a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
Yes, I have now finally read this story and I must concur with the author: there is nothing about humans dominating the aliens as I read it either. This was something that whoever first wrote to me about the story saw in it from their own interpretation. The human desire to dominate, which in the story is attributed to an "expansionist" religion that drives people to colonize new planets, is one of the things the protagonist of the story opposes. In fact, the nice pacifist viewpoint is something I liked. In the end, it is those who are not interested in dominating anyone (on both sides) who are the winners and create a collaborative community.
But, the most interesting thing about the story, of course, is the mathematics! Unfortunately, I cannot really discuss it without giving away the ending. So, if you have any intention of reading the story (and think you stand a chance of finding it...which is not that easy), then you should stop reading now.
Spoiler Warning: From this point on, I will give away important details that will make it harder for you to read the story for enjoyment later.
The aliens, like so many human cultures, call themselves "people" and think that their rules of behavior only apply to other "people". At first, they think the humans who have come to their planet are people, too. But, at some point they decide that they were mistaken and this threatens the existence of the humans...most specifically it threatens the life of the human alienologist who is our protagonist. To prove that he (and his colleagues) deserve the rights of "people", he must convince the aliens that he can do something they cannot. He knows that they are not interested in buildings or technology..that's just not the way they are. So, he tries to stump them with mathematics and logic. He tries Russell's paradox, Gödel's theorem, the Four Color Theorem (redescribed in terms of grass growing so that the aliens will appreciate it) and relativity...but none of these prove any challenge for the wise alien who sees all of this as rather simple. But then, it turns out that the human is able to impress them with Euclidean geometry (in particular, a theorem about the intersection of angle bisectors in a triangle). This is ironic, of course, because it is an example of relatively elementary mathematics to us.
|(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.)|
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)