MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Space Bender (1928)
Edward Rementer
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

This is another story which uses the convenient device of the fourth dimension for rapid spatial transport. This time, Prof. Jason Livermore is the one who disappears entirely from the face of the earth one night. Twenty years later, his assistant is brought a mysterious bottle by a construction worker; the bottle was found during a dig at a site and is made of an unbreakable, glass-like substance (an alloy similar to copper, though why it should be transparent is anybody's guess). The bottle contains a manuscript which is a first person account by Prof. Jason about his adventure on Venus.

In the manuscript, he explains how the concept of fourth dimension makes perfect sense (going through the explanation of spherical/map geometry, creatures in 2-D, convergence of parallel lines on curved surfaces, etc) and how Time itself is a relative concept, that it cannot exist without Space. Turns out that he has built an instrument called "Space Bender" which can curve two spatial positions in close proximity like the pages of a book. So he brings Venus in Earth's proximity along the 4th dimension and simply rolls off of earth on to the surface of Venus.... There he meets a humanoid species which has evolved from feline ancestors who have very strange customs. The professor hopes to escape someday and return to Earth using the Space Bender.

The manner of the bottle and the manuscript's arrival on earth is never explained or even alluded to. The story was apparently intended to be a satire on some human traits, as explained by the editor at the end of the story, but I myself failed to see it that way. A very flat story.

Published in Amazing Stories, Dec 1928.

I am grateful to Vijay for bringing this story to my attention. In many ways, it definitely fails to excel. But, the bad math is part of what makes it interesting to me. For instance, his explanation of why time is not a dimension:

(quoted from Space Bender)

The theory that time was the fourth dimension, however, was something I could not accept. This involved the corollary that it was possible to travel in time the same as in any other dimension. I hold such a feat to be impossible because time does not exist!

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All arguments relative to time travelling seemed to me to rest on a fallacy. This ist he belief that things exist, even for the fractional part of a second, in a state of rest. They do not. Everything is in a state of flux. Change is eternal. In is just this change that we call life [emphasis added - ak].

Time merely measures the duration of existence....time is simply a measure of the processes of life, the same as a foot is a measure of length.

According to his last remark, shouldn't he conclude that length doesn't exist and isn't a dimension as well?

A bit deeper (though still wrong, I think) from a mathematical perspective is his supposed experimental proof that higher dimensions exist. He reasons in analogy to the "mapworlders" who live on a two dimensional surface:

(quoted from Space Bender)

It would be an axiom of the geometry of the mapworld that parallel lines could not met. Yet, if two mapworld professors should travel sufficiently far along two of their supposed parallel lines known as meridians of longitude, they woud find that they did meet at the poles. If they were not blockheads, this fact would prove the existence of a third dimension.

Certain experiments disclosed that some of our apparently parallel lines, if sufficiently prlonged in our three dimensional space, showed a tendency to come together. This indicated the existence of a fourth dimension.

I guess I'm a "blockhead" then, because I do not see that curvature of space necessarily implies higher dimensions. Certainly we can imagine that this curvature arises because the space is embedded in a higher dimensional space and bent, but I do not see that this is the only explanation. In particular, having "grown up" with the ideas of Riemann and Einstein, I'm perfectly willing to imagine an intrinsic curvature that does not depend on such an embedding.

A non-mathematical aside: It is interesting to compare this presentation of a species evolved from cats with the similar (but much less serious) approach taken in the TV show "Red Dwarf".

(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 Space Bender
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. And He Built a Crooked House by Robert A. Heinlein
  2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  3. No-Sided Professor by Martin Gardner
  4. Plane People by Wallace West
  5. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott
  6. The Planiverse: computer contact with a two-dimensional world by A.K. Dewdney
  7. Message Found in a Copy of Flatland by Rudy Rucker
  8. The Einstein See-Saw by Miles J. Breuer
  9. The Magic Staircase by Nelson Slade Bond
  10. Sphereland: A Fantasy About Curved Spaces and an Expanding Universe by Dionys Burger
Ratings for Space Bender:
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)
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Literary Quality:
2/5 (1 votes)
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Categories:
GenreScience Fiction,
MotifHigher/Lower Dimensions,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical Physics,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)