Informatics, TU Vienna

Vienna Gödel Lecture 2014

Youngest professor of computer science, Erik Demaine, at the Vienna Gödel Lecture 2014.

Algorithms Meet Art, Puzzles, and Magic

The Vienna Gödel Lecture 2014 was held on June 4th, 2014 by Erik Demaine from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He became with 20 years the youngest professor of computer science. Already in his childhood Erik Demaine designed and made puzzles together with his father, and distributed them as the Erik and Dad Puzzle Company to toy stores across Canada. So began the journey into the interactions between algorithms and the arts. More and more, Erik Demaine and his father find that their 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.

This talk gave several examples in each category, from how the first font design led to building transforming robots, to how studying curved creases in origami led to sculptures at MoMA. The audience took part in some live magic demonstrations.

Biography of Erik Demaine

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 playing 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 Demaine co-wrote a book about the theory of folding, together with Joseph O‘Rourke (Geometric Folding Algorithms, 2007), and a book about the computational complexity of games, together with Robert Hearn (Games, Puzzles, and Computation, 2009).

Together with his father Martin, his interests span the connections between mathematics and art, including curved origami sculptures in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian.

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