I've been trying to remember a short story (possibly a Hugo or Nebula winner) that I seem to recall reading in an omnibus of sorts. The basic plot centred around a spaceship going close to, at or faster than the speed of light. In it, something happened that involved the ship's crew, due to systems failure or similar, ending up having to rediscover mathematics and science from first principles. They may also have done the whole Futurama thing where they went too far in the future and looped back around with a new Big Bang although I might be confusing things there.

They may also have ended up travelling at relativistic speeds due to some kind of accident or mistake. Again, possibly a red herring. I think the main point I recall is the idea of rediscovering or reproduction of lost knowledge.

  • Language: English
  • Year Read: Approximately 8-10 years ago
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    For some reason this makes me think of Pohl's "The Gold At The Starbow's End" but there are quite a few differences. Nov 19, 2018 at 9:11
  • @DanielRoseman I just had a read of the plot summary and I'm almost certain this is it. I had just thought that in addition to maths that there was also some cultural developments but I didn't want to overcomplicate things in my question. I couldn't remember the specifics around why they went on to study those things in great detail, nor the driver behind it. Thank you for your help! If you want to list this, I will mark it as the answer. Nov 19, 2018 at 9:17
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    Just in case anyone ends up here based on a starship going nearly the speed of light that has a systems failure and passes through a big crunch/big bang, I suspect the OP is conflating To Outlive Eternity by Poul Anderson.
    – DavidW
    Nov 19, 2018 at 15:40
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    Also known as Tau Zero. Nov 19, 2018 at 18:03

1 Answer 1


As mentioned in the comments, this is probably "The Gold At The Starbow's End" by Frederik Pohl, originally published in 1972 and later expanded into a novel, Starburst. It was nominated for a Nebula, although didn't win.

The crew of a spaceship sent on a sub-light journey - ostensibly to investigate a world around Alpha Centauri - are actually intended to spend their time thinking about mathematics in the hope that their enforced isolation will give them the opportunity to solve some major problems. The experiment is massively successful, but as well as maths they get interested in things like the I Ching and develop god-like powers: "creating" their own children, remodelling their spaceship (with French doors out to space), and bringing into existence their (hoax) destination planet. They communicate their discoveries back to Earth in a highly-compressed format that they factored in their heads but our computers can't even begin to decode.

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