a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|Sometimes a surprising mathematical fact will inspire a science fiction story to illustrate it. I suspect that is what happened with this story that comes up with a contrived circumstance in which the plot depends upon the existence of wheels that are not circular but nevertheless support an object placed on top at a fixed height as they revolve.
Stephen C. Locke|
A vessel lands on a planet where
circles are religious icons and cannot be used for mundane
purposes. The crew needs to transport replacement parts over a long
distance and hits on the idea of using constant width rollers
(replacing them as they become too rounded).
Here is the relevant excerpt (page 53 of my copy):
|(quoted from Three Cornered Wheel)|
"Draw an equilateral triangle, ABC. Put the point of your compasses on A and draw the arc BC. Move to B and describe AC, then to C and describe AB. Round off the corners. The resulting figure has constant width. It will roll between two parallel lines tangent to it maintaining that tangency for the whole revolution.
As a matter of fact, the class of constant-width polygons is infinite. The circle is merely a limiting case."
The story apparently first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1963 but was most recently republished in the collection called Trouble Twisters.
For a non-fictional approach to the same subject, you can read Ivars Peterson's article at the MAA website.
|Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com. |
|(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.)|
Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.
(Maintained by Alex Kasman,
College of Charleston)