G4G9, Day 1: Pencils, Optical Illusions, and Bar Bets

Continued from the previous post

The next day, Wednesday, was the first official day of Gathering For Gardner. The only session that day was the Bar Bets section, which was where the magicians and some mathematicians would show various tricks and trick bets which were mathematically related or interesting. However, the session was in the afternoon, so in the morning we had some time to do whatever we wanted to.

Julian Ziegler Hunts and his family had arrived overnight, so we got to have breakfast with them, in which he showed me some interesting Minsky Circle maps based on varying ξpsilon and zeta in the Minsky circle algorithm and plotting the period. After this, my mom and I, as well as the Zieglers and Gosper slept in until 11:00,at which point we decided to head back over to Tom Rodger’s house to play with puzzles while we waited for the session to begin.

As I have mentioned before, Tom has a huge collection of puzzles and sculptures. Since Julian had never been here before, and Tom was on a quick errand, I quickly gave him a tour of the house. Inside the puzzle rooms, Bill noticed that there were many impossible objects made by Gary Foshee, who makes sculptures where the puzzle is to determine how the object got into the current state, not to get it out. A classic example is of the “arrow through the coke bottle”:

Of course, Tom had many others, such as multiple coke bottles, strung together in impossible ways:

Later, Tom Rodgers came back from his errand and showed us some secret closets filled with puzzles. He placed out a few of his favorites on the table for us, and we attempted to solve all of them:

Many of the puzzles I knew the solution to, such as the nails puzzle and the ring puzzle, others I was able to solve, but the majority of them completely stumped me and everyone else. Akio Hizume showed us two interesting programs he wrote, called Real Number Music and Real Kekak System. They were both based on using the coefficients of the continued fraction of the number to generate music, and often made music which I think I’ve heard in some songs. At around 2:00 P.M., we went to the Ritz-Carlton for the before-conference meet.

There at the meet were lots of people who were going to G4G9, such as Lucas Garron, a speedcuber who has some very interesting modded cubes, such as one which transforms the edges to the corners and the corners to the edges, and is equivalent to a Shepard’s cube. There were many puzzles there, including Oskar’s Gears and a set of 9 3×3 paper-folding puzzles which varied from easy to AAUUGGHH! I also got to meet Sandro Del-Prete, one of my favorite optical illusion artists and talk to him about his optical illusions and what he was inspired by to make some of his drawings. He didn’t have perfect English, and my German is terrible, so my mom had to act as a translator at some parts. I was still able to understand what he was saying, even in German, though.

by Sandro Del-Prete

At around 6:30, we were led into an adjoining room for the Bar Bets session, in which various people demonstrated interesting and amazing magic tricks and bar bets. One person attempted unsucessfuly to drop a cork so that it would balance on its edge, another was successful at the same thing with matchboxes. The Great Jordini showed how to solve a certain puzzle by blowing on it, and I even got to solve a simple matchstick puzzle, shown below:

Get the dime out of the glass by moving only two matchsticks

Many of the tricks originated from Martin Gardner, such as a trick where a person moves a ring from a lower upperhand knot to a higher one. This went on until around 11:30, at which point we went back to our hotel and slept.

Naturally, I was excited for tomorrow.

  1. Dear Neil,

    I found your blog.

    I took photo of you with John Conway at G4G9.
    Please let me know your email address.
    I will send it to you personally.


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