a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Mathematical Doom (1936)
Paul Ernst
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A detective, one Mr. Pearson, catches the crooks using a little geometry. As the story tagline says,

(quoted from Mathematical Doom)

“Crooks try to subtract a copper from life - and find he had added up a Mathematical Doom for them!”

Pearson was kidnapped by some gang members and was being taken in a car to be executed. He had the presence of mind to keep a count of a particular sound in the car and once he escaped, it was a relatively easy way for the police to catch the gangsters. As the spoiler ahead recounts:

(quoted from Mathematical Doom)

Sure,” said Pearson. “ I got the idea as soon as I heard it. Count the number of times that loose chain slapped the fender between each turn, and you’d have the distance the car went with me blindfolded in it. So I did. “We went fifteen hundred slaps north from the electric bread sign, eight hundred and twelve to the left, sixteen hundred and fifty-four to the right. But on the last turn I stopped us at fourteen hundred before we gave our hand away. That left two hundred and fiftyfour more turns of the wheel. Thirty-two inches wheel-diameter, times 3.141, or about three and a seventh. is the number of inches the car travels with each wheel turn. Multiply ’em out and you get four tenths of a mile —which was the distance ahead of us to Golden’s hang-out.”

Ames shook his head. “God help the crooks in this burg if you ever get past mathematics and start using algebra on them!” he said.

Normally, I would not consider a work of fiction including simple arithmetic to be a candidate for this database of mathematical fiction. However, I was convinced to create an entry for it by Vijay Fafat, a frequent contributor to this site.

Mathematical Doom was originally published in the June 1, 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine, pages 102--110.

(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 Mathematical Doom
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Hidden in Glass by Paul Ernst
  2. The Problem of Cell 13 by Jacques Futrelle
  3. The Bird with the Broken Wing by Agatha Christie
  4. The One Best Bet [Flashlight] by Samuel Hopkins Adams
  5. The Elusive Bullet by John Rhode (aka Cecil John Charles Street)
  6. L.A. Math: Romance, Crime and Mathematics in the City of Angels by James D. Stein
  7. Adventure of the Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. One Under the Eight by Catherine Aird
  9. Percentage Player by Leslie Charteris
  10. Getting the Combination by Isaac Asimov
Ratings for Mathematical Doom:
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.


MotifMath as Beautiful/Exciting/Useful,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,
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)