The murder mystery in the title took
place many years ago and the only witnesses are a group of women who each
visited the crime scene for a single stretch of time. They each remember
whom they met there (each other, that is) but not when they were there.
This provides the perfect setting for a beautiful application of a theorem of mathematics (in particular, Hajos'
theorem on which graphs can be "interval graphs") to a murder mystery. You
see, the theorem says that if you have a set of intervals, and you make a
graph with a single vertex representing each interval and an edge connecting
the vertices if the intervals intersect, then the graph must have certain
properties. By graphing the testimony of the witnesses and applying the
theorem, the detective and his friend Professor Turner-Smith are able to
solve the mystery!
The French Oulipo group (their name being an acronym for "Ouvroir de
Litterature Potentielle" or "Workshop for Potential Literature") was
founded with the idea of letting mathematics influence literature.
Moreover, they have been creating works based on their manifesto ever since
the 1970's. So, you might think that they would have created a lot of
mathematical fiction for me to put here on this page. However, so far, the
only works I have found suitable are this one, first published in
Bibliotheque Oulipienne No. 67 (1994) and the fantasy novel The Princess Hoppy.... You see, they
have since expanded their original goal to include all sorts of writing
with unnatural restrictions. Moreover, even when they purport to be
writing mathematically oriented literature, what they often wind up with is
bizarre nonsensical essays that sound vaguely mathematical. (For instance,
an attempt at translating Hilbert's axiomatization of geometry to
literature.) However, I have not read it all! So, if you know of any good
Oulipienne stories that I ought to have listed here, please let me know! |