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The Universe Broke Down (1941)
Robert Arthur

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

Jeremiah Jupiter was an extremely rich, eccentric genius who built an antenna which could take some strange meteorite material called “magna” and amplify cosmic rays to disintegrate the magna, giving rise to what he very modestly called, “Jupiter Fourth Dimensional Effect”. As he explains:

(quoted from The Universe Broke Down)

“It’s the heart and soul of my apparatus for short-circuiting the spatial dimension: for — to make a crude analogy in an effort to get the whole thing clear inside your unscientific mind — drilling a hole sideways through space.

“I’ll give you an example. Suppose two ants are on a sheet of paper — a two-dimensional world. Suppose they’re on opposite sides of the paper, and want to join each other. One of them will have to crawl clear across the sheet, over the edge, and clear back on the other side. That’s equivalent to traveling distance, or through space, in our three-dimensional world. But suppose one of the ants invents an apparatus for drilling a hole in the paper, through which it can crawl in an instant to join the other. That would be equivalent to my Spatial By-pass apparatus, which utilizes a pseudo-fourth dimension of its own creation to make it possible to move from one spot to another without traversing the intervening distance.”

The genius does not take into account the 15-minute travel time through the hyper-spatial jumps when he fires some bullets, golf balls, a tomahawk hatchet, etc. through the spatial hole he creates with the apparatus, resulting in a very silly situation of objects hurtling "around the universe", passing the firing location repeatedly. As to why he thinks they are going "around the universe" I don't know.

Very childishly written fiction but hinges entirely on the geometry of higher dimension.

The Universe Broke Down was published in June 7, 1947 issue of Argosy.

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Works Similar to The Universe Broke Down
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Magic Staircase by Nelson Slade Bond
  2. The Dangerous Dimension by L. Ron Hubbard
  3. The Gostak and the Doshes by Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
  4. The Fifth-Dimension Catapult by Murray Leinster
  5. The Cube Root of Conquest by Rog Phillips
  6. Technical Error by Arthur C. Clarke
  7. The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator by Murray Leinster
  8. The Vanishing Man by Richard Hughes
  9. Through the Black Board by Joel Rogers
  10. The Professor's Experiments - The Dimension of Time by Paul Bold
Ratings for The Universe Broke Down:
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Mathematical Content:
1/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
2/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifHigher/Lower Dimensions,
MediumShort Stories,

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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)