a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for hardcore fans of science fiction.|
|A truly wonderful story in which two math grad students discover that the things we consider to be "truths" in number theory are actually part of a dynamical system, subject to change over time and in competition with alternative "truths" that are equally valid at other "locations" in the number system.
I like the anecdote about the mathematician whose reputation is so great, that once a rumor spread that he has found a (secret) algorithm for factoring large numbers quickly, people around the world stopped using the RSA encryption algorithm. The story also has some clever science fiction elements, such as a microbe which you can put in your body which has the effect of making anyone who touches your blood instantly very ill. (It sounds weird, but hey, it saves one of the protagonists lives, so don't knock it!)
One thing I don't quite understand, and perhaps someone else can write in if they were able to make more sense of it than me, is where this "fractal boundary" between the different domains of mathematical truth was supposed to exist. It seems as if they mapped it out as part of the number theory of the integers...but I cannot quite imagine the integers having any sort of topology that would allow fractal submanifolds. The set is too discrete..or rather, too SMALL since it is countable. Was this boundary supposed to be part of the complex plane? Or am I not thinking of it in the right way altogether?
Anyway, I'm probably taking this too seriously as usual. It is definitely a way cool story, and it certainly makes you think about the foundations of mathematics...although it did not "convert" me to Platonism in the end.
Originally published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, September 1995, also appears in _The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirteenth Annual Collection_, edited by Gardner Dozois. Note that this story was also reprinted in an anthology of the same title in 1999, which is unfortunately already out ot print.
Dark Integers, a sequel to Luminous was published in 2007.
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|(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)