The Ultimate Analysis

John Russell Fearn | published Fall, 1944

added Jun 8, 2024
cover Image
First Date of Publication
Fall, 1944
Original Source
Thrilling Wonder Stories
Original Source Type
Magazine - Pulp
Short Story
Original Language
Kasman Review
Summary: Mathematics finds its voice and lives!

Story Tag Line: “Just as Ruthless Invaders from a Far-Off Cosmic Frontier Are Poised to Invade the Earth, Out of a Curious Experimental Machine Darts the Perfect Mathematical Equation, Loaded with Potential Destruction!”


  • Vijay Fafat
    Published on

    This one is a hurriedly thrown together mish-mash of mathematical statements which make no sense when examined individually but taken together, form a breathless pulp story about a mathematician who acts upon “[James] Jeans’ theory” that the universe ultimately has mathematics at its core. He creates a machine which can analyze any piece of matter and find its constituent mathematical components [the machine uses “a crystalline” sensitive to “mathematical vibrations” and determines the “metallic variants” of matter].

    The machine ends up becoming sentient after it processes a piece of iron, since it:

    “analyzed it to the edge of nothing. It analyzed the iron down and down into its final atomic, sub-atomic, sub-sub-atomic constituents, down to its eternally locked core. And because iron is the basic factor of the universe as we know it, the material universe anyway, the machine had there a mass of equations forming the basis of universe-stuff…”

    (The author’s belief that iron is the most basic and stable constituent of the universe is possibly based on his misreading of the evolution of stars, in which normal fusion stops at iron-56 stage). The machine’s sentience escapes as a “half ethereal, half material” bolt of “mad mathematical probabilities”, “a shuffling in which geometry and mathematics were interlocked” [the reader really must stop laughing at this point…!]. The beam finally comes to rest in a far-away, starless region as “a world of equations”, pulsating and contemplating its next move

    (I half expected the author to posit a new big bang out of it). As such, it is comparable to Nathan Schachner’s “The Living Equation”.

    There is some extraneous stuff thrown in about a corporate evil-doer who wants to become a senator, a Vegas thief/murderer and an invasion fleet from Alpha Centauri (why not?) but it is really very hard to take this story seriously on any front except the author’s remarkable ability to throw together beautiful nonsense with a straight face. Some examples:

    “Our universe is finite because geometrics limit it. It is infinite when understood through mathematics. Separate the geometry from the mathematics and then..then we shall understand the universe for what it really is!”


    “The iron has been converted into mathematics by the very mathematics which make it up. […] A mathematical catalyst! What a discovery!”


    “It is law that a straight line, even driven through a mass, can only hit about six individual units straight on. The rest are hit diagonally, Hence the difficulty that is experienced in hitting atoms…”