Gathering for Gardner 9

Don’t see this at very many math conferences:

This is from the Gathering for Gardner, which took place last week in Atlanta. That’s Martin Gardner, who wrote the “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American for thirty years. He also wrote prolifically about magic and psuedoscience. Or perhaps I should say “writes” since he is still producing new work at ninety-five.

I was honored to receive an invitation based on Gardner’s endorsement of my book. I gave a short talk about the Monty Hall problem on the first day, which seemed to be well-received.

For me the highlight of the conference came on the second night. We were treated to a show of close-up magic featuring six different performers. The attendees were divided into six small groups, and the performers went from group to group performing a fifteen minute show. One of these performers was Lennart Green. Shame on you if you do not know who he is. He is one of the finest card-handlers I have ever seen. Sleight of hand with cards is one of my favorite things in life, and I was well-familiar with Green both from television and from You Tube. I was sitting in the front row for his show, and got to choose the card for his version of an Ambitious Card routine. Damn near fainted.

Unfortunately, I was so busy watching Green’s performance that I forgot to snap a picture of him. The following night he performed again, this time for the whole conference:

Here he is from later in the show:

Wondering what the aluminum foil is about? Well, start by watching Ricky Jay’s Tamed Spades routine. Then imagine doing it with your head all wrapped up in duct tape and aluminum foil. This is one of Green’s signature routines. You can find a video of him here. The part with the aluminum foil comes near the end.

On Saturday we had a big barbecue dinner at the home of one of the organizers, Thom Rodgers. He has an impressive collection of mathematical sculptures in his yard, like this one:

One of the great pleasures of the conference was all the interesting people I met.

The fellow on the right there is Charles Sonenshein, a professional magician from Cincinnati. He was kind enough to teach me a half-dozen really cool card tricks. No doubt I will be impressing my students with them, after a bit of practice, of course. (The other fellow was Robert Orndorff. He didn’t teach me any card tricks but I really enjoyed meeting him).

We had an interesting meeting on the first night of the conference. I had been milling around, looking for anyone I recognized. He came up to me, commented that he did not know anyone either, and we started chatting. I mentioned that I would be giving a talk about the Monty Hall problem and told him a little about it. He replied that there was a new book out on the Monty Hall problem and that my talk sounded quite a bit like what was in the book. I smiled and explained that I was well-familiar with that particular book. Later he told me that he thought I was basically some punk kid stealing someone else’s act.

At any rate the conference was a great success, and I hope to be invited back for the next one. Martin Gardner was a real inspiration for me when I was first getting interested in mathematics, and his book Puzzles From Other Worlds made a big impression on me.


  1. #1 John Farrell
    April 2, 2010

    I love Martin Gardner. He was very helpful to me years back when I started researching relativity denialists.

  2. #2 MarkusR
    April 2, 2010

    You mentioning Lennart Green had make me check if he was same as someone else: Ricky Jay. I remember watching a TV episode about magicians with Jay in it. Most amazing thing ever. Wish I got to see more of these greats live.

  3. #3 SLC
    April 3, 2010

    The sad part of the current situation is that many of the fads and fallacies so well described in Martin Gardners’ book of the same name are still around some 58 years later. That’s in addition to some new ones like ID.

  4. #4 Tanya Thompson
    April 5, 2010

    Great blog! I have photos of Lennart performance if you’d like some! I was his PA that night so I had a front row seat! I also took video of him as I followed him around. Check out my blog posts as well. I’m not finished yet but it’s fun to write about!

  5. #5 BathTub
    April 6, 2010

    Lennart Green is amazing, his laser deal is eye popping. I have his DVD’s but they are a bit advanced for me at the moment.

  6. #6 Jason Rosenhouse
    April 6, 2010

    Tanya –

    Thanks for the link to your write up of the conference. I’m very jealous that you were Lennart Green’s personal assistant.

    BathTub –

    I’ve been thinking of buying some of Green’s DVD’s. Does he explain how he does the laser deal?

  7. #7 BathTub
    April 7, 2010

    Yes he does, I believe it’s disc 6. There is actually a ‘Snap Deal’ booklet available.

    You going to head out to the CMI/CSE Creation SuperCamp? 🙂

  8. #8 Jason Rosenhouse
    April 7, 2010

    BathTub –

    You going to head out to the CMI/CSE Creation SuperCamp?

    It’s tempting! It’s not that far from Harrisonburg. On the other hand, I suspect I have heard it all before.

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    July 28, 2012

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