Wednesday, 31 August 2011

On This Day in Math - Aug 31

The pursuit of the good and evil are now linked in astronomy as in almost all science. ... The fate of human civilization will depend on whether the rockets of the future carry the astronomer's telescope or a hydrogen bomb.
~Sir Bernard Lovell

The 243rd day of the year; 243 is the largest three digit number that can be expressed as a fifth power (35). It is also the sum of five consecutive prime numbers (41 + 43 + 47 + 53 + 59).

1682 Michael Rolle published an elegant solution to a difficult problem publicly posed by Ozanam: Find four integers the difference of any two of which is a perfect square as well as the sum of the first three will be a perfect square. This brought him public recognition. *VFR Ozanam believed that the smallest of the four numbers that would satisfy these properties would have at least 50 digits. Rolle found four numbers, all satisfying the conditions Ozanam posed, containing only seven digits in each of the four numbers. *Michel Rolle and His Method of Cascades, Christopher Washington

In 1831, New London Bridge opened to traffic in London. In 1821, a committee was formed by Parliament to consider the poor condition of the existing centuries-old bridge. The arches had been badly damaged by the Great Freeze, so it was decided to build a new bridge. Building commenced under John Rennie in 1825, and completed in 1831, at the expense of the city. The bridge is composed of five arches, and built of Dartmoor granite. It was opened with great splendour by King William the fourth, accompanied by Queen Adelaide, and many of the members of the royal family, August 1st, 1831. In the 1960's it was auctioned and sold for $2,460,000 to Robert McCulloch who moved it to Havasu City, Arizona. The rebuilt London Bridge was completed and dedicated on 10 Oct 1971. *TIS

In 1842, the U.S. Naval Observatory was authorized by an act of Congress, one of the oldest scientific agencies in the U.S. James Melville Gilliss (1811-1865) is considered its founder, who in 1842 he secured the Congressional appropriation for the Depot of Charts and Instruments (est. 1830) to become the Naval Observatory. Its primary task was to care for the Navy's charts, navigational instruments and chronometers, which were calibrated by timing the transit of stars across the meridian. Initially located at Foggy Bottom, the observatory moved in 1893 to its present facility in Washington, DC. Gillis visited Europe to procure instruments, and the books that formed the core of the Naval Observatory Library. Matthew Fontaine Maury was the first director, followed by Gillis (1861-65)*TIS

1846 Le Verrier's announces his prediction of the location of the yet to be discovered planet Neptune. Using only mathematics and astronomical observations of the known planet Uranus and encouraged by physicist Arago, Director of the Paris Observatory, Le Verrier was intensely engaged for months in complex calculations to explain small but systematic discrepancies between Uranus's observed orbit and the one predicted from the laws of gravity of Newton. At the same time, but unknown to Le Verrier, similar calculations were made by John Couch Adams in England. Le Verrier announced his final predicted position for Uranus's unseen perturbing planet publicly to the French Academy on 31 August 1846, two days before Adams's final solution, which turned out to be 12° off the mark, was privately mailed to the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Le Verrier transmitted his own prediction by 18 September letter to Johann Galle of the Berlin Observatory. The letter arrived five days later, and the planet was found with the Berlin Fraunhofer refractor that same evening, 23 September 1846, by Galle and Heinrich d'Arrest within 1° of the predicted location near the boundary between Capricorn and Aquarius. *Wik

In 1886, the first U.S. earthquake on record with significant human consequence - the loss of some 100 lives - hit Charleston, S.C. and its massive effect spread through many eastern States. The epicenter was 15 miles northwest of Charleston, where 41 people died, 90 percent of the city's 6,956 brick buildings were damaged, and nearly all of its 14,000 chimneys were broken off at the roof. However, geologically the most severe earthquakes in U.S. history had occurred earlier in the century near the present town of New Madrid, Missouri (16 Dec 1811). The epicenter then was in a sparsely populated region and caused no known casualties, so the human consequences were relatively not significant, although the violent movement of the ground changed the course of the Mississippi River and created many new lakes.*TIS

1899 Cantor, in a letter to Dedekind, remarked that his “diagonal process” can be used to show that the power set of a set has more elements than the set itself. *VFR

1950 G¨odel addressed the International Congress of Mathematicians, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on his work in relativity theory. *VFR

2012 A Blue Moon, or the second of two full moons in a single month. August 2012 will have a blue moon on August 31 The last month with two full moons was March of 2010 March 1 and March 30. The next month with a blue moon will be in 2012: August 2, August 31. Once in a Blue moon really isn’t all that often.

1663 Guillaume Amontons (31 Aug 1663; 11 Oct 1705)French physicist, who developed the air thermometer - which relies on increase in volume of a gas (rather than a liquid) with temperature - and used it (1702) to measure change in temperature in terms of a proportional change in pressure. This observation led to the concept of absolute zero in the19th century. Deaf since childhood, Amontons worked on inventions for the deaf, such as the first telegraph, which relied on a telescope, light, and several stations to transmit information over large distances. Amontons' laws of friction, relied upon by engineers for 300 years, state that the frictional force on a body sliding over a surface is proportional to the load that presses them together and is also independent of the areas of the surfaces. *TIS

1821 Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (31 Aug 1821; 8 Sep 1894) was a German scientist who contributed much to physiology, optics, electrodynamics, mathematics, and meteorology, including the law of the conservation of energy (1847). He also developed thermodynamics, in particular introducing concept of free energy. In 1850, he measured the speed of a nerve impulse and, in 1851, invented the ophthalmoscope. He discovered the function of the cochlea in the inner ear and developed Thomas Young's theory of color vision (published 1856). His study of muscle action led him to formulate a much more accurate theory concerning the conservation of energy than earlier proposed by Julius Mayer and James Joule. *TIS

1864 Robert Hardie graduated from Oxford and occupied various posts in the Philosophy department of Edinburgh University. He was a founder member of the EMS. *SAU

1880 Heinrich Franz Friedrich Tietze contributed to the foundations of general topology and developed important work on subdivisions of cell complexes. The bulk of this work was carried out after he took up the chair at Munich in 1925.*SAU

1884 Birthdate of George Alfred L´eon Sarton, historian of science and founder of the journal Isis. *VFR

1885 Herbert Westren Turnbull (31 Aug 1885; 4 May 1961)English mathematician who made extensive and notable contributions to the study of algebraic invariants and concomitants of quadratics. Turnbull was also interested in the history of mathematics, writing The Mathematical Discoveries of Newton (1945), and began work on the Correspondence of Isaac Newton.*TIS

1913 Sir Alfred Charles Bernard Lovell (31 Aug 1913, ) is an English radio astronomer who established and directed (1951-81) Jodrell Bank Experimental Station, Cheshire, England, with (then) the world's largest steerable radiotelescope, now named after him Prior to WW II, he worked at Manchester University on cosmic ray research. During the war, he helped develop aircraft onboard radar systems. After the war, to escape interference to radar equipment from city trams, he moved his research to the University's more remote Jodrell Bank property. In 1946, he showed that radar echoes could detect optically invisible daytime meteor showers. He gained funding to build the 250-ft-diam. telescope. When completed in 1957, it was able to track the first artificial satellite, Sputnik I. *TIS

1916 Robert Hanbury Brown (31 Aug 1916; 16 Jan 2002) British astronomer who was a pioneer in radar and observational astronomy. During and after WW II he worked with R.A. Watson-Watt and then E.G. Bowen to develop radar for uses in aerial combat. In the 1950s he applied this experience to radio astronomy, developing radio-telescope technology at Jodrell Bank Observatory and mapping stellar radio sources. He designed a radio interferometer capable of resolving radio stars while eliminating atmospheric distortion from the image (1952). With R.Q. Twiss, Brown applied this method to measuring the angular size of bright visible stars, thus developing the technique of intensity interferometry. They set up an intensity interferometer at Narrabri in New South Wales, Australia, for measurements of hot stars.*TIS

1721 John Keill (1 Dec 1671, 31 Aug 1721) Scottish mathematician and natural philosopher, who was a major proponent of Newton’s theories. He began his university education at Edinburgh under David Gregory, whom he followed to Oxford, where Keill lectured on Newton's work, and eventually became professor of astronomy. In his book, An Examination of Dr. Burnett's Theory of the Earth (1698), Keill applied Newtonian principles challenging Burnett's unsupportable speculations on Earth's formation. In 1701, Keill published Introductio ad Veram Physicam, which was the first series of experimental lectures and provided a clear and influential introduction to Isaac Newton’s Principia. He supported Newton against priority claims by Leibnitz for the invention of calculus.*TIS

1811 Louis-Antoine de Bougainville was a French soldier and explorer who wrote a calculus book, but is better known for his other exploits.*SAU A contemporary of James Cook, he took part in the French and Indian War and the unsuccessful French attempt to defend Canada from Britain. He later gained fame for his expeditions to settle the Falkland Islands and his voyages into the Pacific Ocean.*Wik

1918 André-Louis Cholesky (October 15, 1875, August 31, 1918, ) was a French military officer and mathematician. He worked in geodesy and map-making, was involved in surveying in Crete and North Africa before World War I. But he is primarily remembered for the development of a matrix decomposition known as the Cholesky decomposition which he used in his surveying work. He served the French military as engineer officer and was killed in battle a few months before the end of World War I; his discovery was published posthumously by his fellow officer in the "Bulletin Géodésique". *Wik

1945 Stefan Banach died. (30 Mar 1892, 31 Aug 1945) Polish mathematician who founded modern functional analysis and helped develop the theory of topological vector spaces. In addition, he contributed to measure theory, integration, the theory of sets, and orthogonal series. In his dissertation, written in 1920, he defined axiomatically what today is called a Banach space. The idea was introduced by others at about the same time (for example Wiener introduced the notion but did not develop the theory). The name 'Banach space' was coined by Fréchet. Banach algebras were also named after him. The importance of Banach's contribution is that he developed a systematic theory of functional analysis, where before there had only been isolated results which were later seen to fit into the new theory. *TIS

2005 Sir Joseph Rotblat (4 Nov 1908, 31 Aug 2005)Polish-born British physicist who is a leading critic of nuclear weaponry. Rotblat and the Pugwash Conferences, "for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and in the longer run to eliminate such arms," received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. Forty years earlier, he and other scientists, with philosopher Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, published a manifesto calling on researchers to take responsibility for their work, particularly those working on the atomic bomb. This led to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, first convened in 1957 in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Canada. He was secretary-general (1957-73), and president (from 1988) of this London-based worldwide organization. *TIS

*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*TIS= Today in Science History
*Wik = Wikipedia
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
*CHM=Computer History Museum
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