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Algorithms meet Art, Puzzles, and Magic

Worsham Theater
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s):
Martin and Erik Demaine

Public Lecture Sponsored by Department of Mathematics, in Conjunction with Art Museum at UK

Erik and Martin Demaine will visit the University of Kentucky and give a talk entitled “Algorithms Meet Art, Puzzles, and Magic," on Wednesday, April 24, at 5 p.m. in the Worsham Auditorium of the UK Student Center.

Abstract of talk:

When I was six years old, my father Martin Demaine and I designed and made puzzles as the Erik and Dad Puzzle Company, which we distributed to toy stores across Canada. So began our journey into the interactions between algorithms and the arts (here, puzzle design). More and more, we find that our mathematical research and artistic projects converge, with the artistic side inspiring the mathematical side and vice versa. Mathematics itself is an art form, and through other media such as sculpture, puzzles, and magic, the beauty of mathematics can be brought to a wider audience. These artistic endeavors also provide us with deeper insights into the underlying mathematics, by providing physical realizations of objects under consideration, by pointing to interesting special cases and directions to explore, and by suggesting new problems to solve (such as the metapuzzle of how to solve a puzzle). This talk will give several examples in each category, from how our first font design led to building transforming robots, to how studying curved creases in origami led to sculptures at MoMA.

The audience will be expected to participate in some live magic demonstrations.


Erik Demaine is a Professor in Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Demaine's research interests range throughout algorithms, from data structures for improving web searches to the geometry of understanding how proteins fold to the computational difficulty of laying games.  He received a MacArthur Fellowship (2003) as a "computational geometer tackling and solving difficult problems related to folding and bending--moving readily between the theoretical and the playful, with a keen eye to revealing the former in the latter".  Erik cowrote a book about the theory of folding, together with Joseph O'Rourke, called Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra (Cambridge University Press, 2007), and a book about the computational complexity of games, together with Robert Hearn, called Games, Puzzles, and Computation (A K Peters, 2009).  His interests span the connections between mathematics and art, including curved crease sculptures in the permanent collections of MoMA and the Smithsonian.  Visit for more information.

Martin Demaine is the Angelika and Barton Weller Artist in Residence at MIT. After high school he studied traditional glassblowing in England and founded an artglass studio in Canada, part of the “International Studio Glass Movement.”  After his son was two he became a single parent and home schooled Erik on travels around North America, learning the mathematics and computer science to challenge and collaborate with Erik as he matured intellectually. They are featured in the movie Between the Folds a documentary on modern origami. Martin Demaine is now both an instructor in the MIT glass lab and a collaborator with Erik as a Visiting Scientist in the  Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT.

Sponsored by The University of Kentucky Mathematics Department and College of Arts and Sciences, The Cerel Family Foundation, and Mr. & Mrs. Harry & Arlene Cohen.


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