MindTrip Arranger: RIP Martin Gardner

Martin Gardner
Martin Gardner, 1914-2010

Growing up, my dad would get Scientific American from time to time, a magazine that had some pretty densely written articles back then and now.  Still, I would leaf through it from time to time, and avidly read articles that caught my fancy, even if I couldn’t make head or tales of the math or physics behind the concepts yet.  ONE column I ALWAYS read was Mathematical Games, penned faithfully by the object of this post, Mr. Martin Gardner.  Mathematical Games is one of those little features of your life that you remember years after the fact and you realize, suddenly, that it changed your life.  I am either right-brained or left-brained, I don’t know which.. but if there is a natural disposition in some human brains to tune out mathematics and focus on words instead, that would be my affliction.  I am not a total washout with mathematics– far from it.  PRACTICAL math, that I can get.. theoretical mathematics, that was an entirely different kettle of fish.  Gardner had a knack for explaining very complex mathematical gyrations in a style that was steady, informative and never condescending.  I think Gardner taught me not to fear complex mathematics, but to “set my mind to the task” and tackle them slowly, one step at a time.   Gardner did more than the math column for Scientific American, of course.  He wrote a giant gobsmack of a collection of books– mostly on mathematics, but also on logic and game theory and skeptical inquiry.  I have about a half dozen of them in my library.  Gardner was a famous man with the new wave of critical thinkers and skeptics that had a big influence in my adult life, too.  They’ll miss him as much as I will.  Martin Gardner passed away  three days ago, on 22 May 2010.   I’m sure a skeptic like Martin would scoff at the notion, but my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.  His was a life well led.

PS: The Subject Line of this post leads off with an anagram of Gardner’s name in his honor (many of his columns featured word puzzles, a favorite of mine).  Can you construct one?


  1. Cant do that. I will give you a mathematical puzzle though. READ CAREFULLY

    “It’s late at night at a hotel near the train station. The night manager is hungry wo he says to the Bellboy “Watch the desk I’m going to go out and get a bite to eat.” The Bellhop gets behind the desk.

    Well about 15 minutes later three men come into a hotel, and each one of them wants his own room. So the Bellhop charges them $10.00 a piece and brings their bags up to their rooms, each man in his own room.

    The Night manager returns and said “Did anything happen while I was out?” The Bellhop tells him he had three guys come in and take rooms. The manager askes “How much did you charge them?” The Bellhop says $10 a piece.” The night manager says “Oh– you charged them too much” and shoves a $5 bill to the kid and says “here go give them back some money.”

    So the Bellhop hops into the elevator and goes up to the 5th floor where he put them. On the way up he says “Gee– $5.00 can’t be divided eventy into three parts so he takes $2.00 and puts it in his own wallet, and gives each man back a dollar.”

    Ok– now- that means that each man paid $only 9 for a room, so three times nine dollars is $27 and the $2.00 the bellhop put in his pocket is $29– where’s the other dollar?

    Have fun. My father told me this one when I was 10. I only figured it out 42 years later. Go ahead start totalling it up and doing T accounts, and all sorts of stuff like that– but you’ll be barking up the wrong tree. There is no trick answer like “they don’t bury survivors” or “to get to the other side of the road”

    After a few days I’ll be back to give any of you who have tried a hint.


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