a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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2+2=5 (2006)
Rudy Rucker / Terry Bisson
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

A retired insurance adjuster and a math professor who was fired for telling his students that there are "holes" in the number line pass the time by trying to break a world record for counting. To achieve this they interface the insurance adjuster's brain to the professor's computer. Not only do they break the record, at least momentarily, but they get a chance to address the professor's idea that some whole numbers simply don't exist.

It is interesting to me how this story so completely blends the styles of Rucker and Bisson that I cannot identify whose writing it more closely resembles. And, the characterizations are somewhat entertaining. However, the story seems like a drawn out joke and I did not find the punchline (given away in the title) was sufficiently funny for the buildup. Perhaps I am expecting too much from such well known authors. The story certainly qualifies as "pleasant nonsense". So, if that's all you're looking for then this story is for you.

According to the notes Rucker wrote about this story in Mad Professor, the inspiration was graffiti which read "2+2=5" and an attempt to justify this claim. Actually, it is a pretty standard one-liner on buttons and t-shirts worn by math nerds. The whole joke often goes "2+2=5...for large values of 2."

This story was first published in Interzone #205 (July-August 2006) and is reprinted in Rucker's collection Mad Professor.

Note Added October 2012: The author has written to let me know that many (all?) of his short stories are now available for free at his Website!

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Works Similar to 2+2=5
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Secret Number by Igor Teper
  2. Numbers Don't Lie by Terry Bisson
  3. Six Thought Experiments Concerning the Nature of Computation by Rudy Rucker
  4. Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker
  5. Perry Rhodan 2638: Zielpunkt Morpheus-System by Marc A. Herren
  6. Mathematical R & D by Paul J. Nahin
  7. The First Task of My Internship by Ziyin Xiong
  8. Jack and the Aktuals, or, Physical Applications of Transfinite Set Theory by Rudy Rucker
  9. Probability Pipeline by Rudy Rucker / Marc Laidlaw
  10. A New Golden Age by Rudy Rucker
Ratings for 2+2=5:
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 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
2.5/5 (2 votes)

GenreHumorous, Science Fiction,
MotifInsanity, Academia,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)