Mathematics in Sci-fi

I’m reading Orson Scott Card’s Xenocide, a book full of philosophy/religion, ethics, and many other cool deep thoughts.  Grego, the physicist, and his brother, Olhado, are in a prison cell working on a theory for FTL.  Their sister, Valentine, enters to find Grego laying on a bed with his feet up on the wall, listening to music.  Although it seems that this theory will involve “wishing makes it so”, I liked the following less “fantastic” line.
“Grego’s doing math in his head right now,” said Olhado, “so he’s functionally dead.”
The multiple meanings are intriguing.  Grego is producing no output?  And receiving no input variables either.  Yet, live functions must be wriggling through his consciousness.  Or does Grego’s math not involve functions at all, since they may involve a “wish” predicate?  Does thinking mathematics make you non-functioning?
When Grego returns to “functional life” he goes on to describe “unreal realspace”, and the outside of the infinite universe.  And off we go into the ectometaverse without seeing the multiverse?

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