a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Simple Genius (2007)
David Baldacci

A small child with an inexplicable ability to factor large numbers threatens the security of the Western world in this political thriller from popular author Baldacci. Although it is nice to see mathematics getting some attention, this plot seems a bit tired to me, and besides there are enough small problems with Baldacci's math to make me wonder whether he knows what he's talking about. Take, for instance, this passage from page 134:

(quoted from Simple Genius)

``Right. Now, the standard public key is typically a very large prime number hundreds of digits long that would take a hundred million PCs working in parallel several thousand years to figure out the two factors. However, while everyone knows the public key number, or at least your computer does, the only way to read what's being sent is by unlocking the public key using the two private keys. those keys are the two prime factors of the public key and only your computer software knows what they are. To use a simple example, the number fifty might be the public key and ten and five would be the private keys. If you know the numbers ten and five you can read the transmission.''

That's pretty close. However, Baldacci is wrong to describe the public key as being prime. In fact, the public key is not supposed to be prime but should be the product of two prime factors. Furthermore, in the "simple example", there is a problem because ten is not prime. (Take a look at my description of the RSA algorithm if you want to really know how it works.)

Contributed by Anonymous

Math elements were mostly peripheral. I thought it was tastefully done and didn't find any errors so jarring as to interrupt my enjoyment of the plot or characters.

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(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.)

Works Similar to Simple Genius
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Tetraktys by Ari Juels
  2. The Fringe (Episode: The Equation) by J.R. Orci (Screenplay) / David H. Goodman (Screenplay)
  3. Touch by Tim Kring
  4. Eye of the Beholder by Alex Kasman
  5. Mercury Rising by Harold Becker (director)
  6. Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
  7. Bone Chase by Weston Ochse
  8. The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis
  9. False Witness by Randy D. Singer
  10. The Expert by Lee Gruenfeld
Ratings for Simple Genius:
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:
2/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

MotifGenius, Prodigies,
TopicComputers/Cryptography, Algebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,

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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)