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. An Old Arithmetician by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman
  4. The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
  5. Young Archimedes by Aldous Huxley
  6. Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth
  7. The Plattner Story by Herbert George Wells
  8. Adventure of the Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  9. Book of Knut: a novel by Knut Knudson by Halvor Aakhus
  10. Paul Bunyan versus the Conveyor Belt by William Hazlett Upson
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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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)