Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mathematicians in Love

If anyone else needs a fiction novel about crazy mathematicians this might help.

Rucker, Rudy. Mathematicians in Love. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 2006.

Mathematicians in Love, by Rudy Rucker, is a ridiculous science fiction novel about a couple of crazy mathematicians who fight over the love of a woman, each using mathematics to try and one up the other in order to impress the woman. The novel was intended for the average science fiction fan who has a basic knowledge of mathematics. The novel fits in with our topic because it is yet another literary example of how mathematicians are portrayed as "crazy" in our culture. Ultimately, we will be dealing with how closely these portrayals relate across movies, articles, documentaries and novels. This novel is written from an interesting perspective, from a real mathematician, unlike many of our other sources. Rudy Rucker has her P.H.D. in mathematical logic, has written a number of fiction novels, and still chooses to portray her mathematical protagonists as "crazy." There is a specific quote from the book that caught our attention which might help us define what we mean by "crazy":
"Crazy means illogical. I'm logical. Therefore I'm not crazy. Note that a system can be at the same time logical and unpredictable."


Kyle Caffey said...

I like that last quote there.

I still think that there is a bit of clearifying that needs to happen. I think that "logical" has even become a sort of subjective term. Do you mean that a "logical" person is someone who always appeals to logic when thinking or making decisions? Or is it that their actions and decisions follow a structured justified pattern?

What about someone who tends to act impulsively? They see a car they want, and they buy it. Suppose they are in severe financial debt. Then nothing about buying that car seems logical. The decision was not thought through well. But would we want to call this person "crazy"?

Lucia said...

I checked out this book from the library too! In fact, I was in the elevator at the RLM and a professor saw me holding the book. He said, "Hmm. I bet that is a short book."