Nine Fine Lines of Thought

presented by Kate Jones
for the attendees of Gathering for Gardner 9
March 24-28, 2010 – Atlanta, Georgia

Life is a puzzle, and certain principles of system viability apply to both. I am using puzzle images created from the Intarsia set to illustrate the coherence, integrity and beauty of the Universe and, by extension, of the human mind. Both evolve through emerging levels of complexity and organization. Both are combinatorial.

From the Big Bang to the present, we’ll summarize 9 stages of this evolving process in haiku form, or a mere 153 syllables, so as to fit the presentation into the allotted 10 minutes. The reader is asked to be aware simultaneously of three interlinking strands of thought: the evolution of the Cosmos, the development of an individual human consciousness, and the symbolism of the illustrations.
About the Intarsia set:
Intarsia contains only two kinds of trapezoidal tiles: black rhomb with white triangle, and white rhomb with black triangle. They reverse to their reflected opposites. With 16 of each, they can tile an order-4 hexagon in over 26 septillion ways—minuscule compared to the mind's combinations. Study the symmetry patterns shown; there is more here than meets the eye.


The "M" accompanying the final haiku stands for Martin Gardner, who has inspired countless readers over 70 years to take an interest in mathematics, through his 25 years of writing the recreational math column in Scientific American and dozens of books. Martin's influence, unbeknownst to himself, extended to inspiring Arthur C. Clarke to write about pentominoes in his science fiction classic, Imperial Earth. As a consequence of reading that book, Kate Jones became fascinated by pentominoes, leading to the founding of Kadon Enterprises, Inc., and the development of Kadon's entire product line of recreational mathematics puzzles and games. Martin's writing about pentominoes had deeper roots. See the whole story in our Polyominoes section.

Every two years, a gathering of Martin Gardner fans takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, with an awesome group of scientists, mathematicians, puzzlers, magicians, and polymaths who come together to celebrate Martin Gardner's legacy and to share stories about their own research and achievements. Dozens of presentations keep the guests stimulated, entertained, amazed, thrilled and awed. Kate's contributions usually take the form of a short philosophical commentary playing with the number of the event, hence 2010's theme of "Nine". Several have been published in the proceedings of the Gatherings through the years. Some are included in this website as well.

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