Mathematics in Sci-Fi … lots of it!

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson, is the perfect find for my interest in mathematics in sci-fi.  Most of my previous blog comments have remarked on the passing mention of mathematics within the plot of a sci-fi novel.  This book is founded on a monastic society of philosopher-scholars whose knowledge of the theoretical far surpasses the technical world that surrounds them.  Many of the texts on my bookshelves deal with directed acyclic graphs, DAGs, but they are not fiction.  Reading the term as it is used to describe the structure of the metaverse, or polycosmi, was geekishly thrilling.  And who among you has read the phrase “symmetry group of the eighth roots of unity” in fiction?  Stephenson describes a piece of the architecture of his Mynster in those terms.  The public opinion of his “avout” over time, called Iconographies, are studied, revealing “certain patterns that recur again and again, like, like – attractors in a chaotic system.”  When the hero makes that remark, his superior says, “Spare me the poetry”!  That is exactly what I see in the use of these terms within literature, poetry.  My own attempts to do this lead me to a style I call techno-poetic.  Anathem contains enough references to real mathematics that you could create a good college course from extracting them and studying the concepts.  Or, you could read more quickly and let the mathematics become part of the setting, like the stones of the “Math.”

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