“My life has been driven by solving problems that I consider fun.” These are the words of Erik Demaine, quoted in an article in the MIT News about a paper he, his father Martin, et. al., had written that establishes “the mathematical relationship between the number of squares in a [Rubik's] cube and the maximum number of moves necessary to solve it.”
I first learned about Demaine and his faith in fun from Between the Folds, a deep and moving documentary about the art and science of origami. In addition to his passion for origami and the Rubik’s Cube, Demaine blows glass, participates in improvisational theater, and teaches at MIT. At 22 Demaine won the MacArtur Genius grant. According to the article, “Demaine was home-schooled by his father from age 7 to 12, when he entered Dalhousie University in his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia. He earned his bachelor’s degree two years later in 1995, then went to the University of Waterloo for his master’s degree in math (1996) and the Ph.D. (2001). He joined the MIT faculty that same year, at age 20. At the same time, his father was hired as a visiting scientist.”
With such recognition, with such support from his father, with so many achievements at such a young age, it is easy to attribute Demaine’s appreciation of fun to his youth. I, however, prefer to think of it as wisdom.
Here, some of the Demaines’ puzzles, for, you know, the fun of it.