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Euler's Equation (2019)
Neil Hudson

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

There are certain things in life which strike people as proof of existence of a transcendent power, a mystical presence of something beyond the mundane laws of the sciences. To some, Euler’s equation connecting i, 1, 0, pi and e is one such divine object, a signal set by the Creator to pronounce, “I AM”. The author takes this idea and runs with it...

So one day, Euler’s Equation works, and then, it doesn't. Mathematics has changed, somehow. Prof Carlton remarks:

(quoted from Euler's Equation)

“Euler’s equation was the proof,” I said. “It was God’s covenant with mankind, like the rainbow after the flood. It said, the universe isn’t just chance, it’s designed. All the basic elements of reality fit together like a jigsaw. The equation is God’s signature, just to let us know he’s still here. But now the equation doesn’t hold; God has left the building.”

People are perplexed, but people don’t know what it is that is changing. For the next day, imaginary numbers stop existing. Numbers start failing, as does Geometry.

(quoted from Euler's Equation)

“The universe is getting simpler. We’re winding down. The game’s over,” I said. “It’s as if the exam’s just finished, and we’ve handed in our papers. You can carry on working through the problem if you want, but it won’t affect your grade any more. It’s too late to be good..”

And then.... philosophical speculations which I found to be very appealing hand-waving and interesting reading, if too short. Is this God’s handiwork? Is Euler’s equation “complete” (I suppose “modifiable” to form a new mathematical universe)? If it is not, does that point to a path to the higher reality orthogonal to the one which we have assumed? As the conclusion goes,

(quoted from Euler's Equation)

“We’re working to find the equations that describe the real universe. Somewhere, there is a world with a God, where real people can work and love. Where Euler’s equation [Reviewer: the left hand side of Euler’s equation] doesn’t make 0. And this time, we (mathematicians) won’t just describe it. People look to us for answers now, and we will find them. With our constants and our mathematical relationships, we will find God.”

Of course, the idea that Euler's Equation changes, along with many other things but leaves large parts of the working universe intact during the gradual wind-down process challenges the fact that all of mathematics is interconnected, flowing for the most part from some basic set-theoretic notions (ZFC). However, once you invoke God and a higher-dimensional shadow, it is easy to believe that the mathematical changes envisioned form a smooth(ish) eversion process, where the axioms are somehow changing consistently to ensure that Euler's equation and many other things break down gradually but other implications of the original ZFC continue to be respected, in a Reverse Mathematics style. In any case, demanding such consistency of fabulist or absurdist fiction is folly :-)

Available from Neil Hudson - Euler's Equation Sci Phi Journal 2019 Q4

More information about this work can be found at
(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 Euler's Equation
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Luck be a Lady by Dean Wesley Smith
  2. Unreasonable Effectiveness by Alex Kasman
  3. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
  4. Borzag and the Numerical Apocalypse by Jason Earls
  5. The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine by Greg Egan
  6. Genghis Khan and 888 by Jason Earls
  7. 2+2=5 by Rudy Rucker / Terry Bisson
  8. life.exe by Jason Rogers
  9. Freemium by Louis Evans
  10. On Another Plane by Colin Adams
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GenreHumorous, Science Fiction,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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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)