Mathematicians in Love, by Rudy Rucker
Mathematicians in Love
Paperback: Night Shade Books, January 2019, 3rd Edtion, with an introduction by Gregory Benford.
See Rucker's other nine Night Shade books.
A passionate, lively tale. Two young mathematicians compete for the love of two women across space, time and logic—spinning out Dr. Seuss-like mathematical mumbo jumbo along the way.
Berkeley grad students Bela Kis and Paul Bridge have discovered the mathematical underpinnings of ultimate reality. But then they begin fighting over the beguiling video-blogger, Alma Ziff.
First Bela gets Alma’s interest by starting the wildest rock band ever. But then Paul undertakes the ultimate computer hack: altering reality to make Alma his. The change brings more than he bargained for: Alma is swept away into a higher world of mathematician cockroaches and cone shells bent upon using our world as an experimental set-up for deciding an arcane point of metamathematics.
It’s up to Bela to bring Alma back, repair reality, stop the aliens, and find true love.
Rucker cleverly pulls off a romantic comedy about mathematicians in love. This excursion into alternative versions of Berkeley, Calif., is full of quirky, charming life-forms human and otherwise and ruled by a god who's the female jellyfish-creator of Earth. All this seethes around Bela Kis; Bela's roommate, Paul Bridge; and Bela's girlfriend, Alma Ziff, who ping-pongs between them in a sometimes acute, sometimes obtuse love triangle. Bela and Paul struggle for their Ph.D.s under mad math genius Roland Haut by inventing a paracomputer "Gobubble" that predicts future events. ... Rucker's wild characters, off-the-wall situations and wicked political riffs prove that writing SF spoofs, like Bela's rock music avocation, "beats the hell out of publishing a math paper."
In Mathematicians in Love Rucker has created a love story wrapped up in a cross-cultural mystery tour that could only have happened inside the mind of a crazy mathemetician. Buy a ticket. It's well worth the price. It allows you to immerse yourself in math lingo as cool and arcane as anything jazz musicians could come up with and feel knowledgeable, even though it's all so much mumbo jumbo. Somehow, when Rucker's characters talk about the nature of the universe (or the curve of a yellow bikini) in terms of fractals, curved planes and number theory, it all seems totally, intense, relevant and hip. Which would be a pretty good description of the author.
Rucker ... is palpably and quiveringly tuned in to the zeitgeist and can offer cultural and scientific commentary and satire better than almost any other SF author practicing today. And if, as some have it, SF always speaks of the present, no matter what era it's set in, then Rucker has just cut straight to the chase this time, nevertheless retaining all the glorious weirdness that comes with more futuristic milieus.
Mathematicians in Love ... percolates with off-the-wall characters and trippy extra-dimensional shenanigans. Nobody writes math-based science fiction like Rudy Rucker does. He keeps the tone light and the action playful, even as his characters grapple with the meaning of tragedy and the ultimate mechanics of the universe. A definite high point in Rucker's singular writing career.
All the pleasures of a Rucker novel come forth abundantly: playfully weird higher physics and math; bizarre conceptual psychedelia; distincively Calfornian counter-cultural comedy; zany romance; doppelgangers; generally happy endings. ... Mathematicians in Love is an egaging and entertaining book, light yet thought-provoking, funny yet of some gravity. It deserves success.
Writing Notes for Mathematicians in Love
Download the 2.5 Meg PDF file mathlovenotesposted.pdf, a 203 page document containing the working notes for the book. The file includes a number of drawings.
From the Author
I majored in math in college, and I earned a Ph.D. in set theory and mathematical logic in 1972. Subsequently I worked as a mathematics professor for a number of years—eventually switching to being a professor of computer science at San Jose State University in Silicon Valley.
I had two primary goals in writing Mathematicians in Love. First of all, I wanted to give a realistic picture of what mathematicians are actually like. And, in doing this, I wanted to give my readers a sense of what it’s like to do research on higher-level mathematics and to convert the results into applications. I used a writing method that I call transrealism—that is, I transmuted some of my personal experiences into SF scenes.
As well as drawing on my experiences with mathematics and computer science, Mathematicians in Love incorporates material that I garnered in March, 2005, on a scuba-diving trip to the islands of Micronesia and Palau. While I was there, I went swimming with a zillion jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake. A perfect fit for Mathematicians in Love—a gift from the muse. One more connection: in 1983 I was, for a brief time, the singer for a punk band called The Dead Pigs.
My second goal in writing Mathematicians in Love was to dramatize a cotemporary scientific ideas about the nature of our physical world. The idea is that most natural processes are computationally irreducible—that is, we can’t find quick-and-dirty shortcut methods for predicting their outputs well in advance. So, yes, you can simulate a natural process—but, as far as we know, in our world, running any simulation is going to take about as much time as it would take to watch the process unfold at its own pace.
Okay—but what if we lived in a world were rapid predictions were in fact possible? What would that be like?
You’d be living in a novel called Mathematicians in Love. ;
Images with Links
The image captions have links to posts on Rudy's Blog describing them.
Rudy's painting, "Flying Cone Shells," shows two cone shells tracking Bela's car in Big Sur.
Rudy by a Big Sur portal to another world called La Hampa.
Preliminary painting of some creatures in La Hampa.
Painting of Bela/Rudy diving in Jellyfish Lake .
Photo of NYC subway mural of a Jimbo, who appears in the last chapter.
Rudy singing in the Dead Pigs, a band similar to Bela's Washer Drop.