This was a collection of shorts by a single author. Every story had math as a key component of the plotline. In one story the world is saved by an alien's love of moonshine.

Throughout every story math was not only incorporated but the author gave explanations and background to why he wrote the stories. He was both hilarious and clever.

  • 1
    Take a look at this guide and see if you can add in any other detials
    – Edlothiad
    Oct 25, 2017 at 7:16
  • He's not the one you're looking for—I don't think he was writing any fiction in the 60s or 70s—but you might enjoy Rudy Rucker's stuff.
    – user14111
    Oct 25, 2017 at 7:42

3 Answers 3


I cannot identify the math themed collection, but the story you describe certainly sounds like Joe Haldeman's All The Universe in a Mason Jar.

For one thing, it is about an alien who can only consume alcohol.

It ends

After a rather grim period of transition, the denizens of Earth settled down to concentrating on being good, trying to reach Class 3, the magic level.

It would take surprisingly few generations. Because humankind had a constant reminder of the heaven on Earth that awaited them, as ship after ship drifted down from the sky to settle by a still outside a little farm near New Homestead, Florida: for several races, the gourmet center of Sirius Sector.

There is some mathematical content in the story, when the retired-math-professor hero is trying to communicate with the alien.

This has been asked before (Looking for a collection of short stories that involved math as underlying theme in every story) but has no accepted answer. (The asker never returned to the site.)

If you are not the person who asked about this before, it means that this anthology almost certainly must exist, and just not be listed in isfdb. That database lists only "Infinite Dreams ", "Flying Saucers", "UFOs: The Greatest Stories", and "Subtropical Speculations". None of these are math-themed.


I think this has to be Infinite Dreams by Joe Haldeman.

Infinite Dreams

The cover is from the era you read the book. It's been reprinted with several different covers since.

It isn't a maths themed anthology, but many of the stories do deal with maths and it is the only anthology of Haldeman's stories that includes All The Universe in a Mason Jar.

In the story All The Universe in a Mason Jar the human protagonist is a retired maths professor and it does involve mathematical jargon when communicating with the alien. From a quick skim.

In the first story Counterpoint one of the characters, Roger Wellings, is a maths genius.

In A Mind of His Own Leonard Shays is a maths PhD.

In 26 Days On Earth Jonathon Wu studies maths.

In Armaja Das John Zold is brilliant at maths.

  • Certainly the leading candidate, but that's still less than 50% of the stories. I suspect the same person asked both these questions, but if not, I'd sure like to find that anthology. Oct 25, 2017 at 14:32
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    @OrganicMarble: given that we're talking about books 40-50 years old maybe it's a conflation of Infinite Dreams with Fantasia Mathematica, Mathenauts or Imaginary Numbers. Oct 25, 2017 at 15:35

I think that it could be Asimov's Mysteries. Published in 1968, this is a collection of 14 short stories that happen to be resolved with math, physic and others. Asimov put some explanations in later publications.

Asimov's Mysteries

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    Which one is the moonshine story?
    – user14111
    Oct 25, 2017 at 8:52
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    I have the anthology Asimov's Mysteries and there is no story in it about an alien saving the world due to their love of moonshine. Oct 25, 2017 at 8:55
  • I really doubt this is it. No moonshine story. Asimov does provide afterwords to the stories though. Oct 25, 2017 at 12:47

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