a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|After his life falls apart, an engineer tries to revive a collaboration with the fundamentalist Christian with whom he once wrote two patents based on the Bible. While he viewed these patents for what were essentially "the soul" and "Creation" as facetious attempts to get enough money to buy a boat, his partner viewed them a part of God's will to reveal himself through their efforts.
Most of the math in the book comes in the form of the two main female characters. One is Kat, a prodigy who lives in the same building as the engineer and needs his help since her father is dead and her mother thinks she is dead. This child is supposed to be so brilliant that she independently discovered calculus to solve some problems in her algebra class. She's also pretty cool! When she's not skateboarding or designing sophisticated neural networks, Kat draws mathematically inspired pictures and speculates about the soul.
The other mathematical character is Emmy Nutter, a physicist who we first encounter teaching her students about the connections between symmetries and conservation laws. Cognoscenti will recognize her name as a pun on Emmy Noether and the topic of discussion as being Noether's Theorem. In fact, the author claims that this character is supposed to be somehow basedon Noether. I see a few small connections, they are both childless and dedicated teachers, Nutter is supposed to have an undergraduate degree in math, and of course the names. However, Nutter is quite wild and "hot" and for the most part not at all how I imagine Emmy Noether. (Apparently Stephens imagines differently!) Emmy has faith in current physics dogma as fervently as the other character believes in God's involvement in his personal affairs, and much of the tension in the book derives from the conflict between these two extreme views.
Since Stephens is trained as a physicist, he does know some math, but his lack of true expertise shows through in a few places (such as when he treats "arbitrarily close to zero" as if it were equivalent to "very, very close to zero" rather than its true meaning which is "for every non-zero number no matter how close to zero it may be"). But, the math is really not the main point.
What is the main point? For me, it was a fun read. I liked several of the characters, especially Kat. I was sufficiently entertained and curious to read it all the way through, and did not feel at all as if I'd wasted my time.
On the other hand, based on the reviews from other readers, I get the feeling that many people consider this book deep and a source of philosophy. It certainly talks a lot about religion, quantum physics, identity theory (as in that branch of philosophy that considers how we can tell whether a person is the same person from moment to moment, or which of the two Commander Riker's on Star Trek is the real one), and the soul. For me, however, this philosophical aspect of the book recalls that famous joke about an expert analysis of a new research paper: "This paper is both good and original. Unfortunately, the parts that are good are not original, and the parts that are original are not good!"
This book was originally published in electronic form at Scribd.com and is now also available as a paperback.
|Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com.|
|(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)|
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)