a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

Home All New Browse Search About

Nullstellen (1999)
Dietmar Dath
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Two scientists develop a mathematical method of literary analysis based on the use of an "author function". The zeroes of this function (called Nullstellen in German, as in Hilbert's famous Nullstellensatz) uniquely identify the author. They attempt to create a text having no zeroes, an "authorless story", with literally disastrous results.

To give you an idea of the sort of mathematical terminology in the story, here is of one of the scientists describing her PhD thesis:

(quoted from Nullstellen)

The evaluation of 2nd order Legendre functions. I develop an evaluation method applying the trapezoid rule to Heine's integral representation, including error analysis, with some numeric results. Nothing fancy, quadratures methods, I omit Gaussian or Clenshaw-Curtis quadratures. Not very precise up to now, and not much of practical use.

The story was first published in SPEX (a magazine that Dath edited) in October 1999 and reprinted in his collection Heute keine Konferenz in 2007.

Contributed by Hauke Reddmann

[Dath's writing] at its best can give you ontological goosebumps like otherwise only Philip K Dick. Even better, the text had to fit in an illu. Like all geniuses he likes to hear himself blabber (I speak from personal experience :-) and the short form becomes him.

Thanks to Hauke Reddmann for informing me of, summarizing and offering a translated excerpt from this story.

(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 Nullstellen
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. On the Quantum Theoretic Implications of Newton's Alchemy by Alex Kasman
  2. The Geometry of Narrative by Hilbert Schenck
  3. Arcadia by Iain Pears
  4. The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi
  5. Snow by Geoffrey A. Landis
  6. Oracle by Greg Egan
  7. La formule: (A story of fourth dimension) by Jean Ray
  8. Aurora in Four Voices by Catherine Asaro
  9. Luminous by Greg Egan
  10. Proof by Induction by José Pablo Iriarte
Ratings for Nullstellen:
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:
4/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MediumShort Stories,

Home All New Browse Search About

Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)