The 2006 Joint Math Meeting
I went to my first Joint Math Meeting this week, in San Antonio. The flight was okay (taking off at 5:57 AM, a bit early for me), but we learned a valuable lesson when we arrived at the hotel. Always check your hotel dates. They'd been set up back in Novemeber. We were supposed to arrive on Wednesday, but we came in on Thursday, so our reservations were cancelled. I hadn't even thought of checking that. But it all got settled.
I spent some time with Michael Trott and Eric Weisstein building the Wolfram Research Booth. Looked pretty good, I thought. We showed off a few things, and answered lots of questions. One person that stopped by blogged the JMM, and said "Getting to see a preview of the awesome improvements that will be made to Mathematica later this year. Oh man -- we're talking live image rotation and transforming like you wouldn't believe!" I also showed off MathWorld and the Function Search to many people.
Right next to us was Green Lion Press, which had one of the best versions of Euclid's Elements that I've seen.
Right on the other side of him was MapleSoft. As might be expected, with a rival right next to us, several people asked us about how Maple and Mathematica compared. I know both programs fairly well (I've been using both programs for 15 years, long before joining Wolfram), so I happily gave my own reasons for why Mathematica was better.
Across from us was Hans Schepker's booth, the prettiest at the conference (and the most icosahedral). He was selling mathematical glass lamps.
Another booth across from ours was Saltire Software. For MAA, I listed 10 geometry programs in my Vector vs Raster program. Saltire was demoing an even better program, Geometry Expressions, which allowed some impressive symbolic solutions of geometry problems.
mfolz.com had a nice selection of mathematical t-shirts. Also, scienceteecher.com had lots of t-shirts, by Mike Cherry. Mike also had copies of his math comic book, the adventures of PlusMan, which is amusingly chock full of mathematical puns.
Another interesting booth was WholeMovement Geometry, by Bradford Hansen-Smith. All of the polyhedra in the background were made with paper plates ("the cheaper ones are easiest to build from."). Bradford also sold some gorgeous books on his craft. I wound up purchasing a copy of his Folding circle Tetrahedra.
Roger Penrose stopped by, and when I showed him Kepler's Monsters, he told me about a lecture he gave a while back which featured Kepler's Monsters. A person in the audience mentioned a letter by Kepler that went into much greater detail about his intentions with the tiling. He never managed to find out more. Anyone that can find this letter -- which might contain an intention of non-periodicity -- please write me.
Another group close to us was Texas Instruments.
One of the things TI promoted the We All Use Math Every Day program with Numb3rs. They held an event there, which started with a talk by Johnny Lott, former president of the NCTM, and now the team leader for making those activity sheet. He talked about activity Bullet Hunt. After that, Andrew Black, the Science Coordinator for Numb3rs, came out and gave a talk about the history of the show, and what goes into a Numb3rs script. As a writer with a science degree, he'd previously been working for the show Crossing Jordan. When offered a chance to switch over to Numb3rs, he took it. His second day on the job was to go to the 2005 Joint Math Meeting, to look for people or groups that might be willing to help, at a time before the show had even aired. Wolfram Research was one group that offered help, and we've been helping ever since. The 2006 Joint Math Meeting was different for Andrew -- this time, everybody knew about the show. About 500 people came to the TI event. Afterwards, the Double Down episode was shown.
Another interesting booth was Wood Moebius.
Another booth was the Legacy of R.L. Moore. They had a lot of materials available they were giving away -- materials which are also available on request from their supporting site.
The National Security Agency, the world's largest employer of mathematicians, was recruiting. As mentioned in the Business Week article Math Will Rock Your World, lots of places are hiring mathematicians at the moment, so the NSA has more competition than they used to. Chatting with the agents there, I learned about their Math Learning Units, and found that the USA Mathematical Talent Search is still active.
One book I've long been curious about is The Inquisitive Problem Solver. After getting a look at it, I bought it. It's one of the best problem books I've seen. I looked at hundreds and hundreds of books, and made a list of some books I might want to buy someday.
I have lots of other notes and material, but I'll end things here for now, so I can get an update in.