Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Loss of a Puzzler
I read with sadness of the death of Martin Gardner this weekend. He was a revered logician, mathematician, puzzle constructor, and popularizer of logic and mathematics. As a longtime teacher of critical thinking, I was a big fan of Gardner's, aspiring to all of his titles.
His regular columns in Scientific American and, later, The Skeptical Inquirer were must reads for me.
Dear to my heart were what I saw as two missions Gardner pursued: championing the importance of science literacy for all, and providing amusement through numbers and puzzles.
Gardner was one of the founders of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (now called Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) more than 30 years ago. I started using their publications immediately for my logic classes and still do.
I also have a shelf full of Mr. Gardner's brainteasers and puzzle books. Coincidentally, my newest protagonist, Sophie Knowles (2011) is also a puzzler! She's a college math professor who creates puzzles for magazines on the side.
Here's a favorite of Mr. Gardner's that Sophie would like:
What's special about the number 8,549,176,320?
In honor of Mr. Gardner, I'm offering a prize to the first one to identify what's special (no Googling; an honor system is in place!)