Most people rarely use the words “mathematics” and “fun” in the same sentence, but Glen Whitney thinks he’s come up with a formula to change that.
Mr. Whitney, a mathematician and former hedge-fund algorithm manager, is getting ready to unveil the sum of his past four years’ work: a museum devoted to math.
It’s a romp through the unexpected quirks of mathematics, with exhibits designed to turn math into play.
“You discover things that are beautiful and surprising,” Mr. Whitney said. “You discover extraordinary things.”
The National Museum of Mathematics, nicknamed MoMath, opened on Saturday (12/12/12) on East 26th Street facing Madison Square Park. On a recent afternoon, construction workers and museum staff were racing to ready the facility.
As workmen put the final touches on an installation at the center of a spiral staircase, Mr. Whitney beckoned for colleagues to join him in a demonstration of a giant touchscreen embedded in the floor.
Lines appeared on the screen, indicating the shortest network linking them all, looking like a brightly lighted railroad map. As the people shifted—sometimes by just inches—the lines jumped to form new routes.
It’s a museum designed to surprise. Tricycles will roll on square wheels across a scalloped surface. Clear plastic cubes, when held just so in a curtain of laser light, will reveal hexagonal cross-sections. And little cars on a movable racetrack will reach their destinations faster on routes that aren’t straight.