a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Do the Math: A Novel of the Inevitable (2008)
Philip Persinger

A math graduate student becomes an intern for a math professor famous for his `theory of inevitability' but ends up also helping his wife (an even more famous author of romance novels) write a book using a mathematical algorithm after her ghost writer quits while the professor rekindles his romance with an old flame.

This is a witty academic farce, but unlike some of the others appearing in this database (e.g. Goldman's Theorem and After Math ), the author really gets the culture of mathematics wrong. The dialogue and scenarios seem more like what one might expect in a philosophy department. Aside from the author's near ignorance of the subject he has chosen to parody (though he does seem obsessed with `plus or minus' in the formula for the root of a quadratic polynomial) the book is okay. There are even a couple of decent mathematical puns.

`The Theory of Inevitability' supposedly is a mathematical result which shows that small causes can (or maybe will) result in big consequences in a person's life. It seems to me that this is an obvious fact, not needing a mathematical proof. (The author relates the chance meeting that resulted in his own marriage in the `about the author' blurb...and I can say that I would never have met my wife had she not borrowed a certain issue of `The Boston Comic News' from a friend.) But, I can see how this might have grown out of something the author heard about real math research. Beginning with Poincare's work on the n-body problem, further developed in Rene Thom's ``Catastrophe Theory'' and becoming fully developed in ``Chaos Theory'', there are mathematical results which have to do with what we call `sensitive dependence on initial conditions'. However, the particularly interesting part of that is that sensitive dependence arises even in situations where intuition might have expected small causes to have only small effects -- situations described by simple and continuous mathematical formulas.

Thanks to Vijay Fafat for bringing this book to my attention.

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Works Similar to Do the Math: A Novel of the Inevitable
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Goldman's Theorem by R.J. Stern
  2. The Visiting Professor by Robert Littell
  3. The Favor by Donald Petrie (Director) / Sara Parriott (Writer) / Josann McGibbon (Writer)
  4. What Are the Odds? by Justin Spitzer (writer) / Matthew Tritt (director)
  5. She Wrote the Book by Oscar Brodney (writer) / Warren Wilson (writer) / Charles Lamont (director)
  6. Coincidence by J.W. Ironmonger
  7. The 351 Books of Irma Arcuri by David Bajo
  8. Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman
  9. Miscalculations by Elizabeth Mansfield
  10. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
Ratings for Do the Math: A Novel of the Inevitable:
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)

MotifAnti-social Mathematicians, Academia, Romance,
TopicFictional Mathematics, Chaos/Fractals,

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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)