I have a podcast series (http://wildaboutmath.com/category/podcast/ and on Itunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sol-ledermans-podcast/id588254197) where I interview people who have a passion for math and who have inspired others to take an interest in the subject.

I've interviewed Alfred Posamentier, Keith Devlin, Ed Burger, James Tanton, and other math popularizers I know. I'm trying to get an interview set up with Ian Stewart and I'll see if I can do interviews with Steven Strogatz and Cliff Pickover in 2013.

Who do you know, famous or not, who I should try to get for my series? These people don't need to be authors. They can be game designers, teachers, toy makers, bloggers or anyone who has made a big contribution to helping kids or adults enjoy math more.

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    There are many! I would suggest Ravi Vakil (Stanford). – André Nicolas Dec 27 '12 at 4:49
  • @AndréNicolas Great. I hadn't heard of Ravi but he looks like he fits the bill. Thanks! – Sol Dec 27 '12 at 5:05
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    Do they have to be living in the US? – Michael Albanese Dec 27 '12 at 5:17
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    @MichaelAlbanese Nope. They don't need to be in the US. Ian Stewart is in the UK. – Sol Dec 27 '12 at 5:36
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    @Sol: Please read Create Wiki Posts. If you need help in making this post CW, please flag a moderator. – robjohn Dec 27 '12 at 10:27

13 Answers 13

Well, there's Vi Hart. Basically a bunch of youtube videos that show you just enough math to get you interested.

  • Yup. She's on my list. And her dad, George Hart, who was instrumental in making the Museum of Mathematics happen. – Sol Dec 27 '12 at 13:59

John Horton Conway - Most Famous for the Game of Life, but also a contributor to recreational mathematics in general. As well as being a coauthor of the ATLAS of finite groups.

Roger Penrose - Mathematical Physicist and creator of Penrose Tiles a way of tiling the plane only non-periodically. His book The Emperor's New Mind is a well recommended layman's discussion of Computability and Artificial Intelligence.

Raymond Smullyan - Has created many books on recreational logic including To Mock a Mockingbird.

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    It might be nice to explain why as well. – user50407 Dec 28 '12 at 17:41
  • Thanks for the suggestions. – Sol Dec 29 '12 at 23:38

I haven't heard him, but I get the impression Terry Tao would be good.

  • Yeah, I agree. Thanks. – Sol Dec 27 '12 at 14:07
  • BTW I'm pleased your edit was not approved: I do know who Terry is; I just haven't heard him speak. – Mark Hurd Dec 27 '12 at 15:10
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    He is a good speaker. I have heard him talk a couple of times at UCLA. I would imagine that would mean he would give a good interview. Besides, he and I had the same graduate advisor :-) – robjohn Dec 27 '12 at 15:30
  • @MarkHurd My attempted edit was a mistake. I thought I was trying to fix a typo in my own post. – Sol Dec 27 '12 at 18:31

I recommend Art Benjamin. He's a dynamic speaker, has given lots of math talks to general audiences (mostly on tricks for doing quick mental math calculations, I think), and is an expert on combinatorial proof techniques (e.g. he's coauthor of Proofs That Really Count). Benjamin is a math professor at Harvey Mudd College.

  • Yes, Art Benjamin would be great. I've blogged about his mathemagician feats. Thanks for the reminder. – Sol Dec 27 '12 at 5:04

Paul Nahin, Julian Havil and John Derbyshire have written very enjoyable popular math books. Marcus de Sautoy is also a writer and has hosted his own podcast, "A Brief History of Mathematics". And of course, Douglas Hofstadter has the rare honor of writing bestsellers on logic and math.

  • Nihan is one of my favorite authors as is du Sautoy. Ah, yes, Hofstadter of Goedel Escher Bach would be great. I wonder if I could get Don Knuth to be interviewed. I took a computer science class from him some 30 years ago. The others I'll need to look up. Thanks. – Sol Dec 27 '12 at 14:06

A couple that immediately come to mind are John Allen Paulos and Reuben Hersh. I suggest perusing the publication section of the Mathematical Association of America's website for more candidates.

  • Awesome suggestions. Hersh is a name I hadn't heard of. And, thanks for the idea of searching the MAA website. – Sol Dec 27 '12 at 5:14

Ian Stewart, Barry Cipra, William Dunham...

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  • Stewart is on my list. Don't know the other two. Will have to look them up. – Sol Dec 27 '12 at 14:00
  • @Sol Barry Cipra – bof Nov 3 '15 at 6:44

I was inspired by Alex Bellos's book Adventures In Numberland.

  • Yes, Bellos is great. Good reminder. – Sol Dec 27 '12 at 14:08

I found Christos Papadimitriou to be quite an entertaining speaker and quite good at explaining concepts without technicality. He's a theoretical computer scientist, but has a quite broad knowledge of mathematics too and quite keen on maths popularisation, history and philosophy.

Timothy Gowers wrote the general audience book Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction and edited the wonderful The Princeton Companion to Mathematics, that covers both rather basic and rather advanced mathematics. Gowers also has a blog.

  • Good reminder. Thank you! I have the Princeton Companion. It is an outstanding book. – Sol Dec 28 '12 at 15:05

You can try Edward Frenkel. Here is his homepage http://math.berkeley.edu/~frenkel/. He has directed and acted in a small movie called rites of love and math. He has also written a book called Love and math (yet to be published).

  • Excellent. I'll check him out. Thanks. – Sol Jan 30 '13 at 12:47

I would also recommend John Baez know for his This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics and the Azimuth project. Also Leonard Susskind, author of The Theoretical Minimum and the series of youtube lectures it is based on. Perhaps not entirely for general audience would be Shlomo Sternberg, author of some extremely readable serious math texts.

I would recommend Dr. Mariusz Wodzicki from the University of California at Berkeley. He is EXTREMELY passionate about mathematics (which is very evident in his lectures to those who have attended), is an active researcher, and loves to hype up his students on the subject. His enthusiasm is highly infectious, and practically everything that comes out of his mouth is either mathematical wisdom or some kind of profound life advice.

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