Maths Busking

Published on Sunday, September 12, 2010 in , , ,

Maths Busking LogoOver in England, there's a group of street performers that are right down my alley. They call themselves Maths Busking.

Quick related side note: If you're more use to North American English than you are British English, the word “maths” might sound unusual to you. It's simply the shortened form of the word “mathematics” used in Britain.

Maths Busking is mainly a central group of performers, who also train others in the art of street performing with math (Yes, I use the North American English form throughout this blog). Their challenge is to engage the audience in such a way that it is the math itself that the audience finds memorable and engaging.

Here's a video showing some of their training and performance sessions:

Maths Busking actually has a central set of a few performance pieces, some of which are shown in the video above. The first bit you see, with two people tied together is known as Zeeman's Ropes (The site dates it back to 1978, but it goes back more than 250 years). The piece where the young boy is trying to turn the vest/waistcoat inside out with his hands tied is Waistcoat and Handcuffs. The final piece in the video is the light and amusing Emergency Pentagon.

Some of their other pieces will already be familiar to regular Grey Matters readers. Cubic Root Whiz, for example, can be learned over in the Mental Gym, as well as practiced.

Their mind reading feat, known to magicians as the Age Cards, has been discussed many times here on Grey Matters. You can learn about it as part of Werner Miller's Age Cube, his Age Square, or my post on age-guessing.

Take a close look at what's going on at about 1:40 into this video from the Guardian (as seen on the Southbank Show). You've got a woman with a £20 note attached to her bandanna with a clothespin, with assorted other clothespins on various parts of her clothes, while the two gentlemen remove the clothespins. Does it look familiar? No? This Guardian's article doesn't talk in detail about it, but this Globe and Mail article on Maths Busking does in detail (about halfway down). Yep, their Twenty Quid Game is our old friend single-pile Nim!

Their Knott a Handkerchief (taught on this eHow video), Divine Remainder (There's a great routine for this in Harry Lorayne's book, Mathematical Wizardry) and Handshakes (also taught in this BetterExplained post) routines are also fun and easy to understand.

You might be wondering at this point what it would be like to go through the training, and perform these in front of people. The BBC had the same question in mind, and sent Ruth Alexander out to do just that. You can see her performance in this video, and hear her talk about the experience in the June 18th, 2010 edition of BBC Radio 4's More or Less (This section begins about 16 minutes into the show).

My next question is, how long before this makes it across the pond?

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