Reminder: I’m occasionally working to (sort of) recreate Martin Gardner’s cover images from Scientific American, the so-called Gardner’s Dozen.

This time I’m looking at the cover image from the July 1965 issue, accompanying the column on ‘op art’ (which became chapter 24 in Martin Gardner’s Sixth Book of Mathematical Diversions from Scientific American).

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.

A while ago on this blog I shared a LaTeX macro I had written for drawing games of Nim. I have now taken the plunge and written this into a LaTeX package called nimsticks. (Why? What do you do to relax on a lazy Sunday morning?)

This LaTeX package provides commands \drawnimstick to draw a single nim stick and \nimgame which represents games of multi-pile Nim. Nim sticks are drawn with a little random wobble so they look ‘thrown together’ and not too regular.

What this does it allows commands such as \nimgame{5,3,4} which renders like this:

You know what’s fun? Typesetting mathematics! Glad you agree, because here’s a game that puts the fun in ‘underfilled hbox’.

In TeXnique, you’re shown a typeset bit of mathematical notation, and have to frantically type LaTeX to reproduce it. You get three minutes, and you’re awarded points when you produce something that’s a pixel-perfect replica of the original. Think Typing of the Dead crossed with The Art of Computer Programming.

When I first saw this I rolled my eyes, but now my high score is 68 and I don’t know why I keep going back to it.

The formulas are largely well-known snippets of notation, so you might find some of them coming out through muscle memory, but if a symbol shows up that you can’t remember the macro for, there’s always the brilliant Detexify tool.