Once Upon a Prime review: The connections between maths and fiction

2B034C5 In addition to Herman Melville's own experience on the whaling ship Acushnet, two real events served as the genesis for his Moby Dick. One was the sinking of the Nantucket ship Essex in 1820, after a sperm whale rammed her 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from the western coast of South America. The other event was the alleged killing in the late 1830s of the albino sperm whale Mocha Dick, in the waters off the Chilean island of Mocha. Mocha Dick was rumored to have 20 or so harpoons in his back from other whalers, and appeared to attack ships with premeditated ferocity.

Maths is woven into Moby-Dick, about the hunt for an elusive whale

CPA Media Pte Ltd/Alamy

Once Upon a Prime
Sarah Hart
HarperCollins (UK, out 13 April) and Macmillan (US, out 11 April)

DID you know that cycloids, the curves traced by a point on a circle as it rolls along a straight line, appear in Moby-Dick? Or that Leo Tolstoy made extensive use of calculus in War and Peace? Or that George Eliot talked about taking “a dose of mathematics every day” and that this interest is central to her novel, Daniel Deronda?

These …

Source link