Like so many, Gardner was a tremendous influence in my life. I was lucky enough to learn of his column and books by the time I was about twelve or thirteen– I remember scouring garage sales for copies of Scientific American, just for the Mathematical Games column.

Most listeners/readers of the Math Factor won’t know, but in fact my official mathematical research career owes much to Gardner too. I’ve done quite a bit of work on ‘aperiodic tiles’, tiles that can form a tiling of the entire plane, but only in a not-quite-exactly-repeating manner. Gardner popularized this topic in his incredibly influential writing on the Penrose tiles, the most famous example of this phenomenon. That’s how I learned of this, and eventually I figured out a general construction, several very simple examples, generalizations to other spaces, etc etc. I’ve always enjoyed that my mathematics research stems from recreational math! (Yet, amazingly, has ties to some of the deepest threads in mathematical logic, the theory of computation)

The Math Factor itself, of course, is in the tradition Gardner established. It’s impossible not to be moved by his enthusiasm, the breadth of the topics he touched, the sparkling wit and crystalline insight, his sheer productivity and the amazing number of people he touched so deeply.

In a few weeks, I hope to be posting a lengthy interview with a friend of mine who knows him well… stay tuned.

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