Top 10 Martin Gardner Centennial Tributes

21 Oct 2014 marked 100 years since the birth of Martin Gardner, and throughout the year, there have been numerous tributes to (and reflections on) his extraordinarily diverse interests and written legacy, embracing mathematics and puzzles, magic, physics, Alice in Wonderland scholarship, rationality, religion and philosophy.

Mainstream media, from the New York Times and National Public Radio to the BBC, as well as specialty magazines and journals, professional organizations in various fields, have added to the centennial chorus, as have bloggers all over the world. The response has been very positive too, one online article on Martin had over half a million viewers in the first 24 hours.

Through his columns and books, Martin was a community builder, connecting amateurs and professionals alike without paying attention to credentials or national boundaries. The annual Celebration of Mind parties have the same philosophy, and this year they've taken place in cities from Pisa to Addis Ababa, and San Francisco to Beijing. More are still to come, anyone can attend or host one.

There's also a collection of Tricks and Treats where one can find links to tributes from some old friends of Martin's such as James Randi, Persi Diaconis, Scott Kim, Dana Richards, Max Maven, Owen O'Shea, and Ian Stewart, as well as links to relevant items in the magic and physics arenas.

If you just want some of the highlights, try these 10 particularly noteworthy showcases. We've leaned heavily towards freely available material, requiring neither memberships nor subscriptions.

  1. Mathematics Awareness Month 2014 ("Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery," Apr 2014)

    Inspired by Martin's classic book from 1956, this highlights many magical topics with mathematical underpinnings that he loved to write about, from magic squares and Möbius bands to magical card tricks and illusions, as well as juggling, the geometry of crop circles, and the recently discovered connection between card shuffling and the Mandelbrot set.

    The website has portals to videos and lots of information on thirty topics. Perfect for engaging minds of all ages in the magic and mystery of mathematics.

  2. SIAM News ("The Mathematical Legacy of Martin Gardner" by Elwyn Berlekamp, Vol 47, No 7, pages 4 & 7, Sep 2014)

    We can hardly improve on the words of this longtime Gardner friend and renowned mathematician:

    Gardner’s thought-provoking columns required almost no prerequisites. He often posed a problem, a puzzle, a trick, or an effect that seemed paradoxical. Yet sufficient thought usually led the reader to a joyous “Aha!” moment when the resolution became clear. There was a bit of an addictive quality to these intellectual “Eureka!” exclamations. Success bred the quest for more success, which then led to a productive and joyous cycle of continual progress.
    Now read the rest!

  3. Scientific American ("A Centennial Celebration of Martin Gardner," by Colm Mulcahy, Dana Richards & the editors, Oct 2014)

    Martin's quarter century writing the monthly "Mathematical Games" for Scientific American was what really put him—and recreational math—on the map, so it's appropriate that the magazine honor and celebrate Martin with an array of special features.

    The centerpiece is the 3000-word feature "Let the Games Continue" by Colm Mulcahy and Dana Richards. It's augmented online by wonderful content developed by the editors, including "Can You Solve a Puzzle Unsolved Since 1996?"

  4. Life with Armand T. Ringer (21-minute video of talk by Martin Gardner's son Jim at G4G11 in Atlanta, Mar 2014, released Oct)

    One of Martin's two sons describes his dad's daily work routine, a regime that lead to an output of over 100 books, in addition to a great number of essays and reviews yet to be republished in any collection.

    (Armand T. Ringer was one of many aliases Martin used from timt to time for some of this writing.)

  5. M-U-M ("Martin Gardner: A Celebration of his (12 + 3 - 4 + 5 + 67 + 8 + 9)th Year" by Tom Ewing, Oct 2014) ["Copyright 2014 by The Society of American Magicians. Used by permission."]

    This cover story in a major magic journal features interviews with Mark Setteducati, Dana Richards, Max Maven, John Railing, James Randi, and Dick Hatch. Learn how Martin's first edition of Erdnase fetched over $10,000 on eBay in 2000, leading to a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal.

  6. Newswise ("MAA Celebrates Martin Gardner Centennial with Release of Long-Lost Gardner Video Footage," Oct 2014)

    There's very little film or video of Martin, so this 14-minute selection from a mid 1990s award presentation and interview is very welcome. The man himself is quite relaxed and chatty once the formal part is over with, and much of his wit and charm shines through.

  7. Wolfram blog ("Martin Gardner’s 100th Birthday," by Ed Pegg Jr, Oct 2014)

    The list of topics Martin introduced people to includes Hex and tic-tac-toe, the Icosian game, polyominoes, flexagons, Samuel Loyd, the game of Nim, digital roots, the Soma stairs, mazes, logic, magic squares, squaring squares, and the golden Phi. That's just the tip of the iceberg, and here Ed Pegg links to relevant Wolfram MathWorld and Demonstrations pages for these and many more delights.

  8. Skeptical Inquirer ("In Celebration of Martin Gardner," and free access to classic Notes of a Psi-Watcher columns, including: "Lessons of a Landmark PK Hoax," "Facilitated Communication and False Memory," Nov/Dec 2014)

    Martin was first and last a debunker. In the 1970s he co-founded CSICOP—today known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (SCI)—whose flagship journal is Skeptical Inquirer. He had a regular column there called Notes of a Psi-Watcher, from 1983 and 2002. This centennial treat includes free access to his takes of many modern day hoaxes, in addition to some of the old favorites.

  9. MegaMenger Distributed Fractal Project (ongoing)

    This brainchild of Matt Parker and Laura Taalman sees people scattered all over the planet working in unison in time and space using business cards to gradually building up approximations of increasing complexity to a three-dimensional fractal Menger sponge, and all in honor of Martin's centennial.

    It's both a highly-cooperative math/art installation, scattered over twenty sites worldwide, and an opportunity to engage participants (or armchair observers) in some very interesting mathematics. Calculating how many business cards are required is a great exercise in itself. Tim Chartier has an article on this in the Huffington Post.

    We know Martin would have loved this project! It was in the Dec 1976 issue of Scientific American that he introduced his readers to fractal curves and Mandelbrot's generalizations of them.

  10. Martin Gardner Testimonials (ongoing)

    Thousands of people had their intellectual lives enriched by Martin's writings, and dozens of them have left comments and stories here. These range from Ethan Brown to Raymond Smullyan—reflecting an age span of eighty years—and include people with careers as diverse as script writer, skeptic, computer scientist, animator, Carrollian, sci fi writer, graphic artist, mathematician, sculptor, and magician.

    Anyone who was influenced by Martin can and should leave their words of wisdom here. You'll be in good company, including Mike Reiss, Jean Pedersen, Bob Carroll, Lance Fortnow, Alvy Ray Smith, Mark Burstein, Rudy Rucker, John Allen Paulos, Keith Devlin, Cliff Pickover, Scott Kim, Robert Lang, Pete Winkler, George Hart, Daina Taimina, and Max Maven.