a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Tau Zero (1970)
Poul Anderson
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Special relativity takes center stage in this classic science-fiction novel. So much so that the number tau, by which one must divide an object's rest mass to determine its apparent mass when travelling at a relative speed of v, is defined by a formula in the text and frequently referred to throughout the book. The plot concerns the disaster that befalls a space ship when it is unable to begin slowing down halfway through its voyage as planned.

(Originally published as a short story in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine in 1967 under the title "To Outlive Eternity".)

Contributed by Chip

A very interesting book, the mathematical explanations provided true interest in a theory, and were well used. Unfortunately they only appear in one chapter, but it was a chapter I kept referring back to throughout my reading of this book.

Contributed by Charles Freudenthal

This is the finest "hard science" science fiction I can remembe reading!

Contributed by Anonymous

I found this book to be a bland, predictable, depressing commentary on humanity. I did not enjoy it at all but there is no denying that maths and physics (some of it even accurate) play a significant role in the first half of the book.

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Works Similar to Tau Zero
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Day the Earth Stood Still by Robert Wise (director) / Harry Bates (story) / Edmund H. North
  2. Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein
  3. Brain Wave by Poul Anderson
  4. The Last Starship from Earth by John Boyd
  5. Eve Times Four by Poul Anderson
  6. His Master's Voice by Stanislaw Lem
  7. Three Cornered Wheel by Poul Anderson
  8. Security by Poul Anderson
  9. Timescape by Gregory Benford
  10. Ratner's Star by Don DeLillo
Ratings for Tau Zero:
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:
3/5 (5 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (5 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
TopicMathematical Physics,

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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)