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Hidden in Glass (1931)
Paul Ernst
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A murder mystery involving a mathematical physicist. One Professor Brainard, who is claimed to have mastered "the secret of the fourth dimension" (haven't they all in the pulps?), has a serious professional thorn in his side, a physicist named Willis (the latest barb from Willis reads, "Geometry is one of the oldest intellectual pursuits and the supposition that new properties might be discovered in the relations of curves and angles - unless one enters the impossible realm of the fourth dimension! - is hardly credible...".)

Brainard creates a completely transparent glass cube inside which he can hide without being visible from the outside and contrives a situation wherein he can get away after murdering Willis. This is the central novelty of the story. In the end, a detective ends up opening the windows in the room holding t he cube and the rays of sunlight get focused on Brainard as he hides inside the cube, causing severe burns and insanity.

The reference to fourth dimension is gratuitous and indeed, the story leaves that as an unsolved mystery. The secret to the invisibility lies in a very complicated glass plate arrangement devised by Brainard which causes light to reflect around and shield the contents of the glass box from view. The plate owes its properties to what the author describes very lyrically as: "a geometric figure...a thing of flat curves and shallow angles, through and across which marched rows and rows of fractional dimensions that would guide the workmen in duplicating in glass the abstract thought of a mathematical mind". This figure was devised as Brainard

(quoted from Hidden in Glass)

worked in blind concentration, filling sheet after sheet with angles and curves and parades of algebraic symbols..[...] .cabalistic looking equations. These were woven in with other equations and geometric designs until at length, he seemed satisfied.

Published in Amazing Stories, April 1931.

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Works Similar to Hidden in Glass
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Square Cube Law by Fletcher Pratt
  2. The Image in the Mirror by Dorothy Leigh Sayers
  3. Mathematical Doom by Paul Ernst
  4. Dalrymple’s Equation by Paul Fairman
  5. The Fatal Equation by Arthur Strangeland
  6. The Adventure of the Russian Grave by William Barton / Michael Capobianco
  7. The Ultimate Crime by Isaac Asimov
  8. Into the Fourth by Adam Hull Shirk
  9. Gold Dust and Star Dust by Cyrill Wates
  10. A Modern Comedy of Science by Issac Nathanson
Ratings for Hidden in Glass:
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:
2/5 (1 votes)

GenreMystery, Science Fiction,
MotifEvil mathematicians, Higher/Lower Dimensions,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical Physics,
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)