Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

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Math & Cultural

2019 Celebration of Mind Festival: Math, Magic, Puzzles, Games, & more! October 20, 2019 (01:00 PM PDT - 05:00 PM PDT)
Parent Program: --
Location: MSRI: Simons Auditorium, Baker Board Room, Commons Room, Atrium

Sunday, October 20, 2019 from 1:00-5:00 p.m.

Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)
17 Gauss Way, Berkeley, CA 94720 (Directions)

Come celebrate math with puzzles, games, magic, stories, and more! Ages 8 through adults will enjoy this afternoon filled with hands-on math activities and presentations

The event honors the life and work of Martin Gardner, former Scientific American columnist who inspired a generation of mathematicians and recreational math enthusiasts. In the spirit of Martin Gardner's love of Alice in Wonderland and with Halloween around the corner, come "down the rabbit hole" and explore with us!

This event is free and open to the public! Questions? Contact Jennifer Murawski at jmurawski@msri.org. 

Advance registration is requested, but not required. Click here to sign up online.

Is this event really for all ages? Yes! Inspired by the Gathering 4 Gardner conference, we aim to share activities and presentations which are "low threshold, high ceiling" - in other words, anyone ages 8 and up can participate and enjoy this event, and those with deep interest in the topics will find plenty to explore, including interacting with our presenters and volunteers who are all passionate about math, puzzles, and more.


2019 Event Schedule

All events take place inside MSRI's building at 17 Gauss Way, Berkeley (above Lawrence Hall of Science).

HANDS-ON ACTIVITIES (1st and 2nd floors) - 1:00-4:00pm

1:00 - 4:00 p.m. Hands-On Math Activities and Displays

  • Elwyn and Jennifer Berlekamp Foundation: Try to trap your opponent in the Game of Amazons; learn the trick of winning at perennial favorite Dots and Boxes; and get caught in a loop with Moebius Paper Crafts.

  • Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival: Visitors of all ages can explore the richness and beauty of mathematics through activities that encourage collaborative, creative problem solving.
  • Cubes and Things: Cubes and Things (cubesandthings.net) Presents a Polyhedra Party! Color and cut your way to creating your own 3D math objects with local artist Stacy Speyer.

  • Group Build: The Great Balloon Sierpierski Pyramid: Join UC Berkeley student volunteers as we try to make a giant Sierpinski pyramid out of balloons! Whether you're a balloon-twisting expert or trying it for the first time, here's your chance to help us create the famous fractal! (Recommended for ages 10 and up)
  • Clay Color Wheel: Try this all-ages, hands-on activity inspired by Bedtime Math's Crazy 8's Club - mix primary colors of clay in different amounts to see if you can fill in your own personal color wheel!
  • Giant Soma Cube: Have you played with a Soma cube before? This puzzle invented by Piet Hein uses seven "Tetris"-like pieces to create cubes and other shapes. Help us assemble a set of giant cardboard puzzle pieces, then challenge yourself to recreate famous designs.
  • Hands-On Puzzles and Games: Stop by stations throughout the first floor where you can sit for a game or two with friends, featuring chess, SET, ThinkFun Games, and other activities.
  • Mathical Reading Nook: Curl up with a good book in the Hearst Library and explore 60+ titles that have won the Mathical Book Prize for ages 2-18.



These short presentations will knock your socks off! Talks are aimed at attendees ages 10 and up, but all are welcome. (Exact times subject to change, please check schedule for updates.)

1:30-2:00 PM
Jack McCauley 
(Jacobs Institute of Design Innovation, UC Berkeley)

Join engineer and inventor Jack McCauley to explore the history of mathematics and a fascinating early caculator that he has recreated, which may surprise you! Try the machine for yourself and learn more about the 15th to 17th century scientists and inventors whose work paved the way for Isaac Newton and others. Jack McCauley is co-founder of Oculus VR and designed the guitars and drums for the Guitar Hero video game series.

2:15-2:45 PM
Brady Haran 
(Numberphile) and Ben Sparks

Numberphile special! Meet Brady Haran of YouTube's Numberphile channel, with special guest, mathematician Ben Sparks!

2:45-3:30 PM
Dr. Clifford Stoll

There's a hole.. that goes through a hole.. that's in a hole? Explore the world of topology, making math visible, cutting-edge glassware, and much more with Cliff Stoll!

A frequent guest on the YouTube channel Numberphile, Dr. Clifford Stoll is recognizable to a new generation as the man with 1,000 Klein bottles under his house. Stoll has worn many hats in life—astronomer, teacher, author, maker, TED speaker, Klein bottle salesman—but one thing he's never been is boring.

4:00-5:00 PM
MARK MITTON'S MAGIC HOUR (Interactive Presentation)
Mark Mitton

Mark Mitton is a professional magician who is fascinated by using magic to better understand how we see the world. In addition to performing at private and corporate events all over the world, and creating magic for film, television, the Broadway stage, and Cirque du Soleil, Mitton tirelessly explores the theme of ‘Misdirection’ from an interdisciplinary standpoint. He regularly presents on ‘Perception’ at universities and conferences in North America and Europe, including the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, and has lectured with the late Nobel laureate Dr. Gerald Edelman of The Neurosciences Institute. Mitton has performed at festivals in Europe and Asia; at the Olympic Games; in war-torn Liberia; in hospital wards around New York City; and in a Mexican orphanage. His magical hands are featured in a They Might Be Giants video.


Parking & Transportation

To reach MSRI by public transit, take the AC Transit 65 Euclid/Lawrence Hall of Science bus route to the Lawrence Hall of Science, and use the parking lot stairs to reach MSRI. (You may also be able to exit at Grizzly Peak Blvd. and Centennial Drive and walk via Gauss Way.)

To reach MSRI by ride share service, use the address 17 Gauss Way, Berkeley, CA 94720. 

Balloons = MSRI Parking Lot entrance and MSRI building. The road to MSRI, Gauss Way, is accessible from Centennial Drive. 

For a map of available parking, click here. 


Free parking is available in the "MSRI Only Parking" lot level above the Lawrence Hall of Science parking lots (enter from Centennial Drive above the Lawrence Hall of Science parking area). This lot requires walking up the terraced stairs on the hillside to reach MSRI's building. (Learn moreTake a free MSRI event permit from the box at the base of the stairs to display on your dashboard. A very limited number of handicapped parking spaces are available at the entrance to MSRI for those with Disabled Person Parking placards.

Paid parking is available in the Space Science Laboratory (SSL) lots via PayByPhone smartphone app, website, or phone (follow instructions on signage). The lot number is 9477. Create your free account using the PayByPhone website or app in advance to make parking upon arrival a breeze!

Free parking is also available on Grizzly Peak Blvd (5-minute walk). Overflow fee-based parking is available in the Lawrence Hall of Science "East Lot" and "Terrace" parking lots (payment due in front of Lawrence Hall of Science).

For those arriving by rideshare, MSRI's address is 17 Gauss Way, Berkeley, CA 94720.

For those taking AC Transit, the 65 bus route to Lawrence Hall of Science (check online schedule) is available.


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