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Logic has a reputation for being staid and boring. Taking a course in the subject is not most people’s idea of a good time. People who are skillful in logic are often portrayed as robotic or anti-social: think of Sherlock Holmes or Mr. Spock. And yet, even people who would spurn a conversation about logic often enjoy a good puzzle. How else to explain the popularity of Sudoku, which is a logic puzzle masquerading as an amusing recreation?
Now, mathematics professor Jason Rosenhouse joins us via livestream with a primer on logic, drawn from his book Games for Your Mind: The History and Future of Logic Puzzles. He relays the introduction of logic puzzles to the public by author Lewis Carroll—better known for his beloved children’s stories about Alice in Wonderland— in the late nineteenth century, and examines the work of Raymond Smullyan, another pioneer who drew on classic puzzles about liars and truthtellers to illuminate profound questions in mathematical logic. With engaging examples, Rosenhouse looks at logic puzzles and their role in recreation, mathematics and philosophy—and along the way, introduces knights and knaves, muddy children, omnipotent gods, and much more.
Jason Rosenhouse is a professor of mathematics at James Madison University and the editor of Mathematics Magazine published by the Mathematical Association of America. He is the author of The Monty Hall Problem: The Remarkable Story of Math’s Most Contentious Brain Teaser and Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line. He is the coauthor (with Laura Taalman) of Taking Sudoku Seriously: The Math Behind the World’s Most Popular Pencil Puzzle and the coeditor (with Jennifer Beineke) of The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects (Vols. 1-3).
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.