a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
This succinct, well-writtten fable captures the polemics between Hilbert and Brouwer related to Hilbert's Formalist position and Brouwer's Constructivist position vis a vis the foundations of mathematics (in particular, the use of devices like the law of excluded middle applied to infinite sets and reductio ad absurdum). The fabular setting is in a forest where animals are mathematicians, philosophers and scientists, Hilbert playing the role of a mouse and Brouwer a frog. The title and the characterization goes back to Einstein, who, upon hearing about the acrimonious exchange between the two mathematicians, asked: "What is this frog and mouse battle?". The fable ends with the annnouncement of Godel's result and a mathematical poem.
For people not familiar with the issues, a good background start would be in Hal Hellman's book, "Great Feuds in Mathematics: Ten of the Liveliest Disputes Ever" which delves into the blow-by-blow between Hilbert and Brouwer, as well as the related Wikipedia articles.
Appeared in Mathematical Intelligencer, VOL. 6, NO. 2, 1984,
reprinted 1992 in Pi in the Sky.
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Exciting News: The total number of works of mathematical fiction listed in this database recently reached a milestone. The 1,500th entry is The Man of Forty Crowns by Voltaire. Thanks to Vijay Fafat for writing the summary of that work (and so many others). I am also grateful to everyone who has contributed to this website. Heck, I'm grateful to everyone who visited the site. Thank you!
(Maintained by Alex Kasman,
College of Charleston)