a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Star (1897)
Herbert George Wells
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Although some of the science is a bit off -- for example, the idea that the rotation of planets has something to do with their ability to orbit the sun or that the "star" formed by the collision of Neptune and a similarly sized object could significantly increase the size of our sun when it falls in -- this is a brilliant bit of science fiction, well ahead of its time!

The story describes the disasterous effects on the Earth when the flaming remains of a planetary collision (Neptune collided with some planet sized object that came from outside our solar system) passes close by the Earth. Just after the collision, a math professor does the computations necessary to predict the path of "the new star" and is the first to recognize that it will be headed towards the Earth. It is a complicated computation, since it involves interaction with Jupiter which swings it around a curved path. My favorite part of the story is when the math professor announces to his students that he will not be able to finish the course due to circumstances beyond his control, and so rather than giving the next lecture as he had planned, he explains to them his derivation of the dynamics which suggest the possibility that the future of human life may be very short indeed.

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Works Similar to The Star
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Topsy-turvy (Sans Dessus Dessous) by Jules Verne
  2. The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe
  3. The Time Machine by Herbert George Wells
  4. The Plattner Story by Herbert George Wells
  5. The Wonderful Visit by Herbert George Wells
  6. The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes by Herbert George Wells
  7. Blowups Happen by Robert A. Heinlein
  8. Feigenbaum Number by Nancy Kress
  9. Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett (aka Henry Kuttner and Catherine L. Moore)
  10. Round the Moon by Jules Verne
Ratings for The Star:
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 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifFuture Prediction through Math, Math Education,
TopicMathematical Physics,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)