Martin Gardner, RIP

by | Thursday, May 27, 2010


Martin Gardner, 1914 – 2010

Martin Gardner died five days ago. Gardner was an influential writer about mathematics and was one of the greatest influences on me (and my friends) as I was growing up. His recreational mathematics column was the main reason I subscribed to the Scientific American back in high school. A few years ago a couple of my high-school friends wrote a mathematical novel (see my posting about Suri & Bal’s A Mathematical Ambiguity) and the high point for them was the fact that Martin Gardner agreed to write a blurb for the back cover. (My point of pride was that I was thanked in the acknowledgments page, putting me cheek-by-jowl with Martin Gardner!).

More personally, it was through Gardner’s writings that I was introduced to authors like Douglas Hofstadter, Raymond Smullyan, Scott Kim and James Randi — people who in turn ended up becoming immense influences on my thinking and way of looking at the world.

Martin Gardner, through his writing, his sense of humor and playfulness, his emphasis on rationality as a tool for understanding the world, his love of mathematics and learning, will always be with me. I know that in some  powerful, deep and fundamental way, he made me who I am today.

A few randomly selected blog posts…

Mathematical insight on reality & you (yes, you!)

Mathematical insight on reality & you (yes, you!)

I have always been intrigued by the manner in which everyday ideas get "mathematicized" (if that's a word). For instance, the other day, on a bus-stop by my office I noticed an equation written on the wall. I have no idea why it was there, but...

The reluctant fundamentalist

I just finished reading "The reluctant fundamentalist" a novel by Mohsin Hamid over the break. (I had mentioned this novel in another context here). It is a tight, powerful novel, structured as a monologue, (reminiscent of Camus' The Fall, a fact that few reviewers...

The song remains the same

The song remains the same

As I dig through my Research Gate requests I realize that I have missed out on putting some of my articles onto my website. Here is another one (and on a side note, it never hurts to make a Led Zeppelin reference in your paper - actually the paper starts with a quote...

Me & We in AI

Me & We in AI

What does generative AI mean to me? And to us? These key questions were part of a special exhibit curated by students in the DCI 691: Education by Design course I taught this fall. Education by Design is my favorite class to teach. It is a course about design—design...

CEP917 receives AT&T award, update

I had written before, CEP917: Knowledge Media Design, a course taught by Dr. Danah Henriksen and myself, in the Fall semester of 2012, received First Place (in the Blended Course category) in the2013 MSU-AT&T Instructional Technology Awards Competition. The awards...

A long view of knowledge

I should really visit Salon.com more often. Every time I go there I find something interesting, challenging and thought provoking. My recent foray there led me to a book review written by Laura Miller (The road to Wikipedia). Miller reviews "Reinventing Knowledge:...

The beauty of randomness

The beauty of randomness

I have always been intrigued by the idea of how truly random our lives really are. Seemingly minor events can trigger effects, rippling through our lives, effects becoming causes, leading to profound changes and transformations. Ray Bradbury's short...

Digital footprint

My colleague Leigh Wolf shared with me an assignment completed by one of her students (Allison Keller) in a technology and leadership class she is currently teaching. How one person's use of technology has changed over time. [Hosted on Flickr] Click on the image to...

Collaborative Haiku

Collaborative Haiku

A silent white boardScribble a first line, and waitEmergent haiku. Last Friday, goofing off between meetings, I scribbled one line, five syllables long, on one of the  white-boards in our office space. Within a few minutes, lo and behold, was a lovely haiku,...

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