a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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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. Love and a Triangle by Stanley Waterloo
  2. The Babelogic of Mathematics by Vijay Fafat
  3. Axiom of Dreams by Arula Ratnakar
  4. Proof by Induction by José Pablo Iriarte
  5. Lean Your Loneliness Slowly Against Mine [Lene din ensomhet langsomt mot min] by Klara Hveberg
  6. Barr’s Problem by Julian Hawthorne
  7. The Shadow of the God by Charles Newman Hall
  8. Three Plates on the Table [Tres platos en la mesa] by José María Gironella
  9. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  10. Cantor’s Dragon by Craig DeLancy
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Mathematical Content:
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Literary Quality:
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MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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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)