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Perry Rhodan 2638: Zielpunkt Morpheus-System (2012)
Marc A. Herren

The long-running German science fiction series Perry Rhodan recently ran a contest whose winner, a certain Martin Felten, was included in issue number 2638 as a space actuary and inventor of a five-dimensional number system. (See here for an article in German containing more details about the real-life Felten.)

Hauke Reddmann, a frequent contributor to this site, writes:

Contributed by Hauke Reddmann

The necessity of an insurance mathematician in space was VERY well adapted to the titanic background of the series (although you have to be a longtime Rhodan reader like me to judge that). As you can guess with pulp, he's just a lousy civilian, but in the face of Dastardly Deadly Danger [tm], like all Terranians he outdoes himself. :-)

Hauke also provides this translation of the passage involving the new number system:

(quoted from Perry Rhodan 2638: Zielpunkt Morpheus-System)

Item: Number Sets

If we shortly come to the kinds of numbers: There are seven overall. The further mankind developed, the futher math developed and with it the numbers man learnt to handle.

First there were the naturals (N) to add and multiply. By subtraction the whole numbers came to be, the division led to define the rationals (Q). After that followed the reals (R) which already allowed to do powers and draw roots. But since they don't allow to draw roots from a negative number, there came the complex numbers (C).

In the sense of algebraic operations the number kingdom was complete - until ingenious heads arrived, defining for fourdimensional algebra the set of hypercomplex numbers.

To solve the riddle of the lightning wave of the Quolnean Keretzes, I had to use five-dimensional math, thus quintadim numbers.

From: Personal Notes, M. Felten

Hauke comments "Of course, when it comes to dimensions, the whole thing degenerates into mathbabble (math version of technobabble), the author rather abuses the word and evidently never read John Baez :-)"

By the last remark, I suppose he is referring to the fact that the reals, complex number, quaternions and octonians are the only number systems in that all division algebras have dimensions 1, 2, 4, and 8 as real vector spaces (as Baez shows here). So, one would not expect to see "quintadim numbers". However, it really depends on what one means by "number", and Herren is certainly correct that this notion has evolved over time. In particular, there are most definitely five-dimensional algebras that are studied by mathematicians and physicists, as one can see by looking here.

I wrote back to Hauke, asking for more details regarding the uses of statistics and mathematics in the book. He replied:

Contributed by Hauke Reddmann

"Perry Rhodan" can't deny its beginnings in cold war time (1960), and it began straight imperialist (some say fascist, but that's way too harsh). Time went by, ice cold warriors were replaced by hippie authors, and the Terrans now prefer to have a trade imperium. Still, around each corner a new invasor is lurking, High Powers frell around with the laws of the universe, and you can imagine that flying a trader space craft is a rather dangerous biz.

One of the old "Immortals" (they don't age - a blaster would quickly end their status :-) from very old times (me olde geezer was born in the same year PR started) is Homer G. Adams, who is a "mutant" with the ability to be a financial genius. So, ideally suited for interstellar trading, but he still needs an assistent for the insurance aspect (what's the probability this poor space ship will be eaten by a black hole?). And here Mr. Felten fit in perfectly.

Unluckily for you and me, this was only background, and not that much elaborated. (Still, he gets rather many of these diary entries, where you can read about his life - or rather of the real life Martin Felten.)

In the actual plot, he uses his 5D mathbabble to find some plotdrivium that helps against the weapon of the Quolnean Keretzes (you know you are a Rhodan fan when you can type this without thinking :-) mentioned in the snip. Unluckily for him, he has to test his theory under field conditions, read, a wrecked Keretze space ship which is going to explode under his civilian butt due to the laws of plot :-)

So, no larger descriptions of the everyday life of an actuary, but maybe author Marc A. Herren shied away from the additional research. After all, Perry Rhodan is light fiction. :-)

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Perry Rhodan 2638: Zielpunkt Morpheus-System
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Statistomat Pitch by Chandler Davis
  2. The Eternal Wanderer by Nathan Schachner
  3. Fatous Staub by Christian Mähr
  4. The Dangerous Dimension by L. Ron Hubbard
  5. The Fifth-Dimension Catapult by Murray Leinster
  6. A Deadly Medley of Smedley by Feargus Gwynplaine MacIntyre
  7. The Circle of Zero by Stanley G. Weinbaum
  8. 2+2=5 by Rudy Rucker / Terry Bisson
  9. Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang
  10. The Eternal Flame [Orthogonal Book Two] by Greg Egan
Ratings for Perry Rhodan 2638: Zielpunkt Morpheus-System:
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Mathematical Content:
1/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory, Fictional Mathematics, Mathematical Finance, Probability/Statistics,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)