a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Calculating God (2000)
Robert J. Sawyer
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Though it is considerably less mathematical than Factoring Humanity, it holds together a bit better as a novel. Here, we encounter aliens who view the existence of god (a creator of the universe) as a scientifically proven fact. Together with these aliens, a representative of humanity `goes to meet his maker' in the far reaches of space where god is apparently preventing a supernova from destroying the Earth.

The mathematics involved is merely the argument, voiced recently in genuiune scientific forums, that the parameters of the universe are just right for life and therefore are evidence that the universe was created with us in mind. I'm afraid I must counter that this argument is somewhat misguided. Its proponents successfully argue that stars, water, and other things upon which our lives depend would not exist if the parameters of theoretical physics were altered more than slightly. However, they cannot really expect me to believe that they can tell whether some sort of life would develop in these alternate universes. In particular, I seriously doubt that if I gave them the parameters that we believe describe this universe that they would be able to successfully predict all of this exciting stuff that happens on the human scale without their advance knowledge (a cheat sheet if you will) that comes from having experienced and studied it in person. I strongly suspect that in at least some other hypothetical universes, creatures of anti-matter or quasi-particles or something we can't even imagine would develop just as we have here. Well, that's my view on it anyway. In any case, it should be noted that this "anthropic principle" has been with us for a long time and is on the run. In particular, each time it was suggested before (using the adaptation of creatures for their environment or the location of the Earth as evidence of deistic intervention) it was later found to be an empty argument once science caught up with the problem. All I'm suggesting is that this will happen too with the "constants of nature" version of the argument.

In any case, this was a fun read. (The aliens are hilarious.) So, I can recommend it even if I find the ideas a bit hard to swallow.

Contributed by Johann Weiss

It is not only a beautiful work of mathematical fiction but it deals with complex philosophy in a understandable and insightful way.

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Calculating God
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Factoring Humanity by Robert J. Sawyer
  2. Applied Mathematical Theology by Gregory Benford
  3. The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke
  4. Blasphemy by Douglas Preston
  5. Doctor Who: The Turing Test by Paul Leonard
  6. Bellwether by Connie Willis
  7. Contact by Carl Sagan
  8. Saint Joan of New York: A Novel About God and String Theory by Mark Alpert
  9. The Anomaly [L'Anomalie] by Hervé Le Tellier
  10. The Smithsonian Institution by Gore Vidal
Ratings for Calculating God:
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:
2.29/5 (7 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.14/5 (7 votes)

GenreHumorous, Science Fiction,
MotifAliens, Religion,
TopicMathematical Physics,

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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)