Friday, January 25, 2008


Perhaps as glaring as a misspelled word or a grammatical error is to some, the misuse of mathematical terminology in this book is hard for me to overlook. My friend Ana and I are both math majors, and while we were at first excited to learn about the integration (haha) of mathematics into the novel, We, we are rather disappointed with the contrived and often incorrect allusions to mathematical concepts.

Partially in response to an earlier blog entry, and partially because it has been haunting us since page 39, I would like to mention that i is NOT irrational! Irrational numbers, as correctly described, are a subset of the Real Numbers. i is an Imaginary number, and thus, not a Real number. Imaginary and irrational numbers are different. Quod Erat Demonstrandum (QED).

Zamyatin could have used the square root of 2 instead of the square root of negative 1 . Maybe it was a mistake in translation. Or maybe, the word “irrational” was used in the purely English sense to mean either illogical or unreasonable. Let me point out that in a novel whose essence is derived from double entendres of words applicable in daily speech that also have mathematical significance, it is dangerous to use “irrational” or “complex” lightly.

For more math bloopers, please stay tuned for Ana’s blog!


Ana said...

Oh wow! I totally agree with you! This is so insightful! And to think that someone that knows nothing about mathematics can write a book claiming to be "mathy." It's like... a right rhombus or something. It's so irrational... like a proof by contradiction. It's like... if he writes this book, and then he writes n more, wouldn't the n+1th be just as terrible... like by induction! I loved your post!

kdl63 said...

This is the only class where someone could criticize such an influential book because of some math mistakes. It is also the only class where the majority of the class, including me, understands the mistakes and finds them to be hillarious. I never would admit that anywhere else other than Literature and Mathmatics. Keep the bloopers comming!

Lucia said...

We seem to be in the right place! Thanks for the comment.