I read this story in recent years, although I do not know if the book itself is old. I have a feeling it is a relatively recent work. It may even be a short story as opposed to a full length novel.

The only real plot-point I can remember about it is that there was a mathematical formula that someone came up with that ‘proved’ some great catastrophe was about the befall the planet. It was something along the lines of ‘Disasters happen. The Planet has been here for so long without an Earth-shattering disaster that one must be due along any time now.’

The ‘proof’ was very similar to the Doomsday Argument.

Believers and non-believers got into conflict about the ongoing state of the world.

There was some further mathematics involved in the ‘formula’ as proof. Not a lot to go on, but does this jog anyone's memory?

  • Nothing to do with the 2009 movie Knowing? – Mr Lister Feb 5 '13 at 15:15
  • Thanks for the comment, but No. I don't recall it having anything to do with an actual prediction as such, more an inference from statistical information. The 'proof' was some semi-plausable sounding formula or equation which people came to believe and so would stop going about their daily lives. – Rob Feb 5 '13 at 15:24
  • Do you remember what sort of disaster it was in the end? Climate change due to global warming? An asteroid? A giant volcano? – phantom42 Feb 5 '13 at 15:56
  • I don't remember there being an actual disaster. It was more the threat of an imminent disaster approaching as people began to believe this formula/equation/mathematical proof – Rob Feb 5 '13 at 16:11

I have tracked it down. Reading the Doomsday Argument more closely it mentioned the Carter Catastrophe. This lead me to the book Manifold: Time, by Stephen Baxter.

Comments over on GoodReads (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63742.Manifold) tell me this is the book I am thinking of

In brief, this is the notion of a "probabilistic doomsday," which suggests that because the probability of any given human being alive now is very small if the future holds an indefinitely expanding or even stabilizing population of humans, then the real future must involve a population crash of Malthusian proportions.

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