You are here

Homage to a Pied Puzzler

Ed Pegg Jr., Alan H. Schoen, and Tom Rodgers, editors
A K Peters
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Charles Ashbacher
, on

It is one of the greatest compliments to the role that Martin Gardner has had in the mathematical world that people gather in his honor to create and exchange ideas even though Gardner does not attend. In his longtime role as the author of the “Mathematical Recreations” column of “Scientific American”, Gardner did more to advance mathematics by the interest generated from his columns than anyone else in history. Gardner is also well known in the magic and puzzle communities and was one of the most outspoken and articulate voices against the absurdity of pseudo-science.

The breadth of Gardner’s interests is reflected in the collection of articles in this book, all of which were written to honor him. The sections are:

  • In Memoriam — two articles about the life of Jay “Lefty” Marshall a ventriloquist and magician who passed away in 2005.
  • History and Hoaxes — one article about Sam Loyd’s hoax where he claimed to have invented the classic 15 puzzle.
  • Puzzles and Games — nineteen papers dealing with among other things movements on a board, pentominoes, folding, actions with playing cards, flexagons, dissections and the game of life. Examples of the best kind of puzzles, they are complex enough to interest the professional mathematician yet “simple” enough that most people can understand them with a bit of effort.

The greatest skill that Martin Gardner has is his ability to write understandable mathematics. Prolific writer Isaac Asimov said it best when he noted that Gardner is so good at explaining mathematics that you think you understand it even when you don’t. While the authors of the articles in this book are not as good as Gardner, they aren’t very far behind.

Charles Ashbacher splits his time between consulting with industry in projects involving math and computers, teaching college classes and co-editing The Journal of Recreational Mathematics. In his spare time, he reads about these things and helps his daughter in her lawn care business.

The table of contents is not available.