Dr. Matrix


Last Saturday afternoon, on a Japanese-landscaped hillside at the outskirts of Atlanta, several clusters of people were constructing mathematically inspired sculptures of metal, bamboo and balloons. Nearby, a magician showed a mathematician how to “throw” a knot. Others had their photographs taken in an optical illusion they had built, an “impossible box” that from one perspective made people look simultaneously behind and inside it. Around a goldfish pond, groups did puzzles, origami, juggling and card tricks. A magician, a philosopher and a software engineer argued about Wittgenstein. It was the high point of a four-day conference in honor of Martin Gardner, 95, a public intellectual whose most famous pulpit was “Mathematical Games,” written for Scientific American between 1956 and 1981. Mr. Gardner’s column illuminated the beauty of math and logic in discussions of fractals, origami, optical illusions, puzzles and pseudoscience. It challenged readers to discover how finely math and logic are interwoven through the world.

more from Robert Crease at the WSJ here.