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In good old days, Scientific American was host to some legendary mathematical (and computer science) oriented columns that inspired generations of scientists and engineers. Douglas Hofstadter, Martin Gardner, A. K. Dewdney... just to name a few.

Where are the contemporary (XXI century) equivalent of these masterpieces? Which magazines can I point out to a layman and get him learning group theory? Hacking on Core Wars? Figuring out some Quine in LISP?

P.S. There are a lot of good websites for dissemination and self-study, but I feel there is some difference between those old SA columns, and what I find nowadays. For the lack of better words, allow me to make an analogy between an iPad and a Raspberry Pi; while the former appeals to the masses, the later gives you the opportunity to tinker. It's the difference between an ephemeral (if somewhat polished) entertainment (or good read), and the life-lasting recreational experience of hacking.

Heck, I've learned more on AI from 1990 Dewdney's "The Magic Machine", then most MOOCs out there.

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I know these aren't columns, but do resources like TopCoder or Project Euler qualify? – Elliott Jun 10 '11 at 23:45
And something that feels like nostalgia is different from something like effective – Zeta.Investigator Aug 27 '12 at 15:21
@PooyaM yes, one could possibly misinterpret nostalgia and effectiveness in this context. But it does seem slightly amusing that an once popular style of (hands-on) recreational mathematics is more-or-less extinguished, despite the massive increase in the ability to target audiences. Just look at the (low) number of answers in this thread. – Hugo S Ferreira Aug 29 '12 at 1:25
up vote 10 down vote accepted

There are some good columns at the MAA (Mathematical Association of America) website. (Websites are the 21st century equivalent of magazines.)

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That's actually a nice resource. Any other magazines currently publishing "recreational mathematics" columns? – Hugo S Ferreira May 16 '11 at 15:31
Have a look at Brian Hayes' site, – Gerry Myerson May 16 '11 at 23:33
There are good columns, but they're getting updated at a rather sad pace, unfortunately. Devlin's column is more about the social aspects of mathematics than anything else (interesting material, but not what the poster is likely after), How Euler Did It is dead, Ivars Peterson hasn't put up anything new in about half a year; I used to read the MAA site regularly but it feels almost dead now. – Steven Stadnicki Aug 22 '12 at 21:45
@Steven, Peterson must have read your mind, as he has put up two new columns this month, e.g., MAA just hasn't put up links to them yet. – Gerry Myerson Aug 22 '12 at 22:59

I try to keep abreast of recreational math at And I try to link to anything worthy of linking to. I used to be one of the people writing columns for, and they were popular, but when I started working for Numb3rs, I didn't have as much time for columns.

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I'm actually an avid reader of your site. – Hugo S Ferreira Jun 11 '11 at 11:30
I am a great fan of Numb3rs. – user221287 Jul 4 '12 at 8:45
Alas, it seems like has gone dormant. Are you out of material, Ed? – I. J. Kennedy Jun 26 '14 at 23:32

New Scientist occasionally publishes math news; I believe they have an article in the latest edition wherein mathematical modeling techniques are being used to some success to predict social unrest. Most of these articles have a distinctly applied math bend, but they generally do a good job at capturing the essence of the theory (if somewhat sensationalized). I should also add that New Scientist does include a weekly math puzzle.

For a more modern format, TED does have lecturers that talk about multidisciplinary work in applied mathematics and statistics. Searching for "math" on their website leads to a number of talks about Math education; although these talks lack in mathematical substance, they tend to try to present pedagogical strategies that are more applicable to non-math types -- perhaps exactly what you need to get a non-math inclined individual to revisit his/her opinions on the subject.

Unfortunately, most cutting edge work in math right now requires exceptionally deep understanding, and is very, very difficult to generalize to a broad, under-informed audience. As such, applications of math, where the topic can be made accessible to different fields and areas of understanding, have better representation in the mainstream.

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The cover article in New Scientist the other week was about the simplex algorithm. – Gerry Myerson Aug 22 '12 at 23:00
@GerryMyerson Yes, I just got the issue when I got home today. New address means mail forwarding making for slower deliveries :) – Emily Aug 23 '12 at 0:09

The Mathematical Intelligencer generally has some good content accessible to the laity.

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Plus Magazine: and, slightly more statistically leaning

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The Public Awareness Office of the American Mathematical Society sponsors a web based "Feature Column." The archive for this series of expository columns is available here:

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We also have MTG Publications in Our Country.

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