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Lines of Longitude (1997)
Stephen Baxter
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

The story tries to delve into Hawking's idea of imaginary time - how it may occur that at the beginning of the universe, time and space were ambiguously defined, smeared out into each other as a flattened patch of space-time instead of a sharp cusp of the big bang. Some geometrical explanation of how any point on the surface of a sphere can be considered a pole with radiating longitudinal lines (lines of great circle) follows and tied into the geometrical explanation of the Hawking-Hartle scheme (related to the removal of the big bang singularity in a cosmological model incorporating imaginary time). But frankly, I was at a loss to understand the setting of the story. Why were there UFOs figuring in? How did some crazed mind of an elderly student end up at a self-created pole of space-time big bang? Why did he find some girl there (and was this girl his teacher, who also ends up at that pole?)? And in general, why was anything happening the way it was described? It sounds all very mystical, which is fine by me since it's a Baxter. But not particularly satisfying.

Originally in "Dark of the Night" ed. Stephen Jones, 1997.
Also available in "Phase Space".

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Works Similar to Lines of Longitude
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Approaching Perimelasma by Geoffrey A. Landis
  2. Schwarzschild Radius by Connie Willis
  3. The Cube Root of Conquest by Rog Phillips
  4. The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
  5. The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke / Stephen Baxter
  6. La formule: (A story of fourth dimension) by Jean Ray
  7. Snow by Geoffrey A. Landis
  8. The Logic Pool by Stephen Baxter
  9. Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter
  10. Dante Dreams by Stephen Baxter
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GenreScience Fiction,
TopicMathematical 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)