Puzzles and games make headway in academia

The University of Calgary hosted the fifth Richard and Louise Guy Lecture presentation on September 16. This year’s guest speaker was mathematician-artist Erik Demaine. The Guy family attended the U of C in 1966 and established the lecture to show people that math can be fun, diverse and creative. Demaine, they felt, was the perfect combination of mathematics and arts.

Demaine developed extensive knowledge in mathematics and geometry at a young age by working through puzzles with his father. By the age of 12 Demaine had enrolled at the University of Dalhousie, graduating in two years with a bachelor of science. He later obtained his doctorate at the University of Waterloo and was awarded the governor general award for having one of the top four PhD theses in Canada. Demaine later became the youngest professor, currently in his twenties, to hold a teaching position at MIT.

During the lecture Demaine described passion for his work. He began by talking about the combination of mathematics and arts and supported it with the idea of pleated folding and curved creases in origami. He joked with the audience and showed a Harvard Tetris Society certificate acknowledging him as a Tetris master. Finally, Demaine concluded his lecture with coin-flipping and rope magic tricks — all with a thorough mathematical explanation.

Demaine knows how to glassblow, make puzzles, perform computational origami and create magic tricks with a mathematical rational.

Demaine’s lecture attracted a diverse audience of students, mathematicians and artists.

He stressed that math can be found anywhere, can be combined in any interdisciplinary area and that math can be beautiful.

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