MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Ouroboros (1997)
Geoffrey A. Landis
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The question of whether what we call "reality" could be nothing other than a simulation run on a computer gets a mathematically sophisticated treatment in this story. In addition to a vague reference to a mathematical discovery which restores a deterministic explanation to quantum mechanics, the story also addresses more interesting questions such as:

(quoted from Ouroboros)

"But - " said Betsy. "But, can they really do that, and make it work? What happens when our computer tries to model another computer with as much computing power as it has?"

Dr. Torrez smiled. "That's the wonder of efficient data compression. A data set can contain within it a data set that has as much complexity in it as the original data, by encoding it within the redundancies of the original data. And the real universe is full of redundancy."

Originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine in 1997, it was reprinted in the collection Impact Parameter.

Spoiler Alert! (Don't read below if you would like to read and enjoy the story for yourself.)
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As you might have guessed from the quote above, the story involves the idea that the beings in the simulation run a computer program in which another universe is simulated and so on. The story concludes with the scary implications of what it would mean if this chain looped back on itself, so that eventually this universe is itself running on a computer in one of the universes that it is simulating.

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(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.)

Works Similar to Ouroboros
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Approaching Perimelasma by Geoffrey A. Landis
  2. Ripples in the Dirac Sea by Geoffrey A. Landis
  3. The Planck Dive by Greg Egan
  4. Factoring Humanity by Robert J. Sawyer
  5. Dark as Day by Charles Sheffield
  6. Border Guards by Greg Egan
  7. Oracle by Greg Egan
  8. Diaspora by Greg Egan
  9. The Labyrinth Key by Howard V. Hendrix
  10. A Game of Consequences by David Langford
Ratings for Ouroboros:
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:
2/5 (1 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
2/5 (1 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreScience Fiction,
Motif
TopicComputers/Cryptography, Mathematical Physics,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)