A Castle For Mathematicians

The American Institute of Mathematics was founded in 1994, with financing from John Fry, the Silicon Valley businessman responsible for Fry’s Electronics. The Fry’s store in Palo Alto is quite remarkable, containing everything a Silicon Valley geek might need, with a huge selection of potato chips and computer chips. In recent years, AIM has been running a wide variety of workshops, at a temporary location called the AIM Research Conference Center (ARCC), which is basically in back of the Palo Alto store.

Last month, the City Council of Morgan Hill approved plans for construction next to a golf course of a huge castle that will provide a permanent home for the ARCC (for a news story about this, see here). It will be modeled on the Alhambra in Spain, occupy 167,000 square feet, contain a “gourmet-industrial kitchen with master chefs from a San Francisco seafood restaurant and a Napa Valley resort”, and much else besides. Fry himself is closely involved in the design of the castle, which is rumored to cost over $50 million, and planned to be ready for occupancy in 2009. More details about this are here, and there’s even a video of what the castle will look like.

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22 Responses to A Castle For Mathematicians

  1. David says:

    AIM is an interesting organization that sponsors quite interesting workshops, all of which (including those past) are described on their website (AIMath.org), many with references. Many of these workshops are of interest to some types of scientists as well as mathematicians. As an example, they just had one on Low Eigenvalues of Schroedinger and Laplace Operators.

  2. andy.s says:

    aaahh crud. I was hoping they would get the Winchester Mystery House.

  3. Stefan says:

    Great link, but I wonder what differentiates AIM from AMS?

  4. csrster says:


  5. anon says:

    Very nice video, except that the turrets are square shaped, whereas cylindrical designs are much better at resisting bombardment since impact impulses get arched over a much larger area in an attack on a cylinder than on a flat wall, which reduces damage.

  6. anonymous says:

    They should have based it on Uraniborg, Tycho Brahe’s castle/research institute.

  7. anon says:

    (I meant of course that the turrets are ‘rectilinear’, not ‘square’. Must always use correct terminology!)

  8. ObsessiveMathsFreak says:

    This certainly won’t do much to improve the Ivory Tower sterotype of mathematicians.

  9. Dick Thompson says:

    Competition for the Institute for Advanced Studies? I hope is has lots of little cafe’s tucked away in overlooked nooks. Since Fry seems to have a communal model of doing math versus the IAS lonely genius model, he might want to encourage what has worked before in that mode.

  10. Thomas Love says:

    The cafes are necessary since, as Erdos put it: “Mathematicians are machines for turning coffee into theorems”. After deriving results in private, the lonely genius must communicate his/her results to the community. Besides, community is necessary to provide stimulation.

  11. A.J. says:

    The trouble with turning coffee into theorems is that it increases entropy: we can’t turn unwanted theorems back into coffee.

  12. hack says:

    How much good mathematics has been accomplished while looking out over a golf course?

  13. How much good mathematics has been accomplished while looking out over a golf course?

    Well, since the grad college at Princeton overlooks a golf course, I’d guess there’s a pretty good chance that much of John Nash’s early work was done in that environment.

  14. Chris says:

    AJ said, “The trouble with turning coffee into theorems is that it increases entropy: we can’t turn unwanted theorems back into coffee.”

    That is what comathematicians are for!

  15. TTT says:


    couldn’t help but wondering – how did they manage to attract so many females in the Bay Area? a new trend? women going after Mathematicians these days:)

  16. Dick Thompson says:

    TTT said:
    couldn’t help but wondering – how did they manage to attract so many females in the Bay Area? a new trend? women going after Mathematicians these days:)

    All those movies about nutty genius mathematicians, and, way important, the TV show NUMB3RS. Mathematicians are hot!

  17. Numb3rs is a hit because of good writing, good directing, good acting, and their Math Advisor, Dr. Gary Lorden, Executive Director of Mathematics, in Caltech’s Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics division.
    He is a noted expert in Statistics; I took advanced probability from him; he’s written letters of recommendation for me. The Chairman of Math is the great Barry Simon, I.B.M. Professor of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. http://www.math.caltech.edu/people/simon.html
    In all our wide-ranging discussions, String Theory has never come up. Although Caltech has major String Theorists (as I’ve posted before, including undergrad classes) it remains a small part of a much larger physics, astronomy, and math effort, and does not seem (to me) to affect the mainstream of research and teaching.

  18. Carl says:

    The most amazing thing about Fry’s are the architecture and decor. The second most amazing thing is the range of electronics sold there. So are they going to sell Peter’s new book?

    I bought Not Even Wrong($21.56) and Smolin’s new book($20.80) at Barnes and Noble. They didn’t have them in stock, but could mail them to me when available. Since the order ($47.34) was over $25, the shipping was free. Years ago B&N started a card program that requires you to pay $25 per year to join. I have avoided shopping there ever since. They still have the program, but I held my nose and paid my money.

    If Peter comes up here to Seattle on a book signing I’ll get him to sign it. I am a bit ashamed to admit that I once got a professor of physics, Gregory Benford to sign a science fiction book of his that had been remaindered. But I was a cheap physics grad student at the university at the time.

    And I started a blog. I had to do this in order to thank a grad student for publicly more or less endorsing my theory of the quarks and leptons. Not that I claim to understand her comments on M theory. Maybe after reading Peter’s book I will.

  19. TheGraduate says:

    To Carl:

    To be fair the Barnes and Noble, you don’t have to get the card if you don’t want it. But you get 10 percent off every purchase if you do.

    Of course you would need to buy more than 250 dollars of books per year for this to be worth it.

  20. Pingback: Ars Mathematica » Blog Archive » American Institute of Mathematics clones Alhambra

  21. Carl says:

    Regarding Barnes & Noble’s $25 per year, I buy maybe 300 books per year. I easily spent $1000 a year there; the card would be a bargain for me. But it seems to me that what they really did was to raise all their prices about 5% and issued the card in the hope of crowding out the competition. I think that that is monopolistic and I won’t have any part in it.

    Some people don’t like the privacy issues, but I carry cards for all the local supermarkets in my otherwise thin wallet. There’s plenty of room in there for a free B&N card. In the meantime, I find the selection of books at other bookstores quite satisfactory. If I were Peter, I would refuse to sign books at B&N stores.

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