I made a thing!
All creative types need an occasional spark. For working mathematicians, inspiration arises in different ways. A night’s rest, a long walk, or a chat with a friend can allow your subconscious to work on a problem, giving you a gentle push towards the solution.
Paul Erdős famously said “My brain is open” as a signal that he was ready to think about mathematics. Erdős’ saying is the namesake of my latest creative project, which is a set of oracle-type cards for working mathematicians, inspired by the Oblique Strategies deck by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt.
I describe the project in this way:
“Mathematicians are often stuck on a particular problem, proof, or algorithm. Our published works constitute the rare times when things clicked, and they don’t reflect the countless stumbles on the long journey towards uncovering mathematical truth. The card deck contains a collection of 89 phrases designed to spur the imagination of the working mathematician. Every card contains a short statement or question, all with the goal to help you rethink and reorganize.”
How can random sayings help a mathematician? Math is often viewed as rigid and deterministic. However, a central theme in mathematics is randomness, which is often used to model phenomena in nature. My Brain is Open, like a Tarot deck or the I Ching, uses randomness as an integral part of its design. Random thoughts and events often play into our creative process like they would for a visual artist, musician, or scientist.
Here are a few examples of cards:
My Brain is Open decks can be purchased directly from the website Make Playing Cards. Canadian buyers will have to pay additional taxes for delivery. A Canadian “sorry” for that.
I hope you enjoy the cards.