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Harun Šiljak “ Murder on the Einstein Express and Other Stories”
Jun 29, 2016

Harun Šiljak “ Murder on the Einstein Express and Other Stories”

Murder on The Einstein Express and Other Stories explores the boundaries of science and fiction in a refreshingly unconventional fashion. It includes stories of various fictional genres that incorporate topics from mathematics, physics and computer science.

This collection of stories touches upon many genres: Normed Trek is a clever and witty Alice-in-Wonderland-type narrative set in the realm of mathematical analysis, The Cantor Trilogy is a dystopia about the consequences of relying upon computer-based mathematical proofs, In Search of Future Time bears the flavor of Tales from Arabian Nights set in the future, and – last but not least - Murder on the Einstein Express is a short, non-technical primer on probabilities and modern classical physics, disguised as a detective story.

Written primarily for an audience with some background or a strong interest in mathematics, physics and computer science (in particular artificial intelligence), these stories explore the boundaries between science and fiction in a refreshingly unconventional fashion. In the Afterthoughts the author provides some further insights and annotations.

“Murder on the Einstein Express is my first collection of stories, and it contains almost everything I wrote in the science fiction genre over the past 7 years. The four stories in this volume range from Alice in Wonderland in the real analysis setting (Normed Trek) over a computer-based mathematical proofs dystopia (The Cantor Trilogy) and Arabian nights from the future (In Search of Future

Time) to a story about a hideous crime in an imaginary train, told in a Russian classroom (Murder on the Einstein Express).

Stories in this collection started coming to life in 2008 with Normed Trek, which was written right after my Calculus II final exam. Two years later, Murder on the Einstein Express was written: first as a flash fiction crime story and then as the nested narrative which I see as the backbone of this collection. Cantor Trilogy was written in 2014, and In Search of Future Time came a year later, first as a sequence of separate things, then as a parallel storyline in Murder on the Einstein Express, and finally as a separate piece.

It is hard to put a genre tag on the stories collected here, especially for Murder on the Einstein Express and Normed Trek. Both of them were primarily written without plans for publishing, simply to move them from the world of neurons to the world of ink, paper, and/or computer memory. As a result, I had a fictional story about science, and not science fiction: such story would hardly find its home outside of my drawer or PC or way to the readers without a book series like Springer’s Science and Fiction.

This story collection is a mixture of science and fiction: most of the time the reader is able to separate one from the other, but sometimes the question “fact or fiction” remains unanswered. If there is a central idea in the book, it is David Hilbert’s famous “Wir mussen wissen, Wir werden wissen” (We must know, we will know): the characters, real and imaginary, want knowledge, unbounded and complete. Every story hides a homage to real, wise, inspiring people the author admires and loves.

Most of the science fiction in the stories is focused around artificial intelligence, as the author’s research areas overlap with the work of the scientific community in artificial intelligence. There is no clearly visible threat to humans in these stories – there is just concern for AI psyche. Caveat: invisible threats ahead”, Harun Šiljak.

Harun Šiljak got his BoEE and MoEE degrees at the Department of Control and Electronics, University of Sarajevo and his PhD in Signal Processing at the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Department, International BURCH  University, Sarajevo, where he is currently an assistant professor.  He has been working in basic sciences (mathematics and physics) since elementary school, qualifying twice for the International Mathematical Olympiad and once for the International Physics Olympiad. Some of his science fiction and popular science stories have been published in the Mathematical Intelligencer and in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.