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The Pacifist (1966)
Arthur C. Clarke
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Contributed by "William E. Emba"

Clarke, one of the all-time biggest names in serious science fiction, took time to write a series of humorous science fiction tall tales. The stories are narrated by one Harry Purvis, while drinking in the "White Hart", an obscure London pub popular with a scientific crowd.

In "The Pacifist", Purvis tells about a mathematician turned programming genius who designed the ultimate in military computers, viewing battles as simply difficult operations research problems. But because of difficulties with the commanding general, the mathematician turns the computer into the pacifist of the title.

The story contains numerous explicit allusions to mathematics, including Diaphontine equations, the prime number theorem, matrix algebra, and even John Nash's game of Hex.

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Works Similar to The Pacifist
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Quarantine by Arthur C. Clarke
  2. Ms Fnd in a Lbry by Hal Draper
  3. The Tale of the Big Computer (aka The End of Man?) by Hannes Alfven (writing as Olof Johannesson)
  4. The Holmes-Ginsbook Device by Isaac Asimov
  5. Unreasonable Effectiveness by Alex Kasman
  6. Quanto scommettiamo ("How much do you want to bet?") by Italo Calvino
  7. The Mathenauts by Norman Kagan
  8. The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
  9. The Adventures of Topology Man by Alex Kasman
  10. The Devil You Don't by Keith Laumer
Ratings for The Pacifist:
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 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
2.5/5 (2 votes)

GenreHumorous, Science Fiction,
TopicComputers/Cryptography, Algebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)