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The Sirdar's Chess-Board (1885)
Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer

A military bride travelling in Afghanistan is surprised when a mystic is able to cut up a chess board ("with three snips of my scissors") and put it back together so that the number of squares has increased from 64 to 65. An illustration of the cuts used appears in the text and seems at first to lead to the contradictory conclusion that 64=65:
Of course, it is not actually possible to change the area of a board from 64 square inches to 65 square inches with three cuts and some rearrangement. The explanation is that there are small deviations in the rearrangement that are too subtle for us to see with the naked eye. (In other words, the right triangle you see in the second figure is not actually a right triangle!) For a similar "paradox" and an explanation, see MathWorld's description of the Triangle Dissection Paradox.

(Appeared as Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 10 (1885), 359—73.)

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Works Similar to The Sirdar's Chess-Board
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  2. Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes by Herbert George Wells
  4. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  5. Star, Bright by Mark Clifton
  6. The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
  7. Young Archimedes by Aldous Huxley
  8. An Old Arithmetician by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman
  9. Saint Joan of New York: A Novel About God and String Theory by Mark Alpert
  10. A Universe of Sufficient Size by Miriam Sved
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Mathematical Content:
4/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
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MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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