MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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No-Sided Professor (1946)
Martin Gardner
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)
Highly Rated!

We all know that among the surprising things you learn when you first make a Mobius strip is the fact that out of a two sided piece of paper you can make an object with only one side. Why should this sequence not be able to be continued? Could you continue to "fold" an object until it had no sides? And what if you did this to a person? This cute story, with some vaguley real sounding fictional mathematics, answers all of these questions.
First published in Esquire magazine and then republished in Fantasia Mathematica and Mathenauts.
(Note that this story has a sequel: The Island of Five Colors.)

Contributed by Nelson Walker

Interesting yet silly short story from the golden days of pulp sci-fi magazines. Contains topological references such as Mobius strips, klein bottles, etc. The concept of no-sided surfaces is continued in Ian McEwan's 1976 short story "Solid Geometry".

Contributed by Ann Weber, Ph.D.

I first read this story 35 years ago and it stuck with me, a vivid depiction of both the possibility and impossibility of applied (irrational?) topology. It was also an excellent introduction to detective fiction: how might one apply mathematics in seeking to cover up a crime? Finally, I never forgot that the author cleverly gave the protagonist's beloved, the math professor's daughter, the name "Abscissa." Really, isn't that a great name for a math professor's daughter? In sum, cute, silly, vivid--and memorable. Thanks for the opportunity to rate this story!

(Dr. Weber, I think you may be mistaking this story with The Tachypomp. It is in that story that Professor Surd's daughter is name "Abscissa".)

Contributed by Zoran Stanojevic

The footnote in this story was the reaason I am still interested in Topology. Very good reading,interesting, humorous. He was unique. RIP, Martin Gardner...And, by the way, thank you [Gardner] for The Anotated Alice, too.

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

In his preface to the story, Gardner mentions the following interesting fact:

"It was widely rumored in math circles that Slapenarski was modeled on the Polish toplogist, Samuel Eilenberg, but I had never heard of Eilenberg, and actually had no one in mind. Robert Simpson, however, is the mathematian Robert Simpson, with whom I had become acquainted when he was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin."

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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 No-Sided Professor
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Island of Five Colors by Martin Gardner
  2. The Sinister Researches of C.P. Ransom by Homer C. Nearing~Jr.
  3. Solid Geometry by Ian McEwan
  4. Space Bender by Edward Rementer
  5. Turnabout by Gordon R. Dickson
  6. And He Built a Crooked House by Robert A. Heinlein
  7. The Adventures of Topology Man by Alex Kasman
  8. Unreasonable Effectiveness by Alex Kasman
  9. The Mathenauts by Norman Kagan
  10. Aleph Sub One by Margaret St.~Clair
Ratings for No-Sided Professor:
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:
4.17/5 (6 votes)
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Literary Quality:
3.5/5 (6 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreHumorous, Science Fiction,
MotifMobius Strip/Nonorientability,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry,
MediumShort Stories,

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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)