[seqfan] Re: Martin Gardner & humour

gould at math.wvu.edu gould at math.wvu.edu
Wed Jun 9 07:30:23 CEST 2010

> On Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 10:09 AM, Eric Angelini <Eric.Angelini at kntv.be>
> wrote:
>> Hello Math-Fun and SeqFan,
>> I'm asked to write a 10,000-sign paper on Martin Gardner's
>> sense of humour (the man &/or his articles, columns, books).
>> Do some of you have nice stories or souvenirs?
>> Best,
>> É.
> In its obituary about Martin Gardner, available at
> http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=three-puzzles-from-martin-gardner-1-2010-05-22
> Scientific American presents three of Gardner's puzzles, starting with
> the topological problem of trousers to be turned inside-out, which is
> somehow funny:
> "Each end of a 10-foot length of rope is tied securely to a man’s
> ankles. Without cutting or untying the rope, is it possible to remove
> his trousers, turn them inside out on the rope and put them back on
> correctly? Party guests should try to answer this confusing
> topological question before initiating any empirical tests."
> As remarked on http://www.scienceblogs.de/mathlog/,
> this is not unrelated to a joke from Lewis Caroll, quoted by Gardner
> in his book "The universe in a handkerchief: Lewis Carroll's
> mathematical recreations, ...",
> cf. http://books.google.com/books?id=v6JIKj0K-ZQC&pg=PA27 :
> <<
>  "He (Dodgson) knows a man whose feet are so large that he has to put
> on his trousers over his head." One can call this a joke about
> topology.
Exactly! And Lewis Carroll used the empty set as one of his tools to
express humor. In one scene Alice is looking down a rank or file on the
chess board and the King asks her what she sees, to which Alice replies:
"I see no one." The King then says: "Ah I wish I had such eyes, to see no
one, and at such a distance too!"

> M.
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