a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Mathematical R & D (1979)
Paul J. Nahin
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

This short short story, published in the professional journal IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems describes a talk by the (fictional) famous mathematician Professor Osgood. Greatly limited by government security precautions, the professor cryptically announces his discovery that "between two and a previously unsuspected number." The audience is thrilled by the discovery both because they know that they will all benefit from the tremendous amount of grant money the government will be contributing to this research, and (as the last paragraph suggests) because they know that if both the US and Soviet Union (this was 1979, remember) continue to waste their efforts on this sort of research, then they have nothing to fear.

Contributed by Paul J. Nahin

This story was "a spoof on the Cold War (which in 1979 was roaring hot and heavy). The worry (in the story) about a 'numbers gap' was a take-off on the then much talked-about 'missile gap.' I simply used the unsuspected number between 2 and 3 as a device that would be immediately understandable by all of *any* technical pursuasion. I wasn't attacking mathematics research, but those who would profit from dubious 'military paper-pushing' (whatever its nature might be)."

This story was recently reprinted in Nahin's book Number Crunching, which also mentions this Website (and the fact that I originally misinterpreted the story, prompting him to send me the message quoted above).

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Works Similar to Mathematical R & D
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Four Brands of Impossible by Norman Kagan
  2. Krise [Crisis] by Helga Königsdorf
  3. The Secret Number by Igor Teper
  4. The Flight That Disappeared by Reginald Le Borg (Director)
  5. The Year of the Tiger by Jack Higgins
  6. Mulligan Stew by Gilbert Sorrentino
  7. Goldman's Theorem by R.J. Stern
  8. A Very Peculiar Practice by Andrew Davies
  9. The Favor by Donald Petrie (Director) / Sara Parriott (Writer) / Josann McGibbon (Writer)
  10. The Sinister Researches of C.P. Ransom by Homer C. Nearing Jr.
Ratings for Mathematical R & D:
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:
3/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
2.5/5 (2 votes)

MotifAcademia, War,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)