Synopses & Reviews
- Jorge Luis Borges and the mystery of the infinite Library of Babel
- Alan Lightman and Einsteins dreams about entropy
- Rudy Rucker and a machine that plays the music of mathematics
- Martin Gardner and a visit to the Church of the Fourth Dimension
Enter the wildly inventive world of Imaginary Numbers, in which a marvelous roster of acclaimed writers conjure up magical happenings, fantastic visions, and brainteasing puzzles, all based in some way on mathematical ideas. This delightful anthology offers a connoisseurs selection of a special brand of creative writing in which the authors play with a vast array of mathematical notionsfrom the marvels of infinity to the peculiarities of space-time to quantum weirdness, the relativity of time, and the curious attraction of black holes. Enjoy Edwin Abbott Abbotts wonderfully satirical commentary on the hard life of irregular figures, excerpted from his classic Flatland. Ponder Douglas Hofstadters story of the incredible mathematical re-creation of Johann Sebastian Bach playing his famous composition "The Well-Tempered Clavier" and contemplate the art of writing a beautiful fugue. Puzzle over Lewis Carrolls problem of the flower garden that looks like a serpent with corners. Savor Philip Dicks poignant tale of the golden man who can run at the speed of light and predict the trajectories of randomly fired bullets. Tease out the implications of Andrew Marvells brilliant analogy between love and parallel lines. Become absorbed in william Gibsons dystopian matrix world that looks like "a 3-D chessboard, infinite and perfectly transparent." As editor William Frucht writes, "Using mathematics to tell stories and using stories to explain mathematics are two sides of the same coin." The work of the creative writers collected here has blazed the trail for a new kind of writing, traveling beyond the dimensions of traditional narrative to create and explore visions of life and its possibilities that capture the beauty and intellectual thrill of seeing our world through mathematical eyes.
"William Fruchts wide-ranging compilation of mathematically flavored fiction and poetry is humorous, thought-provoking, and profoundly entertaining." John Allen Paulos author of Once Upon a Number Features, Works By
Italo Calvin Lewis Carroll Jorge Luis Borges Connie Willis William Gibson J. G. Ballard Stanislaw Lem Douglas Hofstadter Martin Gardner This delightful anthology explores the many ways in which creative writers have worked with mathematical themesfrom the marvels of infinity and the peculiarities of space-time to artificial intelligence, black holes, and quantum weirdness. Whether ruminating on the mathematical beauty of music, amusing us with logical absurdities, or conjuring up worlds of elusive, sometimes beautiful or terrifying dimensions, these writers impart a wondrous appreciation of the power, elegance, and ingenuity of mathematical thought.
"With this delightful anthology, Frucht throws a bridge across the chasm separating the 'Two Cultures' of science and literature."--Booklist
"A marvelous colledtion of diverse talents and writing."--San Diego Union-Tribune
A wildly inventive treasury of the most artful words ever written about numbers. Mathematics and writing may seem to exist in opposite realms, but as William Frucht reveals, the world of numbers has always held a special fascination for men and women of letters. Imaginary Numbers displays the fruits of this cross-fertilization by collecting the best creative writing about mathematical topics from the past hundred years. In this engaging anthology, we can explore the many ways writers have played with mathematical ideas. Delve into the fourth dimension and infinity, into fantasy and philosophy with such masters as Lewis Carroll, Edwin Abbott Abbott, Philip K. Dick, Martin Gardner, and Alan Lightman. Revel in renowned tales by Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges, cult classics such as Connie Willis's "The Schwartzschild Radius,"and lesser-known gems by such visionaries as William Gibson and A. K. Dewdney. For mathematical mavens and literary lions alike, Imaginary Numbers adds up to one fascinating read.
About the Author
William Frucht is a senior editor at Basic Books and the coauthor, with Larry Siever, of The New View of Self.
Table of Contents
Italo Calvino: The Form of Space.
Rudy Rucker: A New Golden Age.
Lewis Carroll: A Serpent with Corners (from A Tangled Tale).
J. A. Lindon: A Positive Reminder.
Raymond Smullyan: How Kazir Won His Wife.
Alan Lightman: 11 May 1905 (from Einstein's Dreams).
Roald Hoffman: Why Does Disorder Increase in the Same Direction of Time as That in Which the Universe Expands?
Philip K. Dick: The Golden Man.
Hilbert Schenck: The Morphology of the Kirkham Wreck.
Abner Shimony: Resolution of the Paradox: A Philosophical Puppet Play.
Piet Hein: Parallelism.
Douglas Hofstadter Prelude...(from Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid).
Stanislaw Lem: The Third Sally, or The Dragons of Probability (from The Seven Sallies of Trurl and Klapaucius).
Edwin Abbott Abbott: Concerning Irregular Figures (from Flatland).
Andrew Marvell: The Definition of Love.
A. K. Dewdney: On Fiddib Har (from The Planiverse: Computer Contact with a Two-Dimensional World).
Martin Gardner: The Church of the Fourth Dimension.
Stanislaw Lem: The Extraordinary Hotel, or the Thousand and First Journey of Ion the Quiet.
Anonymous: Ten Weary, Footsore Travelers.
Racter: From The Policeman's Beard Is Half-Constructed.
William Gibson: Burning Chrome.
Fritz Leiber: Gonna Roll the Bones.
Wislawa Szymborska: A Word on Statistics.
Tommaso Landolfi: Giovanni and His Wife.
Joe Haldeman: The Private War of Private Jacob.
Jorge Luis Borges: The Library of Babel.
Christian Bok: Enantiomorphosis (A Natural History of Mirrors).
Connie Willis: Schwarzschild Radius.
Siv Cedering: Letter from Caroline Herschel (1750-1848).
Yevgeny Zamyatin: From We.
J. G. Ballard: The Garden of Time.