a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Incandescence (2008)
Greg Egan
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

This "hard SF" novel focuses on the scientific progress of aliens living on a planet near the galactic center. Presumably because the curvature of space was obvious to them from the start (while it took us until the 20th century to notice it), their mathematical physics developed very differently from our own. In particular, we see that they came up with the concept of a connection before developing a notion of spacetime geometry and only derived the significance of the speed of light after that, where as these were discovered in the opposite order in our (real) history.

There are characters and plot, such as the narrator whose excitement about studying these aliens can be shared by an empathetic reader, but to really enjoy this book you probably need to care about and understand our own math and science well enough to enjoy watching the same ideas be rediscovered by aliens in alternative ways.

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Works Similar to Incandescence
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Glory by Greg Egan
  2. Riding the Crocodile by Greg Egan
  3. Report from the Ambassador to Cida-2 by Clifton Cunningham
  4. Conversations on Mathematics with a Visitor from Outer Space by David Ruelle
  5. In the River by Justin Stanchfield
  6. The Flight of the Dragonfly (aka Rocheworld) by Robert L. Forward
  7. Approaching Perimelasma by Geoffrey A. Landis
  8. The Gates of Heaven by Paul Preuss
  9. Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang
  10. Dragon's Egg by Robert L. Forward
Ratings for Incandescence:
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:
4/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical Physics, Real Mathematics,

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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 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)