Math in Sci-Fi: Jack London’s The Star Rover

Jack London’s hero is in solitary confinement on death row, trying to pass the time. London devotes a paragraph to one of his techniques. “I squared and cubed long series of numbers, and by concentration and will carried on most astonishing geometric progressions.” This was long before calculators and apps destroyed the ability of students to do arithmetic and make change. Trachtenberg had an interesting book on how to do mental arithmetic, which I read and managed to do briefly before moving on. “I even dallied with the squaring of the circle … until I found myself beginning to believe that that possibility could be accomplished. Whereupon, realizing that there, too, lay madness, I forwent squaring the circle, although I assure you it required a considerable sacrifice on my part, for the mental exercise involved was a splendid time-killer.” That made me smile at the memory of trying to construct an angle trisection back in elementary geometry. I should say that I see this book as early science fiction with a metaphysical theme, which is why I read it. Those reasons appear in the next post.

Coincidence or destiny?

I just went down to my local bakery to get a donut and coffee to celebrate the publication of my latest book, The Strange Reincarnation Of Lucinda Tarne, when my fiction and my reality crashed into each other. It was an OMG moment for sure! I met Yori 02 and his friends, either waiting for a train, or a danish. (See pic)
Without giving too much away, let me tell you that the book is about the development of an artificial intelligence from a fortune telling arcade machine, through the open source iCub project for universities, and into the sci-fi future of VIA Inc’s (think Apple) Wonderball replacement for Alexa. Lucinda Tarne’s unexpected reincarnation is the plot twist. The fragments of the sequel, tentatively titled Wonderball Apocalypse, are already running rampant through my mind. The ‘Apocalypse’ should give you a hint at why meeting Yori 02 on the sidewalk in my hometown freaked me out!
My first book was The Fifth Prophet. If I am a prophet, it is an uncomfortable profession. Has my writing crossed over the edge of reality, blurred the boundary between science and fiction? Was the meeting a simple coincidence, or something more?