MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Letters From Incompleteness (2021)
Jonah Howell
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This creative work of fiction takes the form of love letters from an unidentified narrator who has become obsessed with Kurt Gödel and his incompleteness theorems.

Some of the discussion of Gödel's work takes on the tone of a non-fictional essay looking skeptically at the role that contradiction plays in its proof. For example,

(quoted from Letters From Incompleteness)

For clarity: If the statement “I am unprovable in this logical system” is provable in that system, Kurt thought it must be false. If it can’t be proven, he thought that made it true, which proved that the system had unprovable true statements and so was incomplete. Either way, if the sentence “I am unprovable in this system” can be formulated in some system, that system proves its own incompleteness.

But it is not self-evident that the provability of an unprovable statement is unacceptable. It is only true if we add an axiom to our system—namely “A contradiction implies that one of the contradictory terms is false.” But what if both are true? I am in a cube, for instance. I am also not. A quark, unobserved, has both positive and negative spin. You are here and not here. The list could go on forever.

But, this is embedded in two layers of fiction. On the one hand, there is a fictionalized account of the relationship between Kurt and his wife Adele, especially in the time around his death.

And that, in turn, is embedded within the ramblings of the letter writer which ties them all together through an analogy between the author's situation and Gödel's:

(quoted from Letters From Incompleteness)

So, to generalize his arguments, I can’t glue myself together on my own. I plan to adjust to your time, to formulate all of myself to you, or to some future phantasmal version of you, but even as I do that, I see quite clearly that I am nothing but a collective being that wears my name. There has to be something outside that collective that glues it together.

Published in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics Volume 11 Issue 2.

More information about this work can be found at scholarship.claremont.edu.
(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 Letters From Incompleteness
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Goddess of Small Victories [La déesse des petites victoire] by Yannick Grannec
  2. Shakespeare Predicted it All by Dietmar Dath
  3. The Shackles of Conviction by James R. Meyer
  4. Waiting for Citizen Gödel by Howard V. Hendrix
  5. Continuums by Robert Carr
  6. Division by Zero by Ted Chiang
  7. Cantor’s Dragon by Craig DeLancy
  8. The Axiom of Choice by David W. Goldman
  9. Lucy and David and the God Equation by Alan McKenzie
  10. The Monty Hall Problem by Rebekah Bergman
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Categories:
Genre
MotifInsanity, Romance, Religion, Gödel,
TopicReal Mathematics, Logic/Set Theory,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)