David Cleden’s story “In the House of Geometers” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 14 January 2022.
The what-if? origin question behind “In The House of Geometers” is easy for me to trace. I’m no mathematician but I did study a lot of maths (yes, I’m British and it’s plural, dammit!) for my physics degree at college. Pre-college, I was fortunate to have several inspiring maths teachers, one of whom introduced me to the mathematical expression known as Euler’s Identity. (I’ll leave you to look it up if you’re interested). It’s a very simple equation that links together five fundamental concepts in mathematics: 0, 1, pi, i (the square root of minus one) and e (the base of natural logarithms). How could all these elemental things be linked in such a simple yet elegant way? It left a lasting impression on me. Many regard it as the most beautiful equation in existence.
Years later, I tried explaining this to my wonderful, long-suffering wife and saw a familiar reaction: her eyes glazed over at the first mention of mathematics, and she wore a polite smile that slowly froze into hostility the longer I eulogized about it. What, I wondered, would it be like to live in a world where everyone is helplessly consumed by a strong appreciation of mathematical beauty, much in the same way that we all share an intrinsic love of art — but turned up to eleven so that for some people mathematics becomes an addiction. After all, art connoisseurs can lose themselves for hours appreciating fine art: marvelling at the brushwork, the depth and blend of colour, the chiaroscuro. What if it were the same for maths? “In The House of Geometers” explores such a world and some of its consequences.
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