Our G4G9 Pre Preview

Bill Gosper travelled with us to Atlanta for G4G9. He gave us a first taste of what it might be like, when at 5:30 am on Tuesday morning, he absent-mindedly accessed the 6th dimension and bypassed the security check at the airport. Since I was holding his boarding pass, this confused everyone, so we called him back and had him go through with us, the non-mathematician way.

Bill behaved himself for the rest of the trip, so we arrived in Atlanta without problem. When we landed, we called Tom Rodgers, the organizer of G4G9, who told us if we came over to his house, he’d feed us dinner and introduce us to the company that was staying with him.

My GPS device had trouble finding the right address, but we didn’t, because we could see the huge geometrical sculptures and a Japanese flag from the road. I did not know how to open the gate to get in, so Bill and Neil walked up to the house to solve the riddles so I could drive in.

In the yard, we found several people working on all sorts of odd structures. Akio Hizume was in a geodesic dome, steaming a bowl of water. I had to wonder if that was for dinner.

Then Caspar Schwabe collapsed one of his creations down so it was a circle on the ground, and told Neil to jump inside it. He reached down, and plup, Neil was trapped!


When Tom called us to see the black bamboo forest behind his house, Caspar let Neil go.

Tom showed his puzzle collection to Neil, which delighted Neil no end. You may know Rubik’s cubes, but you don’t know Rubik’s cubes like these:

Nine faces per side, pshaw–ever tried solving one with 18? With each cube being able to rotate 180 degrees? Neil discovered a Georgian puzzle box from 1835 and told me the only way that could be opened was by tapping it several times and then sliding the top on at the correct point of a tap.

He’s studied this stuff (on his own), but here he was seeing the real thing. He gleefully pointed out this sliding puzzle “Climb 24 by Minoru Abe” requires 227 moves to solve–if you know what you’re doing.

When Neil finally emerged from the puzzle room, we found Lennart Green. And a deck of cards.

Just for Neil, he pulled out his amazing tricks. For instance, when Neil chose the ace of clubs as the card he wanted to see, Lennart shuffled the cards and –oops–pulled out the ace of hearts. Another shuffle, and Lennart picked out the ace of spades. He checked with Neil–was it really the ace of clubs he’d chosen. Another shuffle, and out came…the ace of diamonds. Well, well, well. One more shuffle and all was well, because there was the ace of clubs.

To top of all off, he put 4 cards in Neil’s hands, which we all could have sworn were not aces, told Neil to rub them between his hands, tapped them, and voila–all aces. By this time, a small crowd had gathered, and the show had to be stopped for dinner.

Luckily for me, mathematicians and magicians had not been put in charge of dinner, and it was delicious. Neil did bring out his own puzzle box and we were unable to leave until it was solved, by which time it was late.

As I write, it’s the following day, and we have been joined by more of our California South Bay crew, most of whom are still asleep as I write. But the show goes on with a preview tonight, so the surprises are still far from over.

1 Comment

  1. Rubik

    I want to contact with you. Can you send me a mail to the mail i wrote here?

    It’s about Rubik’s Cubes.

    Thank you so much!!

    cjb responds: I’m not the puzzler. If you care to comment on Rubik’s cubes and other puzzles, you may wish to see this blog and contact my son: http://nbickford.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/gathering-for-gardner-9-prelude/


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