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The Sixth Games and Puzzles Mini-Conference at the Weizmann Institute of Science

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 The Sixth Games and Puzzles Mini-Conference at the Weizmann Institute of Science

Games, mechanical puzzles, riddles, Sudoku - were all abundant at the sixth national conference of games, puzzles and recreational math. The conference, organized by a team of puzzle enthusiasts, was coordinated by the Davidson Institute of Science Education, the educational wing of the Weizmann Institute of Science, and took place on campus on March 16th, 2010.

Dr. Yossi Elran, head of the international, recreational Math-by-Mail program for students, chaired the conference. Members of the organizing committee included Prof. Abraham Arcavi from the math education department at the Hebrew University, Mr. David Goodman - wooden puzzle creator from "mishak-etz" and Mr. Dan Feldman, puzzle enthusiast and collector.

Open a seemingly sealed box

Participants were invited to stroll among the many stalls, put up by puzzlists from all types and flavors, and took part in interactive workshops where challenges of all levels were presented. Among the different stalls were topological, mechanical puzzles where the participant is challenged to open a seemingly sealed box. A topological rope problem "teased" participants to try and hang a picture from an assortment of nails without falling down, while magicians demonstrated math-based feats.

Participant at a workshop tries to solve some topological rope puzzles.

Above: Participant at a workshop tries to solve some topological rope puzzles. Many of the mechanical puzzles at the conference are based on hard-core math studies in the field of topology.

Magnetic sphere structures

Above: Sculpture and math. Some challenges require building different structures from strange building blocks that come in all shapes and sizes. The magnetic sphere structures shown above are especially compelling.

The Rubic's Cube is always a favorite at the conference. World Silver medalist Dror Womberg demonstrated solving the cube – blindfolded! The conference also featured the opening of an art exhibition on the topic of the Rubic's cube by photographer Gadi Dagon.

Above: Rubic's Cubes

The Rubic's Cube is always a favorite at the conference. World Silver medalist Dror Womberg demonstrated solving the cube – blindfolded! The conference also featured the opening of an art exhibition on the topic of the Rubic's cube by photographer Gadi Dagon. The artwork is currently on display at the Clore Garden of Science in the Weizmann Institute of Science.

A piece of rope and some wire

Can you release the ball and chain from these intriguing structures?

Above: Can you release the ball and chain from these intriguing structures?

A piece of rope and some wire is all that is needed to create an interesting puzzle.

Above: A piece of rope and some wire is all that is needed to create an interesting puzzle.

Some of the participants at the conference including conference chairman Dr. Yossi Elran and his wife Michal (top right) and Leading puzzle collector Dan Feldman (top left).

Above: Some of the participants at the conference including conference chairman Dr. Yossi Elran and his wife Michal (top right) and Leading puzzle collector Dan Feldman (top left).

Conceptis' President Dave Green (top right and bottom left in the above) and Marketing Manager Gil Galanti.

Participants in the conference were also given "take home" presents: some puzzles and riddles to try at home, including sets of Sudoku, Kakuru and other similar magazines (top left in the above), donated by Conceptis, who were represented at the conference by president Dave Green (top right and bottom left in the above) and Marketing Manager Gil Galanti. Conceptis' magazines were distributed as "take home" presents to the participators.

The math behind juggling

In the lecture session, innovative recreational math and puzzle studies were presented. These included a talk by Israel Prize winner Professor David Harel who spoke about the math behind magic tricks, a talk by Dr. David Ginat on Mathematical Thinking Through Mathematical Games, and a talk by Professor Aviezri Fraenkl who spoke about modifications of the game of Nim. Young talent Yoav Ben-Shalom, a 10th grade student who is already in the midst of a university degree in math, spoke about the math behind juggling, demonstrating throughout the talk amazing juggling feats.

Many other speakers also gave fascinating talks, presentations and demonstrations, including spectacular origami sculptures created by origamists Ilan Garibi and Gadi Vishne and a creative thinking workshop leaded by TV producer, magician and lecturer Yarin Kimor.

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