Friday, June 4, 2010

Martin Gardner

Spoons Can’t
Be Bent
With Mind

Writes Vinod Varshney

What could be the power of mathematical mind? Uri Geller claimed that he could bend spoons with his mind. But there are always good writers around who debunk such claims and keep people with sane perception.

One such great writer of mathematics and science Martin Gardner died on May 22, 2010. He was 95. Martin Gardner was born in 1914 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy at the University of Chicago.

He became a freelance writer, and in the 1950s wrote features and stories for several children's magazines. Gardner 'opened the eyes of the general public to the beauty and fascination of mathematics and inspired many to go on to make the subject their life's work.

Gardner's 'crystalline prose, always enlightening, never pedantic, set a new standard for high quality mathematical popularization. He was a renaissance man who built new ideas through words, numbers and puzzles.

Was he a believer in God ?

Gardner was a reputed sceptic. He did not believe that God communicated directly with human beings, which most babas (godmen) in India claim. He also did not believe that God comes on earth and performs miracles in this world.

But he believed in having some kind of faith in the God and prayers. This may sound strange to many people. He maintained that human beings lived happier lives through faith and prayer. This is quite rational and is in line with principles of psychology and conciousness.

He also maintained that it is very difficult to know the secrets of conciousness. For this perhaps higher physics than quantum physics would be required.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chess And Mathematics

Will One Chess Player


40 Mathematicians ?

Writes Vinod Varshney

Mathematicians are gifted with powerful brains. What about chess players? They have even more formidable grey matter. India, a country of Ramanujan, may not have any world class mathematician today, but we certainly have one world chess champion—Vishwanathan Anand.

He will be pitted against 40 mathematicians in August when he will simultaneously play chess with them in Hyderabad.

Let me remind August 2010 will see the largest gathering of mathematical geeks ever in India as Hyderabad is hosting the
International Congress of Mathematicians, the biggest and most prestigious international mathematical meeting.

Chess Is The Most Brain-twisting Game

Chess is the most brain-twisting of all games. Chess and problem solving in mathematics require same kind of faculty. That is the reason one finds many chess enthusiasts among mathematicians. Emanuel Lasker, the well-known mathematician was the world chess champion for 27 years (1894–1921).

The game of chess originated in India in the sixth century. It was called Chaturanga, in Sanskrit, meaning four divisions of military -- infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots, represented by the pieces that would evolve into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively. The modern form of the game is somewhat different from the Indian version and evolved in Europe in the fifteenth century.

It is indeed a matter of great pride for India that an Indian is the world champion in the game which has Indian roots. It may be a matter of even more pride if this year some Indian gets the
Fields Medal, the highest award in mathematics. Not a single Indian has ever been able to get it so far.

Vishy Anand Deeply Interested in Maths

Does Anand maintain some interest in mathematics and science? Yes, one of his favourite books which he often refers to is Andrew Hodges's 'Inner Life of Numbers'. Asked about the unique opportunity to play 40 brilliant mathematicians, Anand said, “Actually I am quite looking forward to attending the congress and may even hear some lectures. I enjoyed Simon Singh's book on Fermat's Last Theorem and I keep reading the book repeatedly.

“In fact when I first became a Grandmaster, someone presented me the book, 'The Man who knew infinity', a biography of Ramanujan. I was intrigued by his natural genius. That was my first introduction to a mathematician. Both chess and mathematics are closely linked and lots of our methodology in problem solving is similar".

A related Story of the same author:,_Now_Time_To_Have_a_Hero_N42745.html