[Humanist] 26.350 the thrill and danger of proof?
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Oct 5 07:03:16 CEST 2012
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 350.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Thu, 04 Oct 2012 10:44:26 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: a mathematical thriller
Some here will be interested in Chris Pearson's new novel, Proof of
Death. I take the following description from Amazon.
> Lawyer Richard Troy doesn't do mathematics. But when he accepts
> Chechen number theorist Aslan Ivanov as a client, he realises that
> life, love and death are all part of the same equation.
> Aslan possesses a proof of the Riemann Hypothesis – a mathematical
> proposition that has defied academics for 150 years. With the power
> to unlock public key encryption across the internet, blowing open all
> online financial transactions in the process, the proof is priceless.
Many years ago Dick Francis published a thriller centred on a computer
program developed to predict the outcome of horse races. (A colleague of
mine at the time, inspired by this novel, wrote such a program; the last
I heard his winnings were becoming larger and more frequent.) This leads
me to a question: what other works of fiction involve computers used to
prove something, but with dire consequences? Is the computer as a
mechanism of proof a dominant theme in fiction that features computing?
Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Professor, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics,
University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist
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