You ought to give the kid a chance

Martin Gardner (1914 – 2010) was best known for his articles on recreational mathematics, especially his column in Scientific American which he wrote from 1956 to 1981. Once Gardner wrote a letter of recommendation for a young man applying to graduate school at Harvard.

I don’t know a lot about mathematics, but this kid invented two of the best card tricks of the last ten years. You ought to give him a chance.

The kid was Persi Diaconis. At the time, Diaconis, like Gardner, was something of a mathematical outsider, someone with more creativity than credentials. Diaconis went on to become a mathematics professor at Harvard and won two MacArthur genius awards. He is now a professor at Stanford.

Source: Magical Mathematics

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9 comments on “You ought to give the kid a chance
  1. Karl says:

    (was a professor at Harvard, now a professor at Stanford, unless something has changed the last few days)

  2. John says:

    Thanks. I’ll update the post. I didn’t realize he’d moved.

  3. Igor Carron says:


    Only on the interwebs do you get to appreciate people you would have had zero chance of meeting before :

  4. Speedmaster says:

    Now I gotta know, what ARE the best card tricks?! :-)

  5. SteveBrooklineMA says:

    Yes, I would like to see those two card tricks as well.

  6. AntiSlice says:

    He’s giving a public talk at Stanford at the end of the month, maybe he’ll talk about it there? (There is a link to the event flier on the front page)

  7. Igor Carron says:

    @AntiSlice , The video I featured was ome of the most enjoyable piece of math I have ever viewed. Do you believe there will be a camera in that room ?

    Should we crowdsource the question to ask Persi ?

  8. Saw Diaconis give a talk several years ago and I’ve still not forgotten it. He used the Poisson distribution to disprove Karl Jung’s “Synchronicity”.

  9. Igor Carron says:

    Got a confirmation from Stanford that the talk will NOT be taped. Dr. Diaconis does not like being taped from what i was told. Too bad.

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