“The solitude of the prime numbers” by Paolo Giordano

appear in the comments. I certainly did not put it there!

It is true though that I gave a link to “When normality is abnormal”

in my own blog on Paolo Giordano’s novel, so it may be a peculiarity of

WordPress on which Timotht Gowers and I both have our Blogs.

Another thing is that another main character of

a recent novel can be added to the list of

mathematicians who are pretty good at maths

but not astoundingly so: the male main character

Tengo of Murakami’s recent trilogy 1q84. And, although

Tengo sees two moons if he looks up at the sky, I would

nevertheless also call him a faily normal person.

My first published novel features a mathematician who is extremely true-to-formula. He’s male, very smart, and totally lacking in social graces. But that’s mainly because he’s based largely on myself and I am a fairly textbook example of a nerd. Also, he was fun to write, as a more normal character might not be. Most of the people who provided me with feedback on the book said that he was their favorite character.

For my second novel, the mathematician isn’t normal either, and he’s again male, but other than that is the polar opposite. He’s a rugged outlaw mathematician, facing the classic prisoner’s dilemma. He committed armed robbery along with an accomplice and is pressured to turn evidence against his partner, though he’ll only do a lighter sentence for burglary and theft if they both stay quiet.

While in prison he uses math extensively, including analyzing game theoretic factors in prison race relations, determining the optimal price of illicit goods in the black market economy, and deciding whether or not specific conflicts are likely to escalate and whether he should simply shank his enemies before they inevitably shank him.

I think the literary canon is sorely lacking in sexy rugged outlaw mathematicians.

Sadly, the publisher of my first novel has no interest in this one as she hates math and there is much more math in this one than the first. If anyone out there thinks this would make for a good story and has any thoughts on finding a publisher, please let me know.

P.S. I have one short story, “The Grapes of Math” that features a female mathematician, and a very normal, un-quirky one. But most of the other mathematicians in that story are odd and all of them male, so I am guilty as hell of perpetuating stereotypes. Except for the rugged outlaw guy, I suppose.

P.P.S Your sister’s novel sounds very interesting, Professor Gowers. I’d like to check that out.

]]>I wonder if other readers of this blog have read this book. ]]>

A very curious and quite funny book, only in french as far as I know, is Le ThÃ©orÃ¨me de Travolta de Olivier Courcelle. Two of the main characters are very ordinary young mathematicians going to an international congress. This does not fit all criteria of the original question, but is close. I am not sure that one would like to be friend with them but you could end finding them “touching”.

]]>Watch this space but don’t hold your breath.

]]>is “priemgetallen” Dutch/Flemish/Afrikaans (either AND or OR) for “prime numbers”?

]]>http://kasmana.people.cofc.edu/MATHFICT/

Just the other day I heard a book review on NPR about an aging mathematician who loses his memory, but in rather a curious way, he can only remember things in cycles. My memory is not so great either, since I can’t remember the title or the author, who is Japanese

]]>Suppose instead we were to ask whether there are any real mathematicians who are social misfits who are prone to flashes of extraordinary insight that completely baffle everybody else, are there any other examples than Ramanujan?

]]>The film (a romantic comedy!) opens with what has been called the most erudite mathematical scene ever to appear in a major motion picture: a proof of the Snake Lemma.

(This one may also qualify under implausibly elementary research: rumor has it that an early version of the film had the main character doing research in “finite simple abelian groups”; apparently this caused a mathematician in a test audience to burst out laughing.)

]]>I still think that nobody would describe their research as being “in vector spaces”. Somehow that suggests people looking for general theorems about vector spaces, interesting examples of vector spaces etc. But linear algebra is a different story — obviously there is a lot that can be said once matrices and linear maps enter the picture.

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