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A Modern Comedy of Science (1936)
Issac Nathanson

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

Prof. Newell “had a reputation for his profound researches into the realm of theoretical physics; a great mathematician in the thin heights where few could follow him. His lectures on the fourth dimension, in which he specialized, had always been fascinating”. His young daughter was killed by a speeding automobile a couple of years ago, an incident which left him a broken man. But he recovers from the trauma, determined to implement some social engineering by taking on a secret identity of “Utopian Reformer”. As he explains to the stereotypical story-prop, the newspaper-man,

(quoted from A Modern Comedy of Science)

“after years of intense research into unknown fields of mathematical physics, to discover a plane of existence which the science of the higher mathematics has long pointed to, although never materialized, and which, for want of a better name, has been called the fourth dimension. I have evolved a practical means of entering this hitherto closed fourth-dimensional plane or sphere of existence through a powerful process of manipulating and bending the space-time relationship, or Einsteinean Interval.”

With this ability to utilize the higher dimension to achieve invisibility, he starts issuing public-service dictats to regulate social behavior, beginning with enforcement of road speed limits and meteing out punishing for violations by causing destruction of vehicles through the fourth dimension. This is followed by a few other adventures, including beating up the town mayor, forcing a few government officials to resign, and so on. Till he suffers some equipment failure and gets discovered. The story ends with standard passages explaining higher dimensions, analogy with flatlanders, etc.

Originally published in Amazing Stories, April 1936.

Available Free Online at "A Modern Comedy of Science" is available as a PDF from Vijay Fafat and Prof. Mythili Vutukuru's website.

(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to A Modern Comedy of Science
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Land of No Shadow by Carl H Claudy
  2. Into the Fourth by Adam Hull Shirk
  3. Gold Dust and Star Dust by Cyrill Wates
  4. The Captured Cross-Section by Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
  5. The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator by Murray Leinster
  6. Technical Error by Arthur C. Clarke
  7. The Cube Root of Conquest by Rog Phillips
  8. The Fifth-Dimension Catapult by Murray Leinster
  9. The Gostak and the Doshes by Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
  10. The Dangerous Dimension by L. Ron Hubbard
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GenreScience Fiction,
MotifHigher/Lower Dimensions,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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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)