We are a bit late to the party, but this week was the birthday of one of the most famous Oklahomans to ever live, Martin Gardner. He was born in Tulsa on October 21, 1914 and spent the last years of his life right here in Norman! Sadly he passed away in 2010.
But gladly people are carrying on the Gardner traditions of math, magic, and a healthy sense of curiosity and skepticism in all things. Every year around his birthday there are Gatherings 4 Gardner all around the world.
In the Internet World, you can find a series of posts about Gardnerian topics on the NY Times Numberplay blog. For example, they share Mr. Gardner’s favorite puzzle of all times, “The Monkey and the Coconuts”:
Five men and a monkey were shipwrecked on a desert island, and they spent the first day gathering coconuts for food. Piled them all up together and then went to sleep for the night.
But when they were all asleep one man woke up, and he thought there might be a row about dividing the coconuts in the morning, so he decided to take his share. So he divided the coconuts into five piles. He had one coconut left over, and gave it to the monkey, and he hid his pile and put the rest back together.
By and by, the next man woke up and did the same thing. And he had one left over and he gave it to the monkey. And all five of the men did the same thing, one after the other; each one taking the fifth of the coconuts in the pile when he woke up, and each one having one left over for the monkey. And in the morning they divided what coconuts were left, and they came out in five equal shares. Of course each one must have known that there were coconuts missing; but each one was guilty as the others, so they didn’t say anything. How many coconuts were there in the beginning?
Mathematician and Friend of Gardner, Colm Mulcahy, has an excellent essay about Martin Gardner on his Huffington Post blog. Dr. Mulcahy is famous for his card tricks — especially ones based on math! Here’s one by Dr. Mulcahy called “The Ice Cream Trick” for you to puzzle over:
And last, but not least, Mr. Gardner’s autobiography was just released last month. We look forward to reading it!