|The title of the story was the title of a chapter in the Ph.D. thesis that Joseph, the main character, was working on...but never finished. Instead, he wound up living with his advisor's daughter, working at the computer help desk, and handing out pamphlets to strangers entitled "Proof of God's Existence by Series Expansion" and "The Combinatorics of Ancient Roman Orgies".
Joseph believes that dynamical systems can help him understand his relationship with Alexandra. Some of these equations are presented explicitly in the story (including the famous "predator-prey model that many students see in ODE) and others are just hinted at. However, Joseph has to decide whether to trust in these models, or follow the advice of his former advisor who has his own "theory".
A running subplot concerns the history of the icy Michigan town in which the story takes place and the tragic life of its founder.
This short story is one of three "mathematical" stories by Iagnemma which appear in his collection On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction: Stories". Iagnemma recently received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT where he now works as a research scientist. In addition, his short stories have been published in many prestitigious literary magazines and have won him numerous prizes.
"On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction" is an anthology of relationship stories about the scientifically minded, not all of which revolve around the topic of math, but all of which are worthwhile reads that will leave any impression on the literary inclined. This is one of my favorite anthologies, and I recall fondly reading it before bed many a late night. Its depth of characters is considerably great, and the implications it gives between the lines are equally as stunning. For any lover of science and fiction, this is the book for you.