MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Sirdar's Chess-Board (1885)
Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer
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A military bride travelling in Afghanistan is surprised when a mystic is able to cut up a chess board ("with three snips of my scissors") and put it back together so that the number of squares has increased from 64 to 65. An illustration of the cuts used appears in the text and seems at first to lead to the contradictory conclusion that 64=65:
Of course, it is not actually possible to change the area of a board from 64 square inches to 65 square inches with three cuts and some rearrangement. The explanation is that there are small deviations in the rearrangement that are too subtle for us to see with the naked eye. (In other words, the right triangle you see in the second figure is not actually a right triangle!) For a similar "paradox" and an explanation, see MathWorld's description of the Triangle Dissection Paradox.

(Appeared as Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 10 (1885), 359–73.)

More information about this work can be found at cdl.library.cornell.edu.
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Works Similar to The Sirdar's Chess-Board
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes by Herbert George Wells
  2. Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  4. Young Archimedes by Aldous Huxley
  5. The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
  6. An Old Arithmetician by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman
  7. Adventure of the Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth
  9. The Plattner Story by Herbert George Wells
  10. Elegantly, In the Least Number of Steps by Monica McFawn
Ratings for The Sirdar's Chess-Board:
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Mathematical Content:
4/5 (1 votes)
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Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)
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Categories:
Genre
Motif
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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May 2016: I am experimenting with a new feature which will print a picture of the cover and a link to the Amazon.com page for a work of mathematical fiction when it is available. I hope you find this useful and convenient. In any case, please write to let me know if it is because I would be happy to either get rid of it or improve it if that would be better for you. Thanks! -Alex

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)