a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for hardcore fans of science fiction.
|This short novel lives up to its name: it really is about a blind
geometer! Carlos Oleg Nevsky was born blind and ``since 2043'' has
been a professor of mathematics at GWU. We get some interesting
discussion of the advantages/disadvantages a blind person might have
in picturing the abstract spaces that concern modern geometers. We
also get a little bit of real mathematics in the form of an
introduction to projective geometry and one of its elementary
results, Desargues's Theorem (including a reasonable proof in the
affine case and a hand-waving approach when infinity is involved).
The villain in this story is Carlos' colleague Jeremy Blasingame:
The plot thickens when Jeremy puts Carlos in touch with the beautiful, sexy and mysterious ``subject'' Mary who cannot speak normally and draws pictures of projective space.
There are a few clever science fiction aspects here, it's kind of cute the way the sections are labelled like the diagram proving the theorem, and I enjoyed the presentation of the mathematics, but I found the resolution of the mystery disappointing. (I think I am more focused on the end of books and stories than some other people since I am often disappointed in this way. If the end of a story isn't the best part, it spoils the whole thing for me.)
This story is too long to be a real short story and too short to be a novel. It was published as ``Tor Double Novel 13'' along with Ursula K. Le Guin's ``The New Atlantis''. Unfortunately, these double novels are hard to find. (I don't think libraries like them much...where do you shelve them?) I was able to find my copy at one of the online used book services.
Thanks to Ken Miller for pointing out that this story is also available in The Mammoth Book of Modern Science Fiction : Short Novels of the 1980s and Nebula Awards 23, which are not readily available for purchase but are at least more likely to be in your local library.
Carlos Oleg Nevsky is, of course, a fictional blind mathematician. But, there are real historical examples, too. See this 2002 article from the AMS Notices for some non-fictional blind mathematicians, including the blind geometer Bernard Morin.
|More information about this work can be found at www.amazon.com.
|(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.)
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)
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)