MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

Home All New Browse Search About

...
Blinding Shadows (1934)
Donald Wandrei
...

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

Story of a mathematics professor who theorizes that 4-dimensional objects should be casting 3-dimensional shadows and such shadows should be viewable by specially made mirrors. Dutifully, element number 95, with the aid of heavy doses of electricity and prismatic shapes, starts showing solid, dark, people-devouring shadows in New York. The effect is confined only to the Manhattan area, which is then sealed off in perpetuum. The narrator theorizes that perhaps the 4-D universe intersects ours only in the New York area (no, honestly!).

The story is very poorly written and riddled with errors (“2-dimensional objects cast 1 dimensional shadows”), misstatements (“it had a current of X volts”) and clichés (the mathematician as the world’s foremost authority even though he speaks like a third-grader and has to “experiment with cubes, pyramids, tetrahedrons, parallelepipeds, cones and other geometric solids, by themselves and in combination through endless patterns of crystal” to realize that “it is physically impossible to arrange four right angles at right angles to each other”)

As a bit of a stretch, I noticed one cute coincidence. In versions of superstring theories with the E8 X E8 symmetry, each symmetry represents a shadow universe with respect to the other, linked only gravitationally. In 1984, Green and Schwarz paved the way for serious consideration of SUSYs by carrying out a deep calculation whose answer had to be 496 for all anomalies to cancel. Well, in this story, the narrator glimpses the 4-D universe which is casting the shadows “only for a second, the prisms whirling through the complex variations made possible by a sequence of 496 numbers…”

Originally appeared in Astounding Stories (May 1934) and reprinted in an anthology of stories by Wandrei, "Colossus".

Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com. Amazon.com logo
(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 Blinding Shadows
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Plane People by Wallace West
  2. The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator by Murray Leinster
  3. The Magic Staircase by Nelson Slade Bond
  4. The Dangerous Dimension by L. Ron Hubbard
  5. A Victim of Higher Space by Algernon Blackwood
  6. The Captured Cross-Section by Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
  7. The Einstein See-Saw by Miles J. Breuer
  8. Technical Error by Arthur C. Clarke
  9. The Appendix and the Spectacles by Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
  10. The Land of No Shadow by Carl H Claudy
Ratings for Blinding Shadows:
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.
(unrated)

PLEASE HELP US OUT BY ENTERING YOUR OWN RATINGS FOR THIS WORK.

Categories:
GenreScience Fiction,
MotifHigher/Lower Dimensions,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry,
MediumShort Stories,

Home All New Browse Search About

Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)