MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Non-Statistical Man (1956)
Raymond F. Jones
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In this short story, insurance adjuster Charles Bascomb comes up against his greatest enemy: intuition. The story presents mathematics (especially statistics and logic) as one way man can deal with reality. However, Bascomb encounters a proponent of an alternative and -- so he claims -- better way to make decisions that through statistics. This retired psychology professor offers courses that enhance one's intuitive abilities. Using terms like correlating affinities and cosmic mono-regression he sells little pills that seem to work wonders (for instance, the people taking them know to buy insurance right before something bad happens to them...which is not very good from the insurance company's point of view!)

The story is well written and compelling, but it has a 1950's sexism which does not age well. (Didn't readers in the 50's ever tire of that old stereotype of men being logical and scientific while women were almost magically intuitive?!?) Unfortunately, I do not know where to find this story in print. It was reprinted in a collection of stories by Jones with "The Non-Statistical Man" as the title, but this book is long out of print. If someone knows another source for this story, please write in.

Much thanks to Professor Bart Holland of the New Jersey Medical School for pointing this story out to me and for sending me a copy!

Contributed by Richard Simms

I found your review of this Raymond F. Jones story on your Mathematical Fiction website and just wanted to thank you for posting it. For your information, it was only ever reprinted once, in the short story collection The Non-Statistical Man (1964). Used copies of this paperback can be bought easily through www.abebooks.com, should you be interested in acquiring this book. 

Mathematics does appear from time to time throughout Jones's large body of science fiction stories and novels. Jones was deeply interested in science (he had careers as a radio engineer and as a technical writer in the aeronautics industry), and this shows through particularly in his earlier work. I think though that maths is more important to the plot of "The Non-Statistical Man" than in any other of his stories.

With regards,
Richard Simms
Webmaster of the Raymond F. Jones Tribute Website: http://www.geocities.com/calmeacham  

(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 The Non-Statistical Man
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Year of the Jackpot by Robert A. Heinlein
  2. The Last Magician by Bruce Elliott
  3. Left or Right by Martin Gardner
  4. The Feeling of Power by Isaac Asimov
  5. Fifty Million Monkeys by Raymond F. Jones
  6. The Island of Five Colors by Martin Gardner
  7. Gomez by Cyril M. Kornbluth
  8. Description of a New World, Called The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish
  9. The Cube Root of Conquest by Rog Phillips
  10. Technical Error by Arthur C. Clarke
Ratings for The Non-Statistical Man:
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:
3/5 (1 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreScience Fiction,
Motif
TopicProbability/Statistics,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)