MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Oracle (2000)
Greg Egan
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Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for hardcore fans of science fiction.

The protagonist, Robert Stoney is a british mathematician who worked on German codes during WW II, was greatly affected by the death of a close friend, and was later persecuted for his homosexuality. If that sounds familiar, it should, since it is the true story of Alan Turing, a real life mathematician who is a favorite of authors of science fiction due to his important role in creating computers and because his real death seems so unjust (and unsatisfying as a story). So, here again (see also Tangents) we see a "reality" in which Stoney (Turing) does not die young, but instead is offered an opportunity to save his timeline with information brought by an admirer from another universe, and to debate with another character who is an equally poorly disguised version of C.S. Lewis.

The mathematical physics of loop quantum gravity is quite explicitly described (and attributed by Stoney, with a mention of its real discoverer only in an appendix.) And the debate involves a very nice description of Gödel's theorem and its implications (or lack thereof!) for the possibility of machine intelligence. Like the story Singleton, this one uses the idea of some characters who are not split into multiple "Everett universes" (many-worlds interpretation of QM) each time they face a decision.

First published in Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2000. Now available for free online at Egan's website.

Contributed by "William E. Emba"

"Alternate versions Alan Turing and C S Lewis star in this peculiar and perhaps not at all believable many-worlds mixing of history with non-history. High level doses of logic and mathematics appear, naturally enough, but so too does Ashtekar's quantum gravity."

Contributed by Anonymous

"I'm a sucker for stories like this -- "Oracle" mixes hefty doses of philosophy (can AI be sentient? can faith heal?), physics (many-worlds quantum mechanics, among other things), math (the aforementioned equations), and history (Alan Turing and C.S. Lewis redebate) into a cool, cohesive piece of writing. Egan has a talent for making mind-blowing science fiction scenarios seem plausable. As with his other writing, the religious will probably be annoyed."

More information about this work can be found at gregegan.customer.netspace.net.au.
(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 Oracle
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Tangents by Greg Bear
  2. Nanunculus by Ian Watson
  3. Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore (playwright)
  4. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
  5. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
  6. The Planck Dive by Greg Egan
  7. Lovesong of the Electric Bear by Snoo Wilson (playwright)
  8. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis
  9. Diaspora by Greg Egan
  10. The Bones of Time by Kathleen Ann Goonan
Ratings for Oracle:
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:
4/5 (2 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
4/5 (2 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreHistorical Fiction, Science Fiction,
MotifReal Mathematicians, Time Travel, Religion, Gödel, Turing,
TopicComputers/Cryptography, Mathematical Physics, Logic/Set Theory,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)