a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Gödel's Sunflowers (1992)
Stephen Baxter
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)
Highly Rated!

Far in the future, a human explores a giant fractal construction which is a physical realization of the total knowledge of the creatures which created it long ago. In the process he learns about Gödel's Theorem. Apparently, Incompleteness forms a fundamental aspect of the worldview of these aliens, and this explains why the construction seeks to collect (but not interpret) knowledge and why it is waiting patiently for the continued expansion of the universe. Personally, I have always thought that the supposed philosophical implications of Gödelian incompleteness is blown out of proportion, but this story is fun and mindblowing nevertheless. (If I am to be picky, I could also complain about the claim that a snowflake is an example of a fractal. Although it may have self-similarity of complexity on several different scales, according to any current physical theory this complexity breaks down as one nears the atomic level.)

Contributed by Kyle Ankeny

I think [Vacuum Diagrams] is an excellent Hard SF book. It spans 5 million years of human history, through wars with the Xeelee, the fall of civilization (sort of), and the final victory of Dark Matter life over Baryonic life. It is an epic book, and the physics in it sometimes make you just sit back and say 'wow'. It deals with all areas of science, from biology to mathematics. I highly recommend you try to get this book (I first read it from the library, and then bought it on EBay for $1.00!), I believe there was a few copies on EBay, and there may be more than when I got mine. So maybe the characterization in the book isn't the greatest, but the book isn't about character development, it's about epic ideas.

Originally published in Interzone 1992 and reprinted in the collection Vacuum Diagrams. See also The Logic Pool.

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Works Similar to Gödel's Sunflowers
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Gödel's Doom by George Zebrowski
  2. The Logic Pool by Stephen Baxter
  3. Luminous by Greg Egan
  4. Gödel geht [Gödel's Exit] by Andreas Findig
  5. Axiom of Dreams by Arula Ratnakar
  6. Paradox by John Meaney
  7. Planck Zero by Stephen Baxter
  8. The Difference Engine by William Gibson / Bruce Sterling
  9. The Goddess of Small Victories [La déesse des petites victoire] by Yannick Grannec
  10. The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
Ratings for Gödel's Sunflowers:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
3.2/5 (5 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (5 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifAliens, Kurt Gödel,
TopicChaos/Fractals, Logic/Set Theory,
MediumShort Stories,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)