|A hilarious story that plays with the mind-blowing idea that it may not be that mathematics describes reality, but instead that reality is mathematics.
In the future presented by this story, only those with a knowledge of
advanced mathematics can travel through space as a Mathenaut;
by "abstracting" (thinking of the space around you as nothing other
than a mathematical object such as a Riemann surface, a vector space
or a topological space) these heroic travellers can travel using a
method known as "BC-flight" (named after Thomas Brill and Ephraim
Cohen). I must admit that I fell in love with this story not for these ideas, but for some of the quotes:
|(quoted from The Mathenauts)|
"Did Galois discover that theorem before or after he died?"
"I was looking over Ephraim Cohen's latest paper, Nymphomaniac Nested Complexes with Rossian Irrelevancies (old Ice Cream Cohen loves sexy titles), when the trouble started. We'd abstracted...were ready for the first tests. I made the Dold invariant and shoved off through one of the passages that linked the isomorphomechanism and the lab."
"Anyway, a mathenaut should never forget his postulates, or he'll find himself floating in 27-space, with nary a notion to be named."
"`By Riemann's tensors!' Pearl cried."
Joe Mundschau, Madison WI|
"Speaking as someone who barely remembers any of his high school
algebra, I can say that twenty years after I read it I still remember this story and
remember enjoying it immensely. I never knew how accurate or valid the representation
of mathematics was in this story but it without talking down to me made me feel it was
giving me insight into the world and minds of mathematicians.
I think this would be a good story to show a young student interested in math."
Originally published in World of If /Science Fiction (July 1964), this wonderful piece of mathematical fiction was reprinted (and inspired the title of) the collection Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder.
The kind of Delight that is expected in Good Sci-Fi, here with a lot of Fun in Trying to envisage the situations & applying the Sheer Gibberish as any Kind of Physics/Maths. I liked best of all the Vanishings and yet Returns (or Safe OTHER Conditions the team experienced. (Much more creditable than, say, Simak's 'Time is The Simplest Thing') wherein C.D.S. forgot that - even when 'They' could send a Mind endessly distances- it was STILL IMpossible to send ANY Machine to record the Visit). Found in 'Best of Sci-Fi, 10'.
Great Work! But then again I am biased, as I am one of the characters in the story - Byron of Byron and Burbitt (my friend Warren Berbit), from B.C.N.Y. (actually C.C.N.Y.) and still have the original 1964 copy of "Worlds of IF" which cost 40 cents at the time.
As an interesting aside, the character names in the story were taken from Norman's friends at Bayside High School, most via the SP at JHS 158, and most today have gone on to get doctorates in various fields.
Does anyone have a contact email for Norman, as I would like to get in touch.
BEE (CCNY), MSEE (NYU), JD (NYU)