MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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White Light, or What is Cantor's Continuum Problem? (1980)
Rudy Rucker
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)
Highly Rated!
Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for math majors, math grad students (and maybe even math professors).

I think the best description of this book is Naked Lunch meets The Wild Numbers, with a cameo appearance by Donald Duck's nephews. Happily, this book has recently been rereleased (2001) in a new format (without the mathematical subtitle, which I suppose it is feared might scare away readers.) Like many other Rucker books, I feel as if the hype on the jacket and foreward are ridiculously over the top. IMHO, they go too far in praising Rucker and overstate influence of this book...but that doesn't mean I don't like the book. In fact, I think it is an enjoyable read and a really great example of mathematical fiction.

The plot concerns mathematician Felix Rayman, whose bizarre out of body experiences are nightmarishly related to his research into Cantor's continuum hypothesis. Now, I'm not sure exactly how much this is really autobiographical, but Rucker admit's in the "afterword" that he actually had a position at the university described in the book, and that his own attempt to address the continuum problem led nowhere...except to writing this book which I suppose was the start of his successful writing career.

I don't know if someone unfamiliar with the logic of transfinite cardinals would be able to really understand what "Aleph-null" is after reading this book, nor why this infinite number is still too small to describe the how many real numbers there are, but if you already know (or can look it up in a set theory book somewhere) then this psychedelic journey to infinity and back can be a lot of fun.

Contributed by Danijil Vitalijovy?

While perhaps interesting to a layperson, it is only truly enjoyable for a mathematician. Very good fiction.

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(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 White Light, or What is Cantor's Continuum Problem?
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Jack and the Aktuals, or, Physical Applications of Transfinite Set Theory by Rudy Rucker
  2. Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker
  3. The Infinite Assassin by Greg Egan
  4. Signal to Noise by Eric S. Nylund
  5. Habitus by James Flint
  6. Izzy at the Lucky Three by Eliot Fintushel
  7. The Four-Color Problem by Barrington J. Bayley
  8. Sushi Never Sleeps by Clifford Pickover
  9. Art Thou Mathematics? by Charles Mobbs
  10. Ratner's Star by Don DeLillo
Ratings for White Light, or What is Cantor's Continuum Problem?:
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:
4.72/5 (9 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
3.84/5 (9 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreScience Fiction,
MotifAcademia, Aliens, Real Mathematicians, Religion,
TopicInfinity, Real Mathematics, Logic/Set Theory,
MediumNovels,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)