MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Needle in a Haystack (2002)
Tom DeMarco
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A pretty funny, silly story about a tailor with a mathematical bent who loses a needle in a haystack. Quite despondent about his chances of finding it, he decides to be mathematically rigorous in his search, by first formulating it as a well-defined problem in probability. Just then, a princess, who is not used to mathematics but quick on the uptake, shows up and offers to help. She recasts the problem as finding hay in a needlestack [and then setting n=1 as the order of the needlestack for the current problem]. After some jousting with mathematical symbols, she produces one straw of hay. The tailor then finds the needle but loses the princess, in a tickling twist to the tale in the final 3 sentences.

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Works Similar to The Needle in a Haystack
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Applied Mathematics by Percival Henry Truman
  2. Arithmetic Town / Arithmetic by Todd McEwen
  3. Folk Music Festivals and Mathematics Conferences by Erik Talvila
  4. Danny’s Inferno by Albert Cowdrey
  5. Along Came Polly by John Hamburg (Writer and Director)
  6. Scandal in the Fourth Dimension by Amelia Reynolds Long (as "A.R. Long")
  7. Say Wen by Ellis Parker Butler
  8. A Matter of Geometry by Ared White
  9. The Old Mathematician (from Maschalk Manor) by Anonymous
  10. Porter Piper by Anonymous
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Categories:
GenreHumorous,
MotifRomance,
Topic
MediumShort Stories,

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Exciting News: The total number of works of mathematical fiction listed in this database recently reached a milestone. The 1,500th entry is The Man of Forty Crowns by Voltaire. Thanks to Vijay Fafat for writing the summary of that work (and so many others). I am also grateful to everyone who has contributed to this website. Heck, I'm grateful to everyone who visited the site. Thank you!

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)