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Benjamin Wells
University of San Francisco
San Francisco, California
 

For nearly three decades, Benjamin Wells taught mathematics and computer science courses as a member of both departments at the University of San Francisco. He regularly offered freshman seminars that combined science and art. He holds degrees from MIT and UC Berkeley and has worked and studied in several other countries. He won a John Templeton Foundation science and religion course prize for “Infinity, Chaos, and Mysticism in Science and Religion” in 1998 and held the USF Davies Professorship in 1989, teaching a seminar “Approaching Infinity: Mathematics and the Mystic Quest.”

He cofounded the USF Math & Art Fusion Project and serves as its director. It seeks to use the permanent collection of San Francisco’s De Young Museum to teach middle-school mathematics.

Wells has periodically shared mathematical art at Bridges conferences and other exhibitions. His contributions to math and art include explorations of the Klein 4-group and Galois theory in puppet shows, analysis and generation of tongue twisters, a study of 1, and demonstrations of the dualizing Hoberman plastic toys. In the photograph, he holds the Hoberman Switch-Pitch ball, a self-dualizing tetrahedral structure that is the mascot of the Fusion Project.

A fan of fractals, he has studied the fractal arrangement of mineral spherites in a Mono Lake brine fly larval instar and has performed his “Fractal Rap” to OPP at numerous gatherings.

As the last student of noted logician Alfred Tarski, Wells works on the boundary of logic, algebra, and computing. Several papers explore pseudorecursive semigroup varieties. This has led to five contributions to hypercomputation.

He has also published in computer graphics, visual communication (with 22 patents), and classic computers. In particular, he has investigated the universality of the Colossus machines built for Bletchley Park. His collaborative research includes the action of finite state machines on infinite sequences; expert tutoring systems; peer teaching in secondary school; and math education films and videos. He has studied the behavior and application of squarefree sequences, rediscovering a number of great results—the fun of discovery outweighing the tardiness!

He says, “I enjoy reviewing books in familiar and in strange fields. It serves potential readers to outline the material and to suggest the issues covered and the manner of their coverage, forming a preview of style and efficacy as well as contents. If there is a chance for humor, all the better.”

Since retiring in 2011, he spends much time in event planning with his wife; for some of that work, please see: Francis in the Schools and White Pony Express.


     

 Designing with the mind in mind: simple guide to understanding user interface design guidelines (3rd ed.)
Johnson J., Morgan Kaufmann, Cambridge, MA, 2021. 290 pp.  Type: Book (978-0-128182-02-4)

This thoroughly engaging book offers explicit advice for the construction of user interfaces without involving one specification, development platform, or line of code. This is the third edition, but this review offers no comparison as...

 

Machines we trust: perspectives on dependable AI
Pelillo M., Scantamburlo T., MIT Press, Boston, MA, 2021. 174 pp.  Type: Book (978-0-262542-09-8)

Skynet is here. This was my mindset when I undertook to review Machines we trust. The book comprises an introduction plus eight chapters divided into three parts: “Setting the Stage” (chapters 2 and 3); &...

 

 AI 2041: ten visions for our future
Lee K., Qiufan C., Currency, New York, NY, 2021. 480 pp.  Type: Book (978-0-593238-29-5)

AI 2041 combines fiction and nonfiction in a satisfyingly long and dense book that attempts to depict artificial intelligence (AI) two decades from now. The first component, by Chen Qiufan (Stanley Chan), consists of ten short stories in a ...

 

 A new history of modern computing
Haigh T., Ceruzzi P., MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2021. 544 pp.  Type: Book (978-2-625429-00-8), Reviews: (3 of 3)

A new history of modern computing supplants Paul Ceruzzi’s A history of modern computing, released in its second edition over two decades ago [1]. It features a new lead author, historian Thomas Haigh. I will not compare the tw...

 

 On the foundations of computing
Primiero G., Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2020. 320 pp.  Type: Book (978-0-198835-65-3)

This enterprising, enthusiastic, and energetic book undertakes to provide a foundational perspective on three phases of modern computing: theory, architecture, and scientific exploration. The author considers these to be exhaustive, an...

 
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