Newswise — Read all of Martin Gardner’s Scientific American columns or a sampling of his dozens of books on mathematical curiosities, and you might think you know the man. See a 79-year-old Gardner blithely demonstrate the deceptive realism of a severed-hand gag from an armchair in his Hendersonville, North Carolina, home, however, and you add another dimension.
Footage newly released by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) allows viewers to see and hear the late puzzler, magician, and mathematics popularizer speak on topics as diverse as mathematical Platonism and how to use an optical illusion to win a bar bet.
Available now on MAA’s YouTube channel, the footage premiered at a Celebration of Mind event at MAA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters on October 14. Held across the globe each October since Gardner’s 2010 death, Celebration of Mind events honor his legacy, typically by using puzzles, games, and magic to delight, instruct, and bring people together.
The 1994 film shows an interview conducted by Bob Fennell (Clemson University) when he traveled to North Carolina to present Gardner with the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award.
The interview footage—40 minutes, all told—resided, until recently, only on a pair of video cassettes formatted for broadcast television and labeled "MG1" and "MG2." Outgoing MAA Director of Publications Ivars Peterson found these in a cupboard at MAA headquarters and arranged for the content to be transferred to DVD and edited down to the 14-minute segment uploaded to YouTube.
Nor is the 1994 interview the only Gardner material brought to light by Peterson of late. In the cover story of the October/November issue of the association newsmagazine MAA FOCUS, he tells how the tiling in the foyer of MAA headquarters was inspired by a Gardner column about convex polygons.
All of this—the film, the focus on Gardner’s MAA connections, MAA’s publication jointly with Cambridge University Press of Knots and Borromean Rings, Rep-Tiles, and Eight Queens—comes as Gardner’s centennial approaches. He would have turned 100 on October 21, and enthusiasts are exploiting the milestone to boost awareness of Gardner’s work. Visit martin-gardner.org to learn more.
About MAA: The Mathematical Association of America is the largest professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level. Formed in 1915, the association members include university, college, and high school teachers; graduate and undergraduate students; pure and applied mathematicians; computer scientists; statisticians; and many others in academia, government, business, and industry who are interested in the mathematical sciences.