I’m the lucky dog who has been able to spend a lifetime exploring math, science, computing, and technology, then writing about my adventures. My highest ambition is that I might inspire a few others to do the same thing.
Two singular events shaped my professional life. First, in 1973 Dennis Flanagan gave me a job as an editor on the staff of Scientific American, and then taught me how to do it. I stayed with the magazine until 1984. It’s where I got my education.
The one drawback of life at Scientific American was that I spent most of my time in the company of scientists who seemed to be having more fun than I was. They did the experiments and made the discoveries; I helped them tell the story but wished I could participate more deeply and directly. Then the second transforming event came along: the affordable personal computer. Here was a scientific instrument that I could master on my own. In 1983 I launched a column called “Computer Recreations” in the pages of Scientific American, filling the slot that had previously been occupied by Martin Gardner and then by Douglas Hofstadter. I have been writing similar essays ever since. After I left Scientific American, I wrote for Computer Language and for The Sciences, then for almost 25 years I wrote the “Computing Science” column in American Scientist. (I was also the editor of American Scientist from 1990 to 1992, and I remain a contributing editor.)
Almost all of my essays are freely available online, either here on bit-player or on the American Scientist website. Follow the links in my publications list.
In 2005 my book Infrastructure: A Guide to the Industrial Landscape was published by W. W. Norton and Company. A revised and updated edition came out in 2014. The book has its own website. In 2008 a collection of my essays, Group Theory in the Bedroom, and Other Mathematical Diversions, was published by Hill and Wang. That book too has a website. Another collection of essays, Foolproof, and Other Mathematical Meditations, was published by MIT Press in fall 2017. The website for that book is here.
Since 2010 I have held a courtesy appointment in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. In August 2016 I became a Fellow of Y Combinator Research, the philanthropic arm of the Y Combinator venture capital firm and startup incubator. All my work done with the support of YCR will be made freely available to the public. During the winter-spring semester of 2018 I am journalist-in-residence at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California Berkeley.
How to reach me
postal: 12 Cranberry Lane, Amherst MA 01002, USA