a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Nuremberg Joys (2000)
Charles Sheffield
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Contributed by "William E. Emba"

A mathematician is on trial for war crimes, regarding his role in developing an absolutely horrendous killing weapon based on sophisticated new physics. Guilt or innocence revolves around who first wrote down the key equations, but his memory of the event is missing. And although he acknowledges being the developer, he cannot be convicted on his own confession. Memory dredging techniques are used, and reveal an incredible shock.

Numerous references to twistors, spinors, field equations, and the like abound.

Published in the March 2000 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. Recently republished in The Lady Vanishes and Other Oddities of Nature.

The interesting thing about this story is that it touches on the more general question: When an invention has been made as a result of the intuitions of a physicist turned into a usable form by a mathematician and finally made into a real object by an engineer, how should the credit/blame be distributed among the three people?

In the anthology the story is followed by a short "afterword" by the author. There, he explains that the mathematics in this story, and some of the subplot of what is happening around the mathematician during the writing, is based on his work on the real paper Classification of space-times in general relativity      (Journal of Mathematical Physics Vol 14(4) pp. 465-469. April 1973) that Sheffield wrote with R Adler.

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Nuremberg Joys
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Flight That Disappeared by Reginald Le Borg (Director)
  2. Ground Zero Man (The Peace Machine) by Bob Shaw
  3. Dark as Day by Charles Sheffield
  4. Snow by Geoffrey A. Landis
  5. La formule: (A story of fourth dimension) by Jean Ray
  6. Border Guards by Greg Egan
  7. The Mandelbrot Bet by Dirk Strasser
  8. The Second Moon by Russell R. Winterbotham
  9. Axiom of Dreams by Arula Ratnakar
  10. Diaspora by Greg Egan
Ratings for Nuremberg Joys:
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.
Mathematical Content:
4/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifEvil mathematicians, War, Math as Beautiful/Exciting/Useful,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical Physics,
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)