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Journal of No. 118

October 1st, 2014

The exhilarating perils of recreational mathematics @ 03:41 pm

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Scientific American has a remembrance of Martin Gardner [Preview only] on the occasion of what would have been his 100th year.

One detail caught my eye... a story I hadn't heard. In December 1975, 50-something "housewife Marjorie Rice" saw her son's copy of Scientific American, which had Gardner's column on tessellations. Apparently it asked the (open) question of whether there were more pentagonal tessellations of the plane than those known (3 new ones having been recently discovered). Marjorie doodled away at the idea for quite some time, developing her own idiosyncratic notation. To make a long story short, she discovered four hitherto unknown pentagonal tilings of the plane. She contacted Gardner, who put her in touch with mathematician Doris Schattschneider, who verified and publicized the discovery. There are 14 known pentagonal tilings, and one of the others was also discovered by someone inspired by Gardner's column.

It's also adorable that she made art patterns based on pentagonal tilings:

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Journal of No. 118