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James Randi posted today his first thoughts on the loss of his long-time friend and conspirator in skepticism, Martin Gardner. Gardner is an enormous loss to all of us: there is probably not a mathematician or scientist in the US over 40 - perhaps even over 35 - who wasn't influenced by him.

I first heard of Gardner when I was 13 from my 9th and 10th grade math teacher, Nancy Rosenberg. At the time, Gardner was in the middle of his 30-year stint writing the mathematical games column for Scientific American, and she was a huge fan. She taught us to make hexaflexagons and play Nim (which my father and I played for years on restaurant placemats while waiting for food), among other things.

I first learned about paranormal investigation from watching Randi do a lecture/demonstration at Cornell in January, 1982. But what made CSICOP, now CSI a credible organization to me was learning that Gardner (along with Randi and Carl Sagan) was a co-founder. His book Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus was the first skeptical book I read, and the presence of yet another decades-long column of his in Skeptical Inquirer was a major reason I began reading the magazine regularly. Later, of course, I founded my own.

He was still writing, sharp as ever, until very recently, well into his 90s. A great loss.


Randi, as has been reported elsewhere, has intestinal cancer. He's had surgery and is on chemotherapy, and is, I discovered a couple of days ago when I went to visit, bristling with energy and good humor. He can only be described as "chipper", although he doesn't seem to think his chin, which he's recently seen for the first time in many decades, ought to be allowed out in public.

He expects to be done with the chemo by the end of the year, and in the meantime his only complaint seems to be that he can only work six days a week instead of seven.


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