SIAM News Blog

The fascinating science behind toys

Free public lecture will discuss the puzzling nature of toy models, show demos of toys and the science they conjure up



Becky Kerner
Digital Communications Manager
Phone: 2679928681

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Boston, MA – Toys are often seen as simple objects of daily life – items you can find or make in minutes. But if played with imaginatively, toys can reveal surprises that keep scientists and mathematicians puzzled.  In a free public lecture at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), taking place in Boston, MA, from July 11-15, Dr. Tadashi Tokieda will demonstrate many such toys and discuss the science behind them. His presentation can be enjoyed and understood by anyone with a high school math background.

“Toys here have a special sense: an object of everyday life which can be found or made in minutes, yet which, if played with imaginatively, reveals a behavior that sets scientists thinking for days,” says Tokieda.

“Ever watched a small child being given a toy in the usual sense?  The child pays little attention to the intended gift; instead she plays, happy, with the wrapping paper and box . . .”

“Grown-ups tend to pay attention only to the bits of science already labeled `interesting',” he continues. “A fresh alternative may be possible, however.  I am suggesting that, in science, we rediscover the eyes of a child — get interested in things that appeal to our personal experience, which we make interesting, rather than in things that we have been led to assume should interest us.”

“Established sciences are important.  But besides these sciences in flower, there are also sciences in sprout.  The lecture invites you to start looking for those sprouts, through simple yet surprising toys.”

Tokieda is director of studies in mathematics at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, and Poincaré Visiting Professor, mathematics, at Stanford University. He invents, collects, and studies toys, which often exhibit behaviors that intrigue scientists.

Free and open to the public, the I. E. Block Community Lecture seeks to encourage public appreciation of the excitement and vitality of science, and to spark interest in mathematics and its applications. It is named for the co-founder of SIAM, Dr. I. Edward Block, to recognize his contributions to the growth of SIAM and to perpetuate his vision. Join us!

I. E. Block Community Lecture: Toy Models
Featuring: Tadashi Tokieda

University of Cambridge and Stanford University

Wednesday, July 13
6:15 PM - 7:15 PM
Grand Ballroom – Concourse Level
Westin Boston Waterfront, Boston, MA 
A reception will follow the lecture.
Free and open to the public – no registration or ticket is required. View more details here. 

# # #

About SIAM
The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an international society of more than 14,000 individual, academic and corporate members from 85 countries. SIAM helps build cooperation between mathematics and the worlds of science and technology to solve real-world problems through publications, conferences, and communities like chapters, sections and activity groups. Learn more at 

[Reporters are free to use this text]

blog comments powered by Disqus