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Applied Mathematical Theology (2006)
Gregory Benford
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Benford, a physicist and science fiction author, wrote this piece about a message hidden in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) for the journal Nature's "Futures" column. It cites (fictional) mathematical evidence that the CMB contains some sort of message, and name-drops many mathematical ideas (Lie groups, Fourier series, the Riemann zeta function, etc.) in attempts to figure out what it says. But, in the end, the point is to consider the implications of believing that such a message is there rather than figuring out what the message is.

(I like this story, but can't quite agree with its conclusions. I doubt the consequences would be as described, and would personally be skeptical that the supposed evidence even shows convincingly that a message exists. Perhaps it would be interesting to hear from someone who feels differently. If you liked this story and see something in it that I'm missing, please post your own comments here using the links below!)

Originally published as Nature 440, 126 (2 March 2006) and now available (for a price or to anyone with a subscription to the journal) at

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Applied Mathematical Theology
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer
  2. Contact by Carl Sagan
  3. His Master's Voice by Stanislaw Lem
  4. The God Patent by Ransom Stephens
  5. Timescape by Gregory Benford
  6. Artifact by Gregory Benford
  7. Mozart on Morphine by Gregory Benford
  8. Dark Integers by Greg Egan
  9. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
  10. Our Feynman Who Art in Heaven... by Paul Di Filippo
Ratings for Applied Mathematical Theology:
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:
3/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifAcademia, Religion,
TopicMathematical Physics,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)