I’ve been reading other blogs on the Gathering 4 Gardner 9 and it is amazing what each of us takes away from this conference. Of course for me, it’s mainly the people I meet but also the things I learn. I can’t possibly write about all the people and incredible conversations I had yet here are a few more that stood out for me.
My world changed when I met Andy Liu in 2003 – one of those crucible moments in one’s life. Andy has mentored me and become a very dear friend. It began back when I was still teaching. I wanted to do something different at a small private school that would rival the very successful science fair. I wanted to do a “math fair” but didn’t know what that was. I started asking around in the math community. Ian VanderBurgh at the University of Waterloo (where I write one of their National Mathematics Contests) informed me about two professors from the University of Alberta who were doing math fairs. So I contacted Andy Liu and Ted Lewis who told me about their initiative called SNAP Math Fairs. Here students create projects based on recreational mathematics and puzzles. Sounded perfect to me so I jumped in. My first math fair was so rewarding for my school community that I was hooked. I became increasingly more involved and started speaking at conferences about SNAP Math Fairs. This is how I met Bill Ritchie as he was also involved in SNAP. I’ve now done presentations all over the world including Australia and at the International Congress of Mathematics Education (ICME) held in Mexico, 2008. Andy has supported me every step of the way. He is a world-renowned mathematician who travels the world bringing mathematics to everyone he meets. In the Edmonton area, if a math prodigy is discovered, the education community brings that student to Andy. To know Andy is to also know how much he loves working with kids and how much he loves puzzles. Personally, he was the person who introduced me to the world of IPP (International Puzzle Party), Martin Gardner, the Gathering, and the inner circles of ThinkFun. One of my fondest memories of Andy was when he came to my hometown and went into my children’s school to do cool math stuff. He has been so good to me.
Jerry Slocum has done more for the world of puzzles than anyone else. He is an avid puzzle collector, historian and author. I remember in 2006 talking to Andy about wanting to attend IPP. Andy had told me so many cool stories and shown me so many cool puzzles from his IPP adventures that I really wanted to see it for myself. Andy told me that one needs 500 puzzles in their collection to apply for an invitation. So I catalogued my collection and applied. I didn’t really believe I’d get accepted with my first application but thought I’d give it a try anyway. To my delight, Jerry sent me an acceptance email. My first IPP was in Boston in 2006 which included a post-trip to Indiana University where Jerry opened his puzzle collection at the Lilly Library. Jerry owns over 30 000 puzzles and has an additional house where his puzzles are stored. You can see a 3D tour of his collection. Jerry has donated his entire collection to the Lilly where it is accessible to all. So I was honored to see the grand opening of the beginning of Jerry’s collection at the Lilly. Since that time I’ve come to know Jerry and his wonderful family. Jerry seems to publish puzzle books every year as he is the foremost expert is everything puzzles. At work, if I ever have any puzzle questions, I just ask Jerry.
I met Clifford Pickover for the first time this year. I met him first at the New York Puzzle Party (NYPP) and then again at G4G9. I’ve collected his books for a while. When I was visiting Martin (Gardner) in December, he showed me Cliff’s new book called The Math Book. I fell in love with it instantly and went out and bought it during my visit in Oklahoma. The book describes and beautifully illustrates mathematical milestones beginning from 150 Million B.C. It was a pleasure to meet Cliff and to find out he’s a really, really nice guy.
Do you love optical illusions? If you do, you probably have seen some of Sandro Del-Prete‘s work. His work is both beautiful and mind blowing. In my photo you can see my signed copy of his Love Poem of the Dolphins. Follow his link and you can see this work up close. Can you see the dolphins? I couldn’t at first but they are there. They say that really young children who are shown this picture will only see the dolphins. But anyone over the age of about 8 will likely see the entwined nude couple. I asked my two older kids and they didn’t see the dolphins. My youngest who is 8 said he saw both. Sandro did a talk about his illusions at G4G9. He was also selling his book Master of Illusions but they sold out before I could get one.
Another great mind regarding optical illusions is Al Seckel. Al did a very thought provoking talk called the Nature of Belief and it was one of the talks I most enjoyed. He really has an incredible way at looking at how we perceive things. I have many of his illusion books and one of my favourites is Masters of Deception . You can also see Al’s TED Talk.
One illusionist I never had the pleasure of meeting was Jerry Andrus. But during G4G9, Gary Foshee constructed at one of the events (Tom Rodger’s outdoor party) a Jerry Andrus box. You can see a photo of me inside it. Jerry Andrus also worked with Bill Ritchie on the G4G Dragon as part of the gift exchange at an earlier Gathering.
It’s hard to believe that the G4G is only five days long (four if you don’t count registration day). There are lectures during the day and social events at night. Tom Rodgers and all the other organizers deserve a lot of credit for making this happen. It’s a bi-annual highlight for many of us.