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Roll Models

by Tadashi Tokieda

Year of Award: 2014

Publication Information: The American Mathematical Monthly, vol. 120, no. 3, March 2013, pp. 265-282.

Summary (adapted from the MAA Prizes and Awards booklet for MathFest 2014): Paul Halmos claimed that the heart of mathematics is problem solving. This article exemplifies Halmos’ thesis by presenting 19 problems---but not problems of the usual variety! “Which way will it roll? ... Problem 1: Make a guess. Have you made a guess? Now try the experiment.” The author invites the reader to participate with pens and pot lids and golf balls and spools of thread as lab materials. Along the way, the reader finds numerous asides, such as the claim that the number 7 = 2 + 5 rarely appears in mechanics except in the context of the dimensionless moment of inertia (2/5) of a solid ball.

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About the Author: (From the MathFest 2014 MAA Prizes and Awards Booklet)

Tadashi Tokieda is the Director of Studies in Mathematics at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was a painter, then a classical philologist, before becoming a mathematician (Ph.D. Princeton under W. Browder). He works mostly in geometry and macroscopic physical modeling; he also collects, invents, studies toys. Through the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, among others, he is active in outreach. For 2013-2014 he is a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard.


Publication Date: 
Wednesday, August 13, 2014