a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Fairytale of the Completely Symmetrical Butterfly (2003)
Dietmar Dath
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

I have long thought that Emmy Noether deserved to be the heroine of a work of mathematical fiction. I had even begun writing a story of my own to fill this gap. But, have no fear, since Dietmar Dath has admirably contributed this piece of "magical realism".

For the most part, this is a biography of Emmy Noether from her childhood, through her education, her rise to prominence in the mathematical circles of Germany of the early 20th century, and finally her "exile" in the United States during the Nazi years. It does not shy away from serious issues like sexism and anti-semitism. It does not actually discuss her mathematical results in detail, despite including a detailed definition of the mathematical terms ring and ideal. In particular, Noether's Theorem -- an important result in mathematical physics connecting conservation laws (part of analysis) and symmetries (part of algebra) -- is only hinted at by the talking butterfly.

Oh, did I forget to mention the talking butterfly that knows about supersymmetric theories of particle physics when Emmy was a child? That's the magical part. It is what makes this into a work of fiction, which I like, and its appearance also helps to soften the sadness of her tragic death. However, to the extent that the "hints" from the butterfly seem to lessen Noether's achievement I cannot help feeling that this is a bit unfair.

That's my only complaint. Otherwise, this is a beautifully written piece. Best of all, it saves y'all from having to read my attempt at incorporating Emmy Noether into a story!

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Works Similar to The Fairytale of the Completely Symmetrical Butterfly
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Mandelbrot the Magnificent by Liz Ziemska
  2. Emmy Noether: The Mother of Modern Algebra by Margaret B.W. Tent
  3. Murder, She Conjectured by Alex Kasman
  4. Instantiation by Greg Egan
  5. Emmy's Time by Anthony Bonato
  6. The Parrot's Theorem by Denis Guedj
  7. Partition by Ira Hauptman
  8. The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer
  9. Lovesong of the Electric Bear by Snoo Wilson (playwright)
  10. Uniform Convergence: A One-Woman Play by Corrine Yap
Ratings for The Fairytale of the Completely Symmetrical Butterfly:
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 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

GenreHistorical Fiction, Fantasy,
MotifAcademia, Real Mathematicians, Female Mathematicians,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory, Mathematical Physics, Real Mathematics,
MediumShort Stories,

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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)