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University of Northern Colorado hosts annual Celebration of the Mind

By Jennifer Hazeldine
On October 28, 2013

  • Oscar Levin, an assistant professor of math at UNC, performs a magic trick Monday at the annual Celebration of the Mind. Breelyn Bowe | The Mirror

The University Center panorama room was abuzz with talk of inquisition over mind puzzles, riddles and games Monday night.
University students, faculty, and members of the community of all ages gathered for the 4th annual "Celebration of the Mind." An event meant to celebrate and honor Martin Gardner, a mathematics and scientific writer.
Gardner loved magic and puzzles. He became interested in illusions as a small child when his father had performed a card trick. From then on, Gardner developed a deep fascination for magic and eventually became an expert magician.
Gardner tied his love of magic with his admiration for mathematics. He sought to help the general public learn about mathematics and how it could be applied to magic, in his book, "Mathematics, Magic and Mystery."
By 1999, Gardner was
See Mind on page 9
 named "one of the most influential magicians of the twentieth century" by MAGIC magazine.  
Gardner popularized and analyzed mathematical games such as Chinese rings, dodgem, dominoes, and tic-tac-toe. He also liked to publish annotated versions of major works such as Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of OZ.
Gardner passed away at age 95 on May 22, 2010.
"Celebration of the Mind" was developed after Gardner's death to honor and remember him. Every year the worldwide mathematics festival is held on or around Gardner's birthday, Oct. 21, with the mission to spread the joy of mathematics while preserving and honoring Gardner's memory.
The mathematics department at UNC has decided to host this event each year to continue the tradition and honor Gardner.
At the festival, dozens of tables were set up with a different mathematical mind puzzle on each one. Some of the activities included soma cubes, color maps, tangrams, Tower of Hanoi and Penrose tiles. The event appealed to all ages by providing broad levels of activities and challenges. Anyone and everyone was encouraged to participate.
One table involved bagels and a knife, an activity called "Mobius Bagels." The objective of the game was to carefully slice the bagel without tearing it to create two separate interlinked halves. Not everyone succeeded in the task, but a few found it to be quite intriguing and were excited about the upcoming activities.
"Mobius Bagels was pretty interesting when I did it. I struggled a little bit, but I thought it was pretty cool that the bagel has interlocking," said Patrick Ryan, a visiting senior from Greeley Central High School.   
Since the event first started, "Celebration of the Mind" has grown larger in popularity. A greater number and a larger variety of games were available.
Although this year's celebration was similar to last year's mathematics festival, there was a new aspect that was attempted for the first time.
"Celebration of the Mind" was connected with other Gardner festivals occurring at the exact same time around the world via Skype.
Some of the areas UNC was in contact with included Las Vegas, South America, South Africa, Germany, and Asia. Each area shared live video footage of the celebration with one another.
Near the close of the celebration, Dr. Levin performed a magic show for the guests. He tied in humor with unique illusions involving acts such as disappearing objects, juggling, and card tricks. He even managed to create the illusion of repairing a card that had been torn in half several times.
A great number of the guests who attended the festival, left feeling pleased and delighted. Some of the UNC students even felt inspired.
"I loved the festival," said senior phycology and philosophy major Benjamin Strauber. "I liked it because you get to meet some really cool people who are smart and easy to get along with. I hope there are a lot more of these events in the future because people might be more inspired to major in math."
The event allowed for some of the guests to observe math from a new perspective. A few of the guests felt as if the celebration did not change their view of math, but rather compelled them to look at the subject more deeply.
"It hasn't changed the way I view math. I have always viewed math as something that really is the only thing that is capable of explaining something as complex as reality," said freshman chemistry major, Richard Charles. "When you have a whole bunch of simple rules existing in the same space, then it makes for a lot of really complex things as a direct result of the rules existing in the first place. It's weird because a lot of what people do on a day to day basis, such as Facebook and television, do not realize that the world is so much more complicated than all of these artificial things. The very presence of those detracts from the natural of existing."

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