Rest in Peace, Alexander Bogomolny @CutTheKnotMath

Devastating news.

He was of the few saints you meet in life: He gave more, much more than he took.

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) July 8, 2018

Alexander Bogomolny was a mathematician and educator well known for his website Cut the Knot, which offered interactive mathematical miscellany and puzzles. You can learn more about him, education and antisemitism in the USSR, his mathematics research and his approach to Cut the Knot in this interview from 2014.

The purpose of the website is educational, with a large index of mathematical topics to explore. In its manifesto, Bogomolny rails against the problem that it has “become an acceptable norm to confess a dislike and misunderstanding of Mathematics as a whole”, concluding that a lack of awareness of the beauty of mathematics is a contributing factor (cf. the utility of mathematics): “judging Mathematics by its pragmatic value is like judging symphony by the weight of its score.” So he invites visitors to the website to make a selection from the miscellany, saying “Learning starts from wondering, and another purpose of this site is to serve as a resource for things, simple but curious, related to Mathematics”.

In making such a selection, where should you start? I’ve used various pages on the site over the years when I’ve been looking for an interesting topic or a clear explanation of something I’m investigating. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was telling a colleague about this page linking the Towers of Hanoi puzzle to the Sierpinski Gasket, a fun result. I suggest you visit the site, pick something that interests you, and dive in. For example, there are a series of articles written as a Cut the Knot column over several years, there are various collections, such as eye openers and impossible things, or you just can just browse through the vast collection of topics on the homepage.

We shall miss him and the wonderful mathematics he shared.

Rest in peace,your legacy through your prowess in mathematics will live forever.

So sad! I just used his site yesterday.

(Do you know what will happen to his site? Should we all do something about it? How?)

We don’t know! I suggested it might be worth trying to recreate some of his wonderful Java applets in HTML5 before they disappear… I wonder if anyone is interested in doing that?

I just heard about Alex’s death. He was a good person and he made the world a better place. Alex was a friend and colleague at the University of Iowa for a number of years in the 1980’s, and we co-authored some nice research. I will miss him.