a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|The author of the Mathematical Intelligencer's "Mathematically Bent" column has a talent for making me laugh, and this piece which has the US Supreme Court justices debating higher math and modern physics is one of the funniest.
The inspiration for the piece is apparently a real court decision by the New York Court of Appeals in a case concerning the sentencing of a drug dealer. It seems that a harsher sentence is required if the crime was committed within 1000 feet of a school. However, the question arose of how this distance should be measured. In describing the decision in 2005, NY Times columnist Michael Cooper said: "Pythagoras won his day in court on Tuesday" as the decision was that the distance could be measured as the shortest distance in the plane (what I would call the Euclidean metric) as opposed to the distance that a person would actually walk to reach the school from the site of the deal. (See Cooper's piece here.)
In Colin Adams' "bent" version, the case reaches the US Supreme Court where lawyer Jane Hausdorff represents the state:
In addition to a more thorough discussion of the application of the Pythagorean theorem in the case that the deal was conducted in the subway, the debate eventually involves the anatomy of moles and crows, and even relativistic effects.
It was published in The Shape of Content, a collection of writings associated to the BIRS workshops on creative writing in mathematics and science.
|More information about this work can be found at another page on this Website.|
|(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)|
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)