“Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place where maths people could hang out and create cool maths things?” This idea was put to me a couple of years ago, and has stuck with me. It does sound nice.
Fast forward to 2023, and social media is collapsing. Some people have chosen a direction and are marching off towards Mastodon, Bluesky, Threads, or a number of other platforms. Some people are trying to keep up with multiple of these, but feeling spread too thin and wondering if it’s worth the effort (ask me how I know!). But many people are taking the opportunity to step back and think again. People are rethinking whether they want to conduct their online social lives in public. There is a surge in private communities, things like WhatsApp groups, Slack channels and Discord rooms. These have the advantage that you aren’t part of the ‘engagement’-driven content push, but they have disadvantages too – you have to know the right people to get into the group.
Meanwhile, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place where maths people could hang out and create cool maths things?
So we’re creating it. We’re calling it The Finite Group (who doesn’t love a punny maths name?). “We” is Katie Steckles, Sophie Maclean, Matthew Scroggs and me. It’s going to be a maths community that gets together to share and create cool maths things, that supports creators to do their work within the group and on the wider internet.
I was interviewed by Nira Chamberlain, President of the Mathematical Association. I am the twelfth person to whom he has asked his question “what is the point of mathematics?” Hoping to offer something a little different, I spoke about teaching students the role mathematical modelling can play in sustainability.
Martin Gardner’s long-running column in Scientific American made it onto the front cover of the magazine twelve times. Gathering 4 Gardner refers to these cover stories as “A Gardner’s Dozen“, while pointing out that these aren’t his ‘greatest hits’ and the magazine artists didn’t necessarily reproduce the graphics as he would have liked them.
Nevertheless, I thought it would be a fun challenge to try to reproduce these in TikZ, a drawing package for LaTeX. I like TikZ, and appreciate a chance to practice my skills. Readers of the future will be able to judge how many of the dozen I produced, and how regularly I did these.
The first I chose is the cover from November 1969. Last summer I had the pleasure of visiting Scarthin Books in Cromford, Derbyshire while walking along the Derwent with my son. Inside I found a small pile of old copies of Scientific American and thought it would be nice to own a copy with an original Martin Gardner article. Naturally, I chose the issue they had where his article provided the cover image.
My son and I visited The Mathematikum in Giessen. This is well worth a visit, we did it as a day trip by train from holiday in Frankfurt, which worked well because the museum is close to the railway station. The Mathematikum specialises in ‘hands on, minds on’ interactive activities, and we spent about 5 hours exploring the four floors. I enjoyed the open-access article The Mathematikum in Giessen by Martin Buhmann, who was kind enough to meet us and show us around.
There are some Mathematikum-made exhibits at MathsCity Leeds. I took some pictures of exhibits we had enjoyed that aren’t (to the best of my memory) available in Leeds. Here they are, in no particular order.