Being a Tourist in My Own Town

By Mark

Saturday morning at 04:30 a small group of dedicated camera club members met up in our local grocery store parking lot for the hour long trip into Washington DC.  We knew the cherry blossoms were already past peak, but that there would be enough to make the trip worthwhile.  Plus catching the sunrise over the tidal basin is always worthwhile.  

Sarah came along too, not for anything as mundane as a beautiful sunrise; no, this was the day of the very first National Math Festival on the mall.  The weather was nice, unlike the polar conditions we had two years ago, but there weren’t really enough clouds in the sky to make for an interesting sunrise.   Still, the dual monuments of DC, construction cranes and historic sights provided a nice counterpoint.

What then to do with the three hours until the festival opened?  Fortunately, DC is full of things to do that are open all day and night.  Around the Tidal Basin are the Dr. Martin Luther King and the FDR Memorials.   We had not managed to get to the MLK site since it opened a few years ago, so off we trod.  

The walls surrounding the main sculpture are engraved with quotes from his speeches.   In this day and age it is important to recognize just how far we have come, but realize we still have a long ways to go.

Just around the basin is the FDR memorial.  

It is designed to follow a historic time driven flow from his first administration through the depression, WWII and then his death.  He and Fala are still larger than life.

Finally, we made it to the Smithsonian Castle for the Festival.  

They had math puzzles and booths with games, and a treasure hunt.  

They also had a demonstration of some principles of applied math like the catenary.  Tricycles with square wheels work just fine when the road is curved exactly the right way.  

We went underground for some interesting lectures and then got to watch as seven local high school mathletes competed for a $3000.00 prize.   Here was the final question.  

You have two minutes…go!  It even made Sarah’s eyes do this. 

It was pretty inspiring to watch, but it made me glad I wasn't up there doing math in public.   Oh, and to finish I just wanted to leave you with one more random point…