SIAM News Blog

Playing with Toys at the SIAM Annual Meeting

Coverage from the I. E. Block Community Lecture

By Lina Sorg

Whoever said math isn’t fun hasn’t met Tadashi Tokieda. Tokieda, who presented this year’s I. E. Block Community Lecture at the 2016 SIAM Annual Meeting last week, surprised and delighted his audience with a continuous visual display of moving toys. As the director of studies in mathematics at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge and the Poincaré Visiting Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University, Tokieda devotes much of his research to the invention, collection, and study of “toys.” He works closely with everyday objects that can be created or utilized in minutes, but that exhibit fascinating behaviors when played with creatively. 

During his talk, Tokieda used table-top demonstrations to explain the science and mathematics behind some of these seemingly-everyday objects in standard motion. Throughout the presentation, he rotated wooden balls in a cup, spun coins and discs on a mirror, folded paper, crushed and inflated a paper sphere, and rolled wheels and containers of rice before delving deeper into the reasons behind their movements. All of his models maintained the theme of singularity, and captivated a packed auditorium of conference attendees, mathematicians, and community members.

The I.E. Block Community Lecture is named after I. Edward Block, the former co-founder and managing director of SIAM. The lecture is given every year at the SIAM Annual Meeting, and is open to the public. It is meant to increase community awareness and appreciation of the exciting applications of science and mathematics. Click here for more information.

Check out photos and a video from the event below! All photos and video taken by staff.

Tadashi Tokieda captivated the audience with his toy models during the I. E. Block Community Lecture.

  Lina Sorg is the associate editor of SIAM News.  
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