Friday, 3 September 2010

More about Des Carte's Circle Theorem

My recent post about the "Almost Pythagorean" relationship in Des Carte's circle theorem led me to update and add some notes about the Theorem and its very interesting history for my paper on such relationships... So here are a few notes I find interesting..... Hope you do as well.

The theorem is also sometimes called Soddy’s theorem because in 1936 Sir Fredrick Soddy rediscovered the theorem again, and then proceeded to write a really interesting poem about the relationship called “The Kiss Precise”.

For pairs of lips to kiss maybe
Involves no trigonometry.
'Tis not so when four circles kiss
Each one the other three.
To bring this off the four must be
As three in one or one in three.
If one in three, beyond a doubt
Each gets three kisses from without.
If three in one, then is that one
Thrice kissed internally.

Four circles to the kissing come.
The smaller are the benter.
The bend is just the inverse of
The distance from the center.
Though their intrigue left Euclid dumb
There's now no need for rule of thumb.
Since zero bend's a dead straight line
And concave bends have minus sign,
The sum of the squares of all four bends
Is half the square of their sum.


Soddy may also be known to students of science for receiving the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1921 for the discovery of the decay sequences of radioactive isotopes. According to Oliver Sacks' wonderful book, Uncle Tungsten, Soddy also created the term "isotope" and was the first to use the term "chain reaction".

In a strange "chain reaction" of ideas, Soddy played a part in the US developing an atomic bomb. Soddy's book, The Interpretation of Radium, inspired H G Wells to write The World Set Free in 1914, and he dedicated the novel to Soddy's book. Twenty years later, Wells' book set Leo Szilard to thinking about the possibility of Chain reactions, and how they might be used to create a bomb, leading to his getting a British patent on the idea in 1936. A few years later Szilard encouraged his friend, Albert Einstein, to write a letter to President Roosevelt about the potential for an atomic bomb.

The prize-winning science-fiction writer, Frederik Pohl, talks about Szilard's epiphany in Chasing Science (pg 25),

".. we know the exact spot where Leo Szilard got the idea that led to the atomic bomb. There isn't even a plaque to mark it, but it happened in 1938, while he was waiting for a traffic light to change on London's Southampton Row. Szilard had been remembering H. G. Well's old science-fiction novel about atomic power, The World Set Free and had been reading about the nuclear-fission experiment of Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner, and the lightbulb went on over his head."
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