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Artifact (1985)
Gregory Benford
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

In this novel a team of scientists investigates a mysterious archaeological find. It soon becomes apparent that more than just archaelogy will be needed to understand it, and so a pair of physicists are brought in. The American one is actually a mathematician, and at one point he is berated by an elder for his excursions into physics. ("He then lectured John for five minutes on the duty of mathematicians - the lovers of the pure, the ideal, the eternal, to use their best years in nonapplied pursuits.") Once they get in to actually discussing the bizarre properties of the object, there's a lot of mathematical physics: discussion of relativity and particle physics which explicitly involves geometry of space-time and mathematical analysis of forces of attraction between particles. Not only does Benford, a physicist by training, toss out the word "singularity" (so commonly used on Star Trek), he also refers to solitons (a personal favorite of mine!) and does a good job of it too.

An appendix to the book briefly describes some of the real math and physics behind the book, but unfortunately is not referenced.

Contributed by Randall Crist

"As I recall, [the hero is] a mathematician-Ph. D. on Lie groups, I believe, it is mentioned in the book [no, it was something with manifolds, not explicitly described -ak]- but ends up doing physics. However, there is a lot of mathematics in the book, and accurately portrayed at that. It's really not a suprise, given that Benford's a physicist." (Contributed by Randall Crist, Creighton University.)

Contributed by Shane Smith

A great science-fiction novel, throwing in a great number of mathematical terms throughout.

Good if you are interested in the unexplained, and have at least some sort of vague idea about complex mathematics and science/physics (this book is not only for professional mathematicians!!)

Try it, it is an interesting read.

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Works Similar to Artifact
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
  2. Sphere by Michael Crichton
  3. The Lure by Bill Napier
  4. Gödel Numbers by J.W. Swanson
  5. Timescape by Gregory Benford
  6. Mozart on Morphine by Gregory Benford
  7. The Flight of the Dragonfly (aka Rocheworld) by Robert L. Forward
  8. Ratner's Star by Don DeLillo
  9. Contact by Carl Sagan
  10. Drode's Equations by Richard Grant
Ratings for Artifact:
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:
3/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.5/5 (2 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
TopicMathematical Physics,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)