MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Apartheid, Superstrings and Mordecai Thubana (1991)
Michael Bishop
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I don't want to get into a debate here about whether superstrings are math or physics. I know mathematicians and physicists who would argue (with some good points on each side) that it is in their area of study and not the other. Similarly, I know mathematicians and physicists both who think superstrings are a waste of time, and would argue that it is in the other area of study. (These mathematicians would say derisively "It's not math at all, just `physics'" and in the same tone a physicist might say "That's not physics, just `math'.")

For the purpose of this description, let's just accept that superstring theory is both mathematics and physics. In which case, this story counts as mathematical fiction. In it, a white Afrikaaner is forced by bad circumstance (a traffic accident involving an elephant) to take a bus ride with black workers. From a roofer named Mordecai Thubana, he learns a bit about string theory and a lot about apartheid.

The story is, fortunately, dated. There is mention of Soviet spaceflights to Mars, which I suppose means that it is set in the `future' which neither the Soviet Union nor Apartheid survived long enough to see. Nevertheless, it is still interesting (in an eerie way) and full of bizarre analogies between one of the most complicated theories of mathematical physics and one of the most unjust forms of government.

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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.)

Works Similar to Apartheid, Superstrings and Mordecai Thubana
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Lemma 1 by Helga Königsdorf
  2. Against the Odds by Martin Gardner
  3. The Blue Door by Tanya Barfield
  4. The Theory of Everything by Lisa Grunwald
  5. River of Gods by Ian McDonald
  6. Stamping Butterflies by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
  7. Il Bimbo e le Meraviglie Matematiche [The Child and the Wonder of Mathematics] by Letterio Gatto
  8. Good Benito by Alan P. Lightman
  9. Im Schatten des Regenbogens by Helga Königsdorf
  10. God and Stephen Hawking by Robin Hawdon
Ratings for Apartheid, Superstrings and Mordecai Thubana:
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:
1/5 (1 votes)
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Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)
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Categories:
Genre
Motif
TopicMathematical Physics,
MediumShort Stories,

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May 2016: I am experimenting with a new feature which will print a picture of the cover and a link to the Amazon.com page for a work of mathematical fiction when it is available. I hope you find this useful and convenient. In any case, please write to let me know if it is because I would be happy to either get rid of it or improve it if that would be better for you. Thanks! -Alex

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)