Contributed by
Craig Bauer
In this short story a mathematics professor accidentally summons a demon
by cursing while working on a problem involving integration. The devil
brags
that he is able to disprove Fermat's last theorem, square the circle, find
the
ultimate prime, go faster than the speed of light, and make two electrons
occupy the same quantum state. It is up to the mathematician to outsmart
the
demon and save his soul. This is a tale in which the mathematician is
portrayed
as being very cool.
The story is quite short (6 pages) and intentionally funny. It can be
found in the 1974 anthology Cosmic Laughter, published by Holt, Rinehart
and
Winston and edited by Joe Haldeman.

Note: A television adaptation was made for the 1980s revival of The
Twilight
Zone. In the TV version, the mathematician is played (believe it or not)
by Sherman Helmsley (of The Jeffersons) and the demon by Ron Glass (from
Barney Miller). They both do a great job with their parts and the episode
is tons of fun. Although it duplicates many of the lines from the story
(including the opening "mumbling" computation) exactly, some of the math
has been cut out. In particular, the whole part about Fermat's Last
Theorem (and the mathematician trying to copy the demon's counterexample
off of the blackboard before he erases is) is eliminated. Instead, we have
a more detailed discussion of what the demon does with the souls he
collects (he suggests that the mathematician could become a "living binary
digit")! Similarly, although the demon does not repeatedly change forms
and sizes as he does in the story, he does keep changing his
tshirts which have "hell" jokes on them. Most significantly, the
mathematician remains the hero in the story, and finds the near loss of his
soul as a minor distraction from his important computations.
