MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Balloon Hoax (1844)
Edgar Allan Poe
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Contributed by "William E. Emba"

This is Poe's account of an alleged balloon trip to the moon, in the spirit of the then infamous moon hoax. The balloon rider describes the Earth as appearing concave when 5 miles up. Later, a highly detailed geometric explanation of this illusion is given.

See also the earlier Poe story "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall" (1835) on the same idea.

Contributed by Holly

I love Poe, really and truly, but I would steer casual readers elsewhere. This short story, with its dense and dry narrative, is a painful reading experience in the extreme.

Contributed by John C. Konrath

While this tale certainly starts slowly with a detailed description of the balloon and its predecessors, the pace picks up with the journal of the actual flight. When the reader bares in mind that this story was written in 1850 its remarkable nature becomes clear. The most interesting aspect of this work is found in comparing the anticipated future of aeronautic progress with what has actually transpired. This was certainly a daring work in its day and Poe’s enthusiasm for science makes this story still worth reading.

More information about this work can be found at xroads.virginia.edu.
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Works Similar to The Balloon Hoax
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Round the Moon by Jules Verne
  2. Topsy-turvy (Sans Dessus Dessous) by Jules Verne
  3. The Plattner Story by Herbert George Wells
  4. The Star by Herbert George Wells
  5. The Wonderful Visit by Herbert George Wells
  6. Micromegas by François Marie Arouet de Voltaire
  7. The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
  8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  9. The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe
  10. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott
Ratings for The Balloon Hoax:
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 (3 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
3.33/5 (3 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreScience Fiction,
Motif
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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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)