a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|An administrator in the math department of a major research institute
has to decide how to handle a paper which proves the inconsistency of
Euclidean geometry. |
Math is definitely central to this story, but there is not much elaboration of the mathematical concepts (like the reported inconsistency of Euclidean geometry). The story concentrates more on how knowledge of this discovery will affect the mathematical and scientific communities and the world at large.
The protagonist of the story (Dr. Donald Lucus) is in a position to either support or block publication of the dangerous new proof by a young mathematician. In this way, he can be compared to Leopold Kronecker when he was in a position to block publication of Georg Cantor's theories on infinite sets and transfinite numbers. However, the portrayal of Lucus is very sympathetic since he is shown as being concerned with the effects on society of publication. Although history has proven Kronecker wrong, he was also convinced that he was doing the right thing, and probably for what he thought were adequate reasons.
This story can also be compared to the discovery and revelation of non-Euclidean geometry. In fact, a brief reference is made in the story to a Hungarian mathematician (of another name) which may be a nod to Janos Bolyai.
I really enjoyed the symbolism of the narrator's friendship with the artist. The artist represents how mathematicians view ourselves: a creator of beautiful and horrible works of art (hence the title, a reference to the poem by the same name). The narrator does not mourn the death of the artist until the publishing of the proof. Until this point, he was in denial about the death of mathematics, and by metaphor, his self perception.
|More information about this work can be found at another page on this Website.|
|(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.)|
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)