Alice in Stanford Wonderland

Last week, Neil went to a full-day camp on the Stanford campus to learn how to do 3D modelling in Maya. He enjoyed the camp, but the week turned out to be an adventure not only about that, but beyond that as well.

For one thing, Neil’s friend Bill Gosper lives near Stanford, and he stopped by each evening with some treats from his favorite restaurants (or once, we went out to eat together.) Then he and Neil would have fun talking about number theory together for a while. For me, it was sort of like being Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, as catered by Dravidian and Mandarin Cheshire cats.

It didn’t get any better when I put out the idea of staying even later on Tuesday to check out the Stanford Math Circle. I got hopelessly disoriented trying to find the math building (so Alice in Wonderland, isn’t it?), but we got there in time. We found Bill Gosper (who naturally knew where the math building was), and shortly thereafter young math and science geeks started showing up and descending upon the puzzles Gosper had brought along just for fun. The regular math circle room was occupied, so the group disassembled and reassembled itself somewhere else in the building, which I also got disoriented in trying to find.

stanford math circle

The official math puzzler for the group that day was called Quad, the strategy for which solving it is (and you know I’m quoting here) isomorphic to Lagrange’s algorithm for the reduction of binary quadratic forms with integral coefficients.  Hordes of children grabbed multi-colored rectangular shapes to solve the problems in many different ways, and the place took on the air of a chaotic, happy, nerdy party. I decided I’d be better off socializing with the other parents.

The next day, after dropping off Neil, I took Kelly to Oakland to the very charming Fairyland, which has its own blog entry here. It has its own set of Alice in Wonderland themed attractions, like an Alice in Wonderland carousel and an Alice in Wonderland maze.

Cards fly away

Neil was excited about his Maya project, and we all popped up to Stanford together to see it at the camp’s official commencement, which included a celebration of the students coming out for a family accolade for their project premieres:

Neil graduation

Neil did really well in the course, and his instructor complimented him on his hard work. His animation is too big for my blog, but here he is showing off the spaceship model which was part of his project:

Neil and his Maya project

After Neil gave us a full demo, all of us (including Bill Gosper) went over to the student union to have some celebratory ice cream. Kelly, wanting to be part of the fun, brought along a paper star from the dorm in which Neil had had his classes, and showed it to Bill Gosper: “Look it’s a star!”

“Do you know what else it is?” he told her. “It’s a pentagram.”

“No, it’s not!” she declared. “It’s a star, Bill Gosper, and I mean it!” (She’s never going to live that story down.)

I’d say that was the end of my Alice in Wonderland week, but the next day, on Saturday, we were splashing in the pool after lunch time. I had gone in to the kitchen to get something for Peter when the doorbell rang. I had been expecting Shiaw-Ling who said she’d come by around that time, so I simply opened the door in my bathing suit. It was a completely different Asian friend, Junko, whom I haven’t seen in 5 years, and who’d just decided to drop by while she was in the area. She hadn’t brought a bathing suit, so we had to promise to get together later, and Shiaw-Ling didn’t show up until many hours later.

I’m looking forward to a week I can understand.

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