MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Quanto scommettiamo ("How much do you want to bet?") (1965)
Italo Calvino
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Contributed by Lapo Fanciullo

The story is about two beings, living since the beginning of the universe (one of them, the protagonist of the book, is "old Qfwfq" - it's not a misprint -, a mysterious being that claims to have witnessed all the main events in the history of Universe and Earth) who make bets on the future evolution of the universe to pass time. They start betting about whether atoms will form or not, or how much stars will grow before stabilizing, and end up betting on the minutest events, such as what turn a woman will take walking on a street (all this before the woman is even born, or Earth formed!).

The mathematics this should take is never mentioned if not en passant (at the end of the tale the two beings live among humans and it's briefly mentioned they use computers to make their calculations), but the story is a reflection on finding a pattern in the universe and how this pattern seemingly degenerates again into chaos when the amount of information is too high to visualize.

Furthermore, a humorous idea proposed is that numbers were invented (or evolved) little by little, and "user-friendly" numbers such as integers were the last to appear: A quel tempo, di numeri ce n'erano soltanto due: il numero e e il numero pi greco. ("At that time there were only two numbers: e and pi").

Originally published in Le cosmicomiche, in 1965.

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Works Similar to Quanto scommettiamo ("How much do you want to bet?")
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Ms Fnd in a Lbry by Hal Draper
  2. The Mathenauts by Norman Kagan
  3. The Indefatigable Frog by Philip K. Dick
  4. The Holmes-Ginsbook Device by Isaac Asimov
  5. A New Golden Age by Rudy Rucker
  6. The Tale of the Big Computer (aka The End of Man?) by Hannes Alfven (writing as Olof Johannesson)
  7. Message Found in a Copy of Flatland by Rudy Rucker
  8. The Pacifist by Arthur C. Clarke
  9. Bill, the Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison
  10. Monster by Alex Kasman
Ratings for Quanto scommettiamo ("How much do you want to bet?"):
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:
1/5 (1 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
5/5 (1 votes)
.

Categories:
GenreHumorous, Science Fiction,
Motif
Topic
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)