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Science Luminary Martin Gardner Dead at 95

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the sad-to-note dept.

Education 96

From James Randi's blog comes word that science writer Martin Gardner has died at the age of 95. I never met Gardner, but one of his books (Entertaining Science Experiments With Everyday Objects) has been a favorite of mine since I was 6 or 7 years old; I didn't realize until just now quite how many books he authored.

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Great author (1)

hubie (108345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310412)

Besides all his great mathematical puzzle books, I really loved Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.

Re:Great author (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310574)

He was a magician too...for that he'll be missed equally as much...

Re:Great author (4, Informative)

DannyO152 (544940) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310594)

Let me put in a cheer for the "Alice in Wonderland" he annotated.

Re:Great author (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32310706)

Let me put in a cheer for the "Alice in Wonderland" he annotated.

You've said it! The Annotated Alice is one of my favorite books.

Re:Great author (2, Interesting)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310982)

Let me put in a cheer for the "Alice in Wonderland" he annotated.

Thanks for that, I hadn't put him together with "The Annotated Alice." Fine book; mine is well-thumbed.

Re:Great author (1)

Octopus (19153) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319466)

Yep, I've got that one and the Annotated Frankenstein, another great book.

Bye Martin!

google books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32310416)

google books [google.com] link

One of my heros (1)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32313442)

His sci-am columns and books affected my life made me love math.

Good Article! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32310426)

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http://denversinsuranceblog.com

Adieu, Martin (4, Insightful)

ridgecritter (934252) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310444)

His pages in Scientific American were something I always looked forward to, and from which I always learned something. Glad he was among us.

Re:Adieu, Martin (2, Interesting)

schwaang (667808) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310538)

I learned Conway's Game of Life through Gardner's SciAm columns, and programmed it for display on a Televideo 925 terminal hung off an S100 bus machine running CP/M on an 8088. I hope Martin boarded a Glider headed for some distant Pulsar...

Re:Adieu, Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32310696)

CP/M didn't run on 8088s, but 8080/8085/Z80s

Re:Adieu, Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311032)

A poor clone of CP/M did, QDOS, aka. PC-DOS 1.0. Also CPM/86 was available for the 8088.

Re:Adieu, Martin (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311882)

Yes, I remember coding one such in Fortran on an IBM 1130 back in the day, almost 30 years ago. I'd corresponded with Gardner about that and he pointed me to Lifeline, Robert Wainwright's GoL newsletter. I never forgot that little kindness.

Re:Adieu, Martin (1)

johndiii (229824) | more than 3 years ago | (#32411706)

I also learned about Conway's game of Life from Gardner's column. I coded it in Fortran for a Burroughs B-1700 (IIRC) in 1975.

I had much enjoyment from the Mathematical Games columns in Scientific American, and I was quite disappointed when they ended - though I came to enjoy Hofstader's work quite a bit as well.

Re:Adieu, Martin (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32310754)

Martin's SciAm column rocked. I used to read it back in the late 60's and all through the 70's. He nearly singlehandedly inspired popular interest in mathematics in the United States during that era.

Hey, it beats the shit out of playing another round of Modern Warfare, which is what damn near every kid these days spends his free time doing. I enjoy computer games, but I also fear what mass consumption of them will do to our children and our culture's ability to achieve scientific results.

Re:Adieu, Martin (2, Informative)

bth (635955) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310838)

I agree...his Scientific American articles brought out all the magic in mathematics.

Re:Adieu, Martin (5, Insightful)

dbg1000 (1817578) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311028)

This great quote sums it up for me and my son:

"Martin Gardner has turned dozens of innocent youngsters into math professors, and thousands of math professors into innocent youngsters."

From "Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems," attributed to Persi Diaconis

Not quit in my case (3, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32313220)

A kind letter from Gardner after I sent him the results of an investigation I had done into polyominoes went some way to convince me that I had enough symbolic manipulation skills to change career to systems design. This proved the best decision I ever made after deciding to get married. So long, Martin Gardner, resquiescat in pace.

Re:Adieu, Martin (1)

alexo (9335) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349208)

This great quote sums it up for me and my son:
"Martin Gardner has turned dozens of innocent youngsters into math professors, and thousands of math professors into innocent youngsters."

Which of his books can be recommended for youngsters (grade school)?

Re:Adieu, Martin (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311806)

Glad he was among us.

Indeed. He was a man who definitely left the world a better place. He brought intellectual joy to many people, no mean feat.

Re:Adieu, Martin (1)

MerlynDavis (637066) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312814)

He also did columns in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. They were always interesting, always intriguing, and always entertaining. He was a great man, and a great teacher. Time to go see if I still have his books...if not, time to go hit a bookstore for them. RIP, Martin.

Re:Adieu, Martin (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318340)

I stopped getting Scientific American after they cancelled his puzzle column. In fact, I often used that column as the deciding factor as to whether or not I should buy the issue.

Re:Adieu, Martin (1)

Keith Henson (1588543) | more than 4 years ago | (#32324026)

I believe I read every column he wrote for SciAm. There are few of my generation that were not influenced by Martin.

Pretty good run. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310452)

Hope I make it to 95.

Gardner will be missed.

-jcr

Re:Pretty good run. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311508)

Fear the Libertarians! If they get their way, the government will leave you alone! Oh, the Horror!

(insert post-Hurricane Katrina imagery here)

Aha (5, Interesting)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310468)

Before I discovered Martin Gardner's books, I was unable to understand mathematics, and I had very bad grades.

One day, I bought one of his books, and suddenly, I was able to see that math and logic was fun, and we could play with them.

To the amazement of my teachers, my grades increased in a few days, and I wanted to become a mathematician at this moment.

I became a programmer because I wanted to solve some of his puzzles so badly with my computer.

Thanks Martin !

Re:Aha (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#32326206)

I think if Martin Gardner were still alive and read your post, he would be very happy.

The take-home lesson of that is: let your childhood heroes, your idols and your mentors know that you are thankful while they still live.

(because maybe you will mentor someone and they will come back and thank you for good tutelage.)

one of a kind (4, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310480)

Martin Gardner was one of a kind. I grew up with his Mathematical Games column in Scientific American. His book Relativity Simply Explained is what I recommend whenever people ask me for a good intro to relativity. His intelligence and ability to explain were extraordinary compared to a lot of people with much more formal education. He had a long life and seems to have remained sharp and active for almost all of it.

Re:one of a kind (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310602)

I was reading Gardner when I was a kid, too. Something from Aha! series, iirc. His writing on logic and set theory, and Conway's life and other automata influenced my interests in a very dramatic way.

I'm not dead. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32310482)

'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Yes he is.
I'm not.
He isn't.
Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
I'm getting better.
No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment.

R.I.P., Martin Gardner (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32310488)

I want to speak for the entire geek community, so I'm posting A.C.

Martin, you will be dearly missed. You've probably changed more lives than you could ever realize, and this planet was a better place because you existed.

Requiescat in pace.

Re:R.I.P., Martin Gardner (2, Interesting)

MoeDumb (1108389) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311522)

I'm wondering if he and Richard Feynman ever got together. Would love to have been a fly on the wall for those conversations.

The world is out of balance (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32310520)

It's guys like Martin that provided some balance against mindless idiots like those on the Texas education boards.

Let's hope there's a thousand more Martins out there. Surely he would hope the same.

RIP.

Re:The world is out of balance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32321810)

It's guys like Martin that provided some balance against mindless idiots like those on the Texas education boards.

Let's hope there's a thousand more Martins out there. Surely he would hope the same.

RIP.

It's guys like Martin that provided some balance against mindless idiots like those on the Texas education boards.

Let's hope there's a thousand more Martins out there. Surely he would hope the same.

RIP.

It's guys like Martin that provided some balance against mindless idiots like those on the Texas education boards.

Let's hope there's a thousand more Martins out there. Surely he would hope the same.

RIP.

Shame on you.

No politics now Sir.

This is all about Martin Gardner. A hero to many and a leader to most!

I become a professional engineer and one of my sons is a biomedical engineer and the other is an electrical engineer.

Mr. Gardner can take great pleasure in the good that he has brought to all of us.

The world just lost a little bit of its light (4, Interesting)

Walter Wart (181556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310562)

Martin Gardner was one of the best. Keen intellect, gentle wit, vast knowledge and warm heart. I only met him once, but it was memorable. He will be missed. If he had known the date and hour of his death he would have had a handful of interesting facts tying together all of the numbers. And he would have published it as a puzzle for his readers. Goodbye Mr. Gardner. We will not see your like again soon.

Re:The world just lost a little bit of its light (3, Interesting)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311004)

"Martin will be a hard act to follow". Douglas Hofstadter

RIP A GREAT MAN (3, Interesting)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310566)

Without his influence, I would not be in the position I am in now to influence the viability of man living in space.

RIP to one of the greatest influences on my life. While the mathematics got beyond me, everything else inspired me.

See also Bad Astronomy (4, Informative)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310612)

Phil Plait has a writeup [discovermagazine.com] as well.

One Less of the People Who Shaped My Mind (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310626)

What a sad day. A single book that shaped me [google.com] even in college from a man who could somehow make Mathematics fun. Now I'll never know him personally but I'll always know that a collection of his puzzles [slashdot.org] put me on track to be who I am today. While writers as popular as Clarke and Sagan shaped me as well, Gardner is in the lesser known category that shaped me just as much if not more.

A near maniacal thirst to algorithmically solve puzzles was instilled in me from his mind via plain old paper.

Rest in peace, Martin Gardner.

Man who inspired scores to become Mathematicians (2, Insightful)

gorrepati (866378) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310726)

He is a man to whom scores of people thank for igniting the first spark of appreciating math and science. He will be terribly missed.

Martin Gardner (1)

rssrss (686344) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310846)

May his memory be for a blessing.

Martin Gardner mattered (4, Insightful)

Shimmer (3036) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310850)

In the 1970s and early 80s, before the internet, before personal computers, nothing linked geeks together more than Martin Gardner's monthly column in Scientific American. I amazed myself with his binary card deck, and collected matchboxes to make a tic-tac-toe learning computer.

His work will live on. I'm sitting next to a shelf full of his books as I type this.

A Wonderful Influence (4, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310892)

Martin Gardner is known to many for his writings in recreational mathematics, but I also came to admire his persistent and vigorous work promoting naturalistic and scientific rigor and his work to discredit fringe science and junk science.

Some of the areas he wrote on were creationism, organic farming, Charles Fort, Rudolf Steiner, Scientology, Dianetics, UFOs, dowsing, extra-sensory perception, the Bates method, and psychokinesis.

Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (1952, revised 1957) is a classic and should be required material in our school systems.

Re:A Wonderful Influence (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311200)

organic farming

Just curious here, but why does organic farming (lack of pesticides and genetic modification?) require debunking as belonging to fringe or junk science?

Re:A Wonderful Influence (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311334)

Organic farming in and of itself isn't pseudoscience, but sometimes the claims made about it fall into that realm. Examples being that the products of organic farming are necessarily healthier for you, or better for the environment, or conversely, that the use of pesticides and genetic modification are necessarily detrimental. They can be or not be, and such claims have to be analyzed on an individual basis. But there does exist a large segment of the population that adheres to the naturalistic fallacy that what is "natural" is better for you than what isn't, despite straightforward counter-examples (all-natural poisonous mushrooms and berries), and despite the fact that "natural" in this context is not well-defined (is a domesticated food crop that has been genetically modified by hundreds of years of selective agricultural breeding considered "natural?").

Re:A Wonderful Influence (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311336)

organic farming

Just curious here, but why does organic farming (lack of pesticides and genetic modification?) require debunking as belonging to fringe or junk science?

It's not the existence of organic farming, it's the claims that are associated with it. Sometimes the organic choice turns out to be less healthy than non-organic type (like when some nutso places try to sell you non-pasteurized milk).

Some of the organic choices are probably indeed better for you. A lot of it is most definitely more ethical in terms of treatment of animals. And if we all switched to organic, large portions of the human population would starve, as we couldn't possibly produce as much food as cheaply to feed everyone. Turns out the benefits of mass food production seriously outweigh the problems.

Re:A Wonderful Influence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311524)

Turns out the benefits of mass food production seriously outweigh the problems.

Yep. We produce so much food we have to pay farmers NOT to grow some of it, while some parts of the world continue to stand on the brink of starvation.

Re:A Wonderful Influence (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32313556)

And if we all switched to organic, large portions of the human population would starve, as we couldn't possibly produce as much food as cheaply to feed everyone.

Wait a minute, people would starve because we can't feed them cheaply? This is bullshit. Organic wouldn't be the reason people would starve, corporate greed would be. Further, all we have to do to have enough fertilizer for organic food production for all citizens would be to stop piping our shit off to sewage "treatment plants" and shit in a composting toilet instead. Sewage sludge is not a safe fertilizer; composted shit is. The Green Revolution fed nobody who would have otherwise starved, and there are numerous methods of organic farming which produce more food per acre than so-called Green Revolution methods. Today, most farming doesn't even utilize crop rotation; we're not using even the most basic technologies of farming.

Re:A Wonderful Influence (1)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321382)

Wait a minute, people would starve because we can't feed them cheaply? This is bullshit.

No it's not bullshit. The introduction of modern fertilisers lead to massive increases in crop yields. Before this revolution (and that is not too strong a description), scientists feared that we had reached a peak in agricultural production. Coupled with a rapidly growing human population, this lead to fears of global food shortages and famine. Unfortunately, we are nearing a repeat of that crisis. Agricultural production is nearly maxed out, population growth is still sky rocketing, and there is no new agricultural revolution akin to the fertiliser one in the offing. Worst of all, we may not even be able to maintain current agricultural production levels for long, as some of the primary ingredients for modern fertilisers are becoming very scarce.

Re:A Wonderful Influence (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321622)

No it's not bullshit.

Saying it's not doesn't make it not.

The introduction of modern fertilisers lead to massive increases in crop yields.

I covered this recently, in the discussion on pesticide-resistant weeds. You produce more food per acre with biointensive methods like permaculture (an organic farming methodology) than with monocultures. The only thing "green revolution" farming provides is the ability to use machinery. Further, pesticide-resistant weeds are not a threat to organic farming.

Before this revolution (and that is not too strong a description),

Let me state again: Not one person was fed by the green revolution that would otherwise have starved.

scientists feared that we had reached a peak in agricultural production.

When you say that it implies that most scientists thought that, which is far from proven.

Agricultural production is nearly maxed out,

Bull SHIT. Not only are farmers in the US being paid not to grow food, but food rots in silos and warehouses every year. Feeding the world has never about there being enough food. It's always been about self-sufficiency, because if you give a man a loaf of bread, he'll just have enough energy to breed, and next year you'll have to give him more bread so that he can feed a family. However, the Green Revolution is about neither; it's about profit. The only benefit to come out of it has been that big agribusiness makes profit.

and there is no new agricultural revolution akin to the fertiliser one in the offing.

We can go back to organic farming (before the recent invention of chemical fertilizers, all farming was organic) e.g. permaculture, which permits the production of up to ten times more foodstuffs per unit of space, depending on what's being grown.

Worst of all, we may not even be able to maintain current agricultural production levels for long, as some of the primary ingredients for modern fertilisers are becoming very scarce.

No, worst of all, the farmlands used for green revolution agriculture are now dead. See, the chemical fertilizers and pesticides kill beneficials like nematodes in the soil. Over 60% of healthy topsoil is living organic matter! When you couple these chemicals with the production of hardpan in the soil caused by driving heavy machinery over it (what a retarded idea, every gardener knows you don't step in the beds) you get soil dead from top to bottom. It basically becomes an inert medium for the hydroponic production of crops. Further, it is about to break down due to pesticide-resistant weeds, and so become untenable in any case.

The Green Revolution never fed anyone and is dismantling our food production ability. Luckily, biointensive methods work fine on terraces, so we can move into the hills. Problem is, there's trees there now, and we need a certain minimum tree coverage to prevent weather spinning out of control. Probably the only tree you could have much success with on farmland is a pine, but there's not enough water for them any more (we've been pumping water out of the ground so we can wastefully spray it over the soil, another "benefit" of your favorite style of agriculture) and they make acidic soil which is unsuitable for growing almost any crops, requiring another phase after pines for full remediation of the soil.

Your "Revolution" is crumbling. The US is turning back into a dust bowl. Green Revolution farming destroys the land and only those totally hoodwinked or morally bankrupt (and profiting) would promote it.

Re:A Wonderful Influence (1)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334402)

Bloody hell, you're so confused as to be beyond help. Nice lack of irony in the first sentence of your response as well.

Re:A Wonderful Influence (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32346392)

Bloody hell, you're so confused as to be beyond help.

Is this what you do when you run out of supporting arguments?

Re:A Wonderful Influence (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#32326506)

Organic wouldn't be the reason people would starve, corporate greed would be.

I think it's more a case of human greed. And human mistrust.

I think that the world has enough arable land to feed its inhabitants; and if enough people would volunteer their time, or their money which could be used to hire other people, we would have that food grown, easily.

But we don't, because people don't give those donations, because they don't know that donating $200 per month rather than $10/m will actually fix it; and maybe it won't, because your neighbor won't know that you will cooperate, and ...

What I'm trying to say is this: if "the little man" pooled together their resources, they could accomplish a whole lot. Don't they (we, I) carry some blame for not doing that?

Re:A Wonderful Influence (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 4 years ago | (#32327888)

I think that the world has enough arable land to feed its inhabitants; and if enough people would volunteer their time, or their money which could be used to hire other people, we would have that food grown, easily.

The world has enough food to feed everyone. Right now.

The problem is one of logistics. By the time that food gets to the people who need it, much of it has spoiled, been eaten by pests, or been sold by corrupt middlemen. A few well-placed revolutions and a few tens of billions of dollars invested in infrastructure, and starvation would be a thing of the past.

Good riddance. (-1, Troll)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32310942)

He's one of those persons I just can't respect. He was essentially a crackpot. He was outspoken against pseudoscience, and then ran around talking about god. He was essentially weak. He didn't really believe in god, everything he believed was proof that there is no god. And he still insisted on believing in god, and tried hard to keep his stupid faith.

He was of the idea that there is no way to prove the non-existence of god, and therefore it's reasonable to believe in a god.

And those thoughts, specially coming from such a respected scientist, hurt the Atheist cause more than anything.

Re:Good riddance. (4, Insightful)

belochitski (148176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311006)

>He was of the idea that there is no way to prove the non-existence of god

This is, in fact, correct. In natural sciences it is only possible to show that something does exist. It is not possible to prove non-existatnce. (It is not the case in mathematics, but mathematics is not a natural science).

The easiest way to understand it is to realize that the body observations available to science was taken in a limited period of time and area of space. Thus the our current scientific view of the world is only formally valid in this limited domain. What exist outside of it is only our educated guess.

Re:Good riddance. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311142)

>He was of the idea that there is no way to prove the non-existence of god

This is, in fact, correct. In natural sciences it is only possible to show that something does exist. It is not possible to prove non-existatnce. (It is not the case in mathematics, but mathematics is not a natural science).

The easiest way to understand it is to realize that the body observations available to science was taken in a limited period of time and area of space. Thus the our current scientific view of the world is only formally valid in this limited domain. What exist outside of it is only our educated guess.

This is not generally true. It is true in some specific instances. For instance, you cannot prove that there is no such thing as a non-white swan. So in this sense you are correct to say that "it is not possible to prove non-existence." But as an aside, do note that the existence-refuting claim that there is no such thing as a non-white swan is logically equivalent to the existence-asserting claim that all swans are white, which is something you also cannot prove.

However, natural science can very easily show the non-existence of things. Very trivially, we can take a thing as non-existing if it a priori contradicts itself logically. Suppose a particle physicist has conceptualized a new particle he calls the "nihilon," which is an eternal, non-aging particle that obliterates all matter and energy that comes within a light-year radius of it. Can such a particle be shown to not exist? Of course, and very easily. If it's eternal, it was present in the early years of our universe when the size of the universe was much smaller than a light year. It would have obliterated all matter and energy then, and we wouldn't be here today. The fact that we are here today means the nihilon does not exist.

Now I know some of the particle physicist pedants here will pick apart my made up example, but the point is not to test my ability to come up with particle physics sci-fi, the point is that there are plenty of things which can be shown a priori to not exist. As another example, in biology, we can show that a function for junk DNA does not exist, by noting among many other things, that some segment of DNA is a pseudogene, or that mutations can harmlessly alter some segment of DNA, or (the gold standard) note that we can excise huge chunks of some test organism's genome and note that it is still phenotypically normal.

Re:Good riddance. (1)

belochitski (148176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311218)

Thanks for this. Using your points I can refine my thesis as follows: if existence of an entity does not contradict the available body of observations that its non-existance is impossible to prove.

Re:Good riddance. (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 4 years ago | (#32315438)

However, natural science can very easily show the non-existence of things. Very trivially, we can take a thing as non-existing if it a priori contradicts itself logically.

Yeah, the problem with such arguments is that they depend on (1) the current conception of a "proper" logical argument, as well as (2) the "a priori" assumptions.

For example, historically, St. Anselm claimed to "prove" the existence of God using what he thought was a logical argument. Descartes, after claiming to throw out all assumptions and only asserting "I think, therefore I am," only a little while later only is able to get out of his solipsism by using what he thinks is a logical argument that God exists. Today, most logicians wouldn't agree that such arguments are logical. Can we guarantee that our present understanding of logic will hold up over time?

As for the second issue, take, for example, your scenario about the novel particle. You manage to prove that it's a logical contradiction only based on the current conception of an expanding universe originating at a Big Bang. 75 years ago, you couldn't depend on physicists to believe your "a priori" assumption; even 50 years ago, there were still a number of hold-outs for the "steady state" theory of the universe, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary. Who's to say that in another century, scientists might not discover something that requires a new model of the history of the universe (or maybe just a more subtle one) that wouldn't rule out your scenario? Or, for your DNA example, you again rely on our current genetic understanding, which is still in the process of rapid development. Perhaps there is some minor and as-yet unnoticed function for junk DNA.

Of course, I agree with your general conclusions, and I don't think either of your scenarios is likely. But many scientists have made the mistake in the past of assuming certain things to be "impossible" (or possible) based on supposed "a priori" arguments. It's a fun exercise to try to prove things "impossible," but you're only proving that your scenarios contradict our current theories and understanding using accepted logical standards of today, not that they are actually logically impossible to ever exist in the universe.

Re:Good riddance. (2, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311170)

Which means that he should've at least waited for god to materialize in a bright light and have a fireside chat with him before he assumed that god existed.

What exists outside of it is only our educated guess.

The belief of a deity amidst overwhelming evidence to the contrary is not an "educated guess," it's wishful thinking.

Re:Good riddance. (1)

belochitski (148176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311214)

I am only arguing in favor of the first half of the statement ( "god's non-existence is impossible to prove") but not the second half ("thus I, Martin Gardner, choose to believe in its existence")

>The belief of a deity amidst overwhelming evidence to the contrary is not an "educated guess," it's wishful thinking.

This has nothing to do with my post.

That is also true of your conclusion mush. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316130)

Outside of this time and setting your conclusion might be wrong. Spooky eh.

Re:Good riddance. (1)

yumyum (168683) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311072)

He was not a scientist, never claimed to be one. Just a writer. As for his beliefs hurting the Atheist cause, that's just silly.

Re:Good riddance. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311202)

I always thought it was weird that Gardner defended theism, but to say that he was a crackpot because of this one belief despite the many contributions he has made in promoting math, science and skepticism is absurd. A man isn't measured by one mistake he makes. I'm sure your pencils have no erasers, so we can't call you stupid and weak and say good riddance when you die.

Re:Good riddance. (1, Insightful)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311640)

Well, that's what Theists do!

They do not believe in 99.9999% of the gods out there, except for one god, the one in their own religion. So, by your definition, catholics are skeptics, because they do not believe in buddha, reincarnation, aliens, xenu, and mohammad?

He had his own set of irrational believes, and disregarded other people's irrational believes as stupid. Just like the rest of theists. Get yourself an alchemist, a catholic priest, a jew, and a spoon-bender and they'll all tell you that they don't believe in a lot of stuff. That doesn't make them skeptics or rational humans. They are just defending their own believes, and disregarding others.

Same thing for this guy.

In order to be a rational human being you must NOT believe in ANYTHING. You can have a reasonable confidence in something due to experimentation and analysis on the subject. If you have faith in something, without any facts that support that idea, and a lot of facts against it, then you are not a rational human being, even if you happen to disregard a lot of other ideas. You can't believe in everything, that doesn't make you an skeptic.

Re:Good riddance. (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311998)

> In order to be a rational human being you must NOT believe in ANYTHING.

OK. I will take your advice. That means that I don't believe in that, either. Now what do I do?

Some free advice for you. Concentrate on concrete examples where it is obvious that deistic or pseudo-scientific beliefs are not beneficial.

Trying to argue the existence or non-existence of God via logic is pointless.

Re:Good riddance. (2, Insightful)

WNight (23683) | more than 4 years ago | (#32313290)

In order to be a rational human being you must NOT believe in ANYTHING.

OK. I will take your advice. That means that I don't believe in that, either. Now what do I do?

Think, about it, before acting. Like with everything else.

Trying to argue the existence or non-existence of God via logic is pointless.

Not to those who get it. To them it's the red-pill.

But how would you go about it?

Re:Good riddance. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311428)

To be perfectly honest, atheism is hurt more by the attitude that leads you to take a dump on a guy who taught so many people about science and mathematics. So he was a theist? Who cares? I had no idea about his views either way reading his books, and it doesn't matter to me. Sounds like you have some single-issue myopia.

Re:Good riddance. (2, Interesting)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311948)

> He was of the idea that there is no way to prove the non-existence of god, and therefore it's reasonable to believe in a god.

I've never read his annotated version of Alice in Wonderland, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Gardener would have claimed that he both believed and disbelieved in the existence of God, in a weird sort of spiritual quantum superposition.

> ... hurt the Atheist cause more than anything.

Really? I would have thought that your insensitive post might possibly have done more damage. It certainly raised my bile. You're lucky I know so many atheists who I actually respect.

Dr. Matrix (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32310960)

Gardner had a character called Dr. Matrix, an eccentric mathematician (perhaps not unlike the real life Paul Erdos, or Gardner himself) who popped up periodically in his columns. One I remember was Gardner interviewing Dr. Matrix in prison; seems the doc was busted for slicing twenty dollar bills into 20 strips, and "rearranging" them into modified bills composed of 19 strips each. Unfortunately, after that charming episode was published in Scientific American several people were similarly busted for copyright behavior... I suspect Mr. Gardner was amused rather than horrified by this turn of events.

bringing it (3, Interesting)

trb (8509) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311220)

From the product description of his collected SciAm Mathematical Games columns [amazon.com] on CD:

His column broke such stories as Rivest, Shamir and Adelman on public-key cryptography, Mandelbrot on fractals, Conway on Life, and Penrose on tilings.

Wow.

Gathering for Gardner Dragon (5, Interesting)

GrendelT (252901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311260)

In his honor, I'd like to link to the 3D paper dragon [neodux.com] that was created for Gathering for Gardner.
RIP Gardner.

Re:Gathering for Gardner Dragon (1)

marciot (598356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32315638)

I came online to post a link to this, as I've had a dragon sitting on my kitchen counter for several years now. Wikipedia has a nice video of the dragon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollow-Face_illusion [wikipedia.org]

Wonderful man in person (4, Interesting)

Cliff Stoll (242915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311510)

After he saw one of my first Klein Bottles, Martin Gardner encouraged me to make them for recreational mathematics enthusiasts. "Even if the Klein Bottles don't work out, you'll have fun meeting these folks"

And so began my zero-volume business.

In high school, I followed his instructions to make hexaflexagons and fooled with Knights tours on chess boards. Much later, I was honored to correspond and meet him.

In person, he was just as curious, creative, and encouraging as you would expect from his writing.

Along with others here, I will miss Martin Gardner - his Scientific American articles, his wide ranging books, and his warm support. He leaves a wide wake behind him.

-Cliff

Re:Wonderful man in person (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311654)

And as a University of Chicago graduate student with a girlfriend in the Div School, I got a real kick out of The Flight of Peter Fromm. Gardner was a technical person who understood literature as well as mathematics. He will be missed.

Re:Wonderful man in person (2, Informative)

Paradise Pete (33184) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311914)

After he saw one of my first Klein Bottles

Hey, Cliff Stoll! I remember thoroughly enjoying The Cukoo's Egg.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, it's his late 80's account of tracking down a spy who had gained root access to Lawrence Berkeley.

Re:Wonderful man in person (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312952)

Agreed. Great book.

I grew up reading Gardner's SciAm columns in the 60s. Cliff, I look to you to carry on in the Gardner tradition!

Re:Wonderful man in person (1)

slothman32 (629113) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318434)

Oddly enough I am thinking of getting one of your steins for my brother.
The only problem, as you mentioned on the site, is that it is hard to clean the "inside".
I was thinking that it could be seperatable with the inside taken off the outside.
You then wash the 2 parts, and put them back together clean.

P.S. You could make a zillion different kinds of designs.
P.P.S. I have no idea if you will read this but I still think it is a good idea.
Maybe I will try to find an email address on the site.

Re:Wonderful man in person (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32323190)

My zero-volume bottle and I thank you, and Mr. Gardner!

RIP Mathematical Recreations Dude (2, Funny)

fishexe (168879) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311756)

I guess the pirates finally got his last coin. Or he finally ate the chocolate square with the soap on it.

An interpreter and promulgator of Nerdness (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311830)

In memoriam, I dug up my copy of The Annotated Alice. Like others have mentioned, I think Gardner's research and interpretation add multiple dimensions to any reading of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

If you can find a copy, it is well worth it. I purchased mine in Portland's Powell's bookstore for (so the inscribed price tells me) $6.95, many years ago.

From the introduction:
"Let it be said at once that there is something preposterous about an annotated Alice. Writing in 1932, on the hundred-year anniversary of Lewis Carroll's birth, Gilbert K. Chesterson voiced his "dreadful fear" that Alice's story had already fallen under the heavy hands of the scholars and was becoming "cold and monumental like a classic tomb."

Gardner's version of Carroll's classic demonstrates that Alice's adventures are ongoing; that the Reverend Dodgson's imaginings are useful metaphors for the cutting edge of science today.

Gardner was a relentless popularizer of mathematics and science. His article in Scientific American in 1970 exposed Conway's game of life to the world at large. In more recent years, false rumors of his death prompted the hosts of NPR's "Car Talk" to eulogize him, only to have him contradict those rumors and come back suggesting a "puzzler" for their audience to solve.

There exists a tenuous philosophical link from Bertrand Russell to Martin Gardner, I wonder where it will continue from him?

I seem to have written an obituary. So be it.

I guess that's a sign of nerdiness (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32313084)

Sad to hear that one of the master educators of our time is gone. But, like "Hello!", how many times was he ever on Oprah, you know?

Rest in Peace, good man (1)

hoover (3292) | more than 4 years ago | (#32313300)

I recall many "puzzling" moments at the local pool reading the latest issue of "Scientific American" where he wrote a column regularly. And no, reading this title never attracted any chicks to join me on the blanket, but this is /. after all... ;-)

Godspeed Martin, your wit & humor will be missed.

Scientific American Profile of Martin Gardner (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314632)

In memory of his death, Scientific American today republished a wonderful profile [scientificamerican.com] of Martin Gardner from the December, 1995 issue.
 
They also reprinted 3 of his puzzles. [scientificamerican.com]

Some links via Arts and Letters Daily (2, Informative)

nyri (132206) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314974)

Here are some links (provided to you via Arts and Letters Daily [aldaily.com] ):

The Associated Press [nwsource.com]
Sci Am [scientificamerican.com]
Discover [discovermagazine.com]
James Randy [randi.org]
Roger Kimball [pajamasmedia.com]

The Man's last essay. [csicop.org] It's titeled Oprah Winfrey: Bright (but Gullible) Billionaire.

changed my life... (2, Insightful)

aminzade (799206) | more than 4 years ago | (#32315390)

This is a long posting, a copy of the one I just put up on randi.org. It wasn't supposed to be long, but it turned out that way. Just a way to remember how important Martin Gardner was not just to science and math popularization, but to the sceptic movement as well.

I never met Martin Gardner, but he certainly touched my life. In the late 1970s a girlfriend of mine gave me a copy of "Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science." She was given a copy but didn't want to read it.

I was not exactly a person who was ready to embrace a message scepticism. The book was mostly written before I was born. I was a hippie, a 20-something working in a natural food store, deeply distrustful of any authority and critical of what I thought of as authority-based science. My life revolved around Macrobiotics, acupuncture, Rolfing, herbalism, est, Primal Scream Therapy, foot reflexology, a syncretic hash of Eastern religions and pretty much every other new age technique that flew in over the transom. I was a pioneering subscriber to "New Age Journal," a publication that introduced the world to Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra.

I was angry when Gardner criticised the things I believed in, but fascinated and amused by the foolishness [b]other [/b] people believed in. I've heard Gardner quoted as saying "..oddly enough, most of [my critics] objected to one chapter only, thinking all the others excellent..." and that pretty much captures my reaction to the book.

I vividly remembered my amazement on reading the chapter on Rhine's ESP studies (a subject that had fascinated in my adolescence). It's been over 30 years since I've seen the book, and I may be conflating it with other books I've since read, but I recall a comparison of ESP results obtained by "sheep" (believers in ESP) and "goats" (nonbelievers), and just how resistant the "sheep/goat" effects were to attempts to blind the studies. This was a revelation,and marked the beginning of a self examination that continues to this day.

I had been drawn to New Age activities because of a deep skepticism of authority figures. Science had been taught to me almost like a religion. I thought it was a set of beliefs, handed down as truth by an older generation that had brought us a war in Vietnam, Racism, sexism, environmental disaster and a host of other evils. Garner set me on the path to discovering what science really is. I began to see that in fact its foundation was the very kind of skepticism that led me to all those New-Age practices, that in fact the scientific method supports a much deeper skepticism that allowed me to question my own cognitive biases. He gave me the courage to follow the evidence even when it conflicted with my firmest beliefs. This has served me well in my life and my careers.

Earlier that decade I had witnessed as a fellow natural-food buff died of cancer while dosing himself with bitter almonds (then though to be a "natural" version of Laetrile, a supposed cancer cure) refusing conventional treatment that might have extended his life. He left behind a wife and child. Watching him get worse and worse as he cheerfully talked of his impending cure was heartbreaking, and I remember thinking about how little his belief in the cure helped him ouut. I know that in the decades that have since passed I've steered one or two of my family and friends away from worthless quack cures, and I'd like to think I've saved a few lives taht way. If so, those people have Martin Gardner to thank.

Well, I've run on far, far longer than I meant,but I wanted to add my thoughts. We'll miss him, but take joy in the fact his work will be there to enlighten people like that 20-something me for a very long time.

Personal influence in my teen years (1)

rainmayun (842754) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317382)

Martin Gardner probably had more impact on my intellectual development and rigor of thinking as a teenager than anyone else. As an adult, his book "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener" had more impact on my thoughts on philosophy than anyone else. My hat is off to him.

The very model of the modern amateur scientist... (1)

RandCraw (1047302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319328)

I became aware of Martin Gardner as an adolescent (in the 1970s), and I've often looked to his work as the best evidence that a self taught amateur can ably and artfully pursue a love of science, math, and a rational life without the aid (or hindrance) of advanced university degrees or a lab full of expensive equipment.

Mr Gardner's infectious enthusiasm and excellence in recounting his explorations played a big role in shaping my sense of self and my appreciation for the positive role model that an amateur mathematician can play in the life of another person, namely me.

Goodbye Mr Gardner and thank you.

Does anyone have time of death? (1)

Octopus (19153) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319498)

I want to submit an astrological death chart to Randi's site.

chek this out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32320982)

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Scientific American collection? (1)

diethelm (35652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32325732)

I will always remember Martin Gardner as one of the key influences in my mathematical leanings. His column in Scientific American was always interesting, even when I didn't know enough to understand half of what he wrote.

Anybody knows if one can get a collection of all his SciFi columns in a single volume or a set of volumes? I would gladly pay significant bucks to be able to have all those interesting articles in my possession.

So long Martin. Thanks for all the wonderfully wasted hours.

Uh, what happened to 'he wrote' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329048)

What is this 'he authored' business? Sounds like a celebrity front for a ghost-writer.

RIP, Martin. (1)

aqk (844307) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329946)

..And I am PISSED OFF!
I had to find out from slashdot that he died ??
He was one of my scientific heroes!

Ok, ok- So I don't read Randi or SciAm on a regular basis, but you'd think that at least the "regular" news might have had a small mention about him this past weekend.
TV? Radio? Nope.
As soon as I heard of his death, I quickly opened up Google news.
Nary a mention.
When I put "Martin Gardner" into the search box, I came up (obviously) with the SciAm article, some other English lang scientific journals, and then a whole slew of FOREIGN LANGUAGE journals.
It's sad that our society and its mainstream news feeds currently spends so much on current gossip crap, and so little on items such as Martin Gardner's passing.
Hmmnn.. Well, maybe that's the way it always was...?
NO! It wasn't.
People were much more interested in the more sublime things 30 or 40 years ago. At least in North America. It's not my imagination..
I could keep ranting here- but perhaps I should shut up now.
RIP, Martin

A rare talent (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | more than 4 years ago | (#32333294)

A rare talent. RIP and thank you sir.
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