“God and the Machine,” Nigel Balchin, 1951

“God and the Machine,” Nigel Balchin, 1951 — Uncle Charles relates to his nephew the story of Professor Plumreach and his draughts-playing automaton.  Arrogant, misanthropic, abusive to his family, Plumreach appears to be a rigid man of absolutes.  Charles notes that the atom bomb not only blew up Hiroshima, but also the egos of scientists, and Plumreach was one of those who wrote about it as if it were his “personal property.”  When Charles confronts his machine by making irrational moves, the machine’s prohibition against cheating–which depends on a certain limit of decimal places which are thwarted by irrationality–is lifted and the machine cheats. The  Professor is visibly disturbed by this, but makes no comment. Some time later, Charles encounters him again; Plumreach seems to have developed a relationship with his children and to have mellowed.

Comments: Read in Fantasia Mathematica.

Author: Wikipedia: “Nigel Balchin (3 December 1908 – 17 May 1970) was an English novelist and screenwriter particularly known for his novels written during and immediately after World War II…”


About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1946-1959, atomic bomb/Hiroshima, emotions/intimacy/empathy, hubris/pride, international, logic/reason, mathematics, scientific ethics, the scientist. Bookmark the permalink.

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