a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Ultimate Crime (1976)
Isaac Asimov
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

We all know that Sherlock Holmes' arch enemy was a mathematician, right? (If not, check out Sherlock Holmes.) In fact, his second famous paper was on the dynamics of an asteroid. Now, you may ask, why is the greatest criminal mind of all time interested in asteroids? Isaac Asimov suggests that his interest was completely diabolical. (To wit, the idea turning the Earth into just another asteroid belt was appealing.)

The non-integrability of the three-body gravitational problem is discussed explicitly (as is the perturbation method used to address such problems in practice). The role of general relativity in correctly predicting the orbit of Mercury is also discussed.

Ironically, this story about a Black Widower (cf. other Black Widower mystries) who wants to join the Baker Street Irregulars by determining Moriarty's interest in asteroids is also Asimov's work intended to gain him entry to the Irregulars.

It is interesting to compare this story to The Adventure of the Russian Grave which takes a much less mathematically sophisticated approach to the same problem. See also Professor and Colonel, a short-story by Ruth Berman which similarly considers Moriarty's thoughts about his reseach, but with a very different result.

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Works Similar to The Ultimate Crime
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Adventure of the Russian Grave by William Barton / Michael Capobianco
  2. Professor and Colonel by Ruth Berman
  3. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows by Guy Ritchie (director)
  4. Schaurige Mathematik by Alexander Mehlmann
  5. The Incredible Umbrella by Marvin Kaye
  6. Moriarty by Modem by Jack Nimersheim
  7. Mirror Image by Isaac Asimov
  8. The Square Cube Law by Fletcher Pratt
  9. Dalrymple’s Equation by Paul Fairman
  10. Hidden in Glass by Paul Ernst
Ratings for The Ultimate Crime:
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:
2.33/5 (3 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (3 votes)

GenreMystery, Science Fiction,
MotifEvil mathematicians, Sherlock Holmes,
TopicMathematical Physics,
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)