The Lighter Side of Mathematics

R.KGuy and R.E.Woodrow, eds.


We didn't really mean to have a book. It would be far too much hard work to make one (as indeed it was). And it didn't jell with the idea of the conference, which was to get fun out of mathematics. And who on earth would publish it?

But there were lots of good talks, and many participants wanted to have written versions of them. And when the news got around to those who didn't come, about what a good conference we had, they wanted a written version, too. But there still would be no book had it not been for the energetic chairmanship of Warren Page of the MAA Notes Editorial Board, who not only solicited the work but also has proceeded steadily during his tenancy to improve the appearance of the MAA Notes. We apologize to him that the volume grew so large that it became more at home in the MAA Spectrum series.

And the book could not have appeared without the conference, and the conference would not have happened but for the energetic organization of Bill Sands and his several helpers, and the financial help provided by the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, The University of Calgary, its Department of Mathematics & Statistics, and by Richard Guy.

Of course, the eight-year gap between the conference and the publication of the book has meant that some things have got lost - Hendrik Lenstra's masterly melding of mathematics and amusement in his talk on exotic number systems, and Alan MacDonald's witty welcome during the opening ceremonies. And we cannot convey in a book the beauty and the interest provided by the presence of the exhibits of puzzles by Jerry Slocum and Tom Ransom and others, of Kathy Jones's games and puzzles, and the actual battles on the board games provided by Aviezri Fraenkel.

But much remains, and some of it has matured with age. Several papers have meanwhile appeared in journals and are correspondingly that much more polished. Indeed, most of the papers have been rewritten. Two of them, "The Strong Law of Small Numbers" and "Fourteen Proofs of a Result About Tiling a Rectangle," have gained for their respective authors, Richard Guy and Stan Wagon, the MAAs prestigious Lester R. Ford award for exposition.

Elwyn Berlekamp's article on Blockbusting and Domineering was the natural precursor of his more recent remarkable breakthrough in giving values to endgames in Go, a game long thought to be even more intractable than Chess.

At least two of the participants in the Conference, Ken Falconer and Angela Newing, are keen bell-ringers. Here Ken Falconer applies group theory to bell-ringing, and, by a happy coincidence, Calgary possesses one of the eight rings of bells in Canada, and he and Angela Newing were able to pursue their hobby locally, albeit five thousand miles from its traditional home.

The picturesque aspects of mathematics are beautifully displayed by Coxeter & Rigby, by Branko Grunbaum, by Doris Schattschneider and several others. It will be no surprise that Maurits Escher (who, appropriately enough, was a friend of Eug6ne Strens) was mentioned, and used by way of illustration, by each of these people as well as by Athelstan Spilhaus.

We thank Don Albers and his staff for producing a fine volume while bearing with the editors' idiosyncrasies. Richard Nowakowski and John Selfridge were of great help with proof-reading, and are not to be blamed for any remaining errors.

But it would take too long to detail all the numerous and varied contributions: browse and enjoy! We hope that you have as much fun as we did.


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