain how to produce unlimited food in a universe with a limited amount of matter. In the end, the essay turned into this story.

If it were up to me alone, I probably would not have included this work in my database of mathematical fiction. It is not quite fictional enough and not quite mathematical enough, in my opinion. But, I do try to take the recommendations of visitors to the site into account, especially when it is someone who is a regular contributor. It was Allan Goldberg who first brought this story to my attention and urged me to post an entry for it. He certainly falls into the category of being a regular contributor. (Try searching for his name on this site and you'll see!) And so, I am including it here at his request.

It was published as the Futures column in the 03 June 2020 issue of the prestigious science journal Nature. At the moment, at least, it seems that it can be read for free online here.

More information about this work can be found at
(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.)

Works Similar to The First Task of My Internship
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. 2+2=5 by Rudy Rucker / Terry Bisson
  2. Applied Mathematical Theology by Gregory Benford
  3. Not a Chance by Peter Haff
  4. Spaceland by Rudy Rucker
  5. Robbins v. New York by Colin Adams
  6. Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich
  7. Inside Out by Rudy Rucker
  8. Message Found in a Copy of Flatland by Rudy Rucker
  9. Journey to the Center of Mathematics by Colin Adams
  10. The Zero Theorem by Pat Rushin (screenplay) / Terry Gilliam (director)
Ratings for The First Task of My Internship:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
1/5 (1 votes)

MotifHigher/Lower Dimensions,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Infinity,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)