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The Mathematics of… Juggling
Posted December 1, 2004
The Cerebral Jongleur

An algebra whiz reveals the secrets of keeping a lot of balls in the air
By Bill Donahue
DISCOVER Vol. 25 No. 12 | December 2004 | Astronomy & Physics

Allen Knutson's office is a mess. There's a unicycle with a flat tire in the corner, and a Bongo Board beside that, and a bunch of stuffed lizards crawling amid heaps of papers and books. The computer monitor is face down and unplugged on the desk. But Knutson, a 35-year-old tenured mathematics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, is completely focused on the challenge at hand. Long-haired, bearded, and wispy, with a quiet, otherworldly presence, he coolly recites a number sequence while juggling four balls in the air: "6-6-1-5-1-5-6-6-1-5-1-5-6-6-1-5-1-5 . . ."

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