Tuesday, 20 March 2012

On This Day in Math - March 20

Newton Statue in Trinity Chapel, Cambridge UK *R.B.

The mathematical education of the young physicist [Albert Einstein] was not very solid, which I am in a good position to evaluate since he obtained it from me in Zurich some time ago.
~Hermann Minkowski

The 80th day of the year; There are 80 four-digit primes which are concatenations of two-digit primes. (3137 is one example, can you find the rest?) *Prime Curios!

71 A.D.: A hybrid solar eclipse is noted by the scholar Plutarch from Greece where it was total. Tweet from *David Dickinson ‏ @Astroguyz
1664 (1665 NS) Robert Hooke becomes the Gresham Professor of Mathematics. The failure of many of the professors to give their lectures had caused the College to go into decline. Hooke wrote in his diary that he frequently gave no lecture as “no one attended”. The College is generally in decline for the next 100-200 years. Hooke held the position until his death in 1703.

1732 Laura Maria Caterina Bassi first (and last for a long while) woman elected to Bologna Academy of Science:
The University of Bologna is the oldest university in Europe and at the beginning of the eighteenth century students were still examined by public disputation, i.e. the candidate was expected to orally defend a series of academic theses. At the beginning of 1732 Bassi took part in a private disputation in her home with members of the university faculty in the presence of many leading members of Bolognese intellectual society. As a result of her performance during this disputation she was elected a member of the prestigious Bologna Academy of Science on 20th March. Rumours of this extraordinary young lady quickly spread and on 17th April she defended forty-nine theses in a highly spectacular public disputation. On 12th May following a public outcry she was awarded a doctorate from the university in a grand ceremony in the city hall of Bologna. Following a further public disputation the City Senate appointed her professor of philosophy at the university, making her the first ever female professor at a European university.
See more at *Thony Christie, The Renaissance Mathematicus
In 1800, Alessandro Volta dated a letter announcing his invention of the voltaic pile to Sir Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society, London. “On the electricity excited by the mere contact of conducting substances of different kinds"” described his results of stacking sandwiches of copper and zinc metal discs between pads of moist material. The letter had to pass from Italy, through France, which was then at war with Britain, so Volta sent the message in two parts. When the first pages arrived, Banks showed them to Anthony Carlisle, a London surgeon, who with William Nicholson immediately began trying to repeat Volta's experiments. By 2 May 1800, they stumbled upon electrolysis of water.*TIS

1916 Albert Einstein submitted his general theory of relativity to Annalen der Physik. *A. Hellemans and B. Bunch, The Timetables of Science
Einstein's Theory of General Relativity was titled “Die Grundlagen der allgemeinen Relativitästheorie.” This theory accounted for the slow rotation of the elliptical path of the planet Mercury, which Newtonian gravitational theory failed to do. Fame and recognition came suddenly in 1919, when the Royal Society of London photographed the solar eclipse and publicly verified Einstein's general theory of relativity. In 1921 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his photoelectric law and work in the field of theoretical physics, but such was the controversy still aroused by this theories on relativity that these were not specified in the text of the award. *TIS

1997 Cellular Phone Encryption Is "Cracked," Highlighting Privacy Concerns:
Computer security experts announce that they have cracked the code designed to protect the privacy of calls made with digital cellular phones. The breakthrough showed that cellular phone transmissions remained insecure despite recent developments. The National Security Agency, however, cautioned against more advanced encryption that might allow terrorists to conspire by telephone.*chm

2012 Spring Equinox. The word equinox is derived from the Latin words meaning “equal night.” The spring and fall equinoxes are the only dates with equal daylight and dark as the Sun crosses the celestial equator. At the equinoxes, the tilt of Earth relative to the Sun is zero, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun. *Farmer's Almanac
Though the astrological sign of Aries begins today, the Sun is astronomically in Pisces. Thank the precession of the equinoxes! 2 millennia ago, the northern spring equinox fell in Aries... it does one complete 'circuit' of the zodiac every ~26,000 yrs. *David Dickinson ‏ @Astroguyz

1546 Baha ad-din Muhammad ibn Husayn al-Amili (20 Mar 1546; 20 Aug 1622 at age 76)
Syrian-Iranian theologian, mathematician and astronomer, a.k.a. Shaykh Baha'i). He became a very learned Muslim whose genius touched every field of knowledge from mathematics and philosophy to architecture and landscape design. He revived the study of mathematics in Iran. His treatise on the subject, Khulasat al-hisab (“The Essentials of Arithmetic”), and translations from the original Arabic was in use as a textbook until the end of the 19th century. His treatise in astronomy, Tashrihu'l-aflak ("Anatomy of the Heavens") summarised the works of earlier masters. He was born within a year of William Gilbert in England and Tycho Brahe in Denmark, and was still a child when his family left Syria to escape religious persecution.*TIS

1840 Franz Carl Joseph Mertens (20 March 1840 in Schroda, Posen, Prussia (now Środa Wielkopolska, Poland) - 5 March 1927 in Vienna, Austria) Mertens worked on a number of different topics including potential theory, geometrical applications to determinants, algebra and analytic number theory, publishing 126 papers. Bruce C Berndt writes, "Mertens is perhaps best known for his determination of the sign of Gauss sums, his work on the irreducibility of the cyclotomic equation, and the hypothesis which bears his name. "
Many people are aware of Mertens contributions since his elementary proof of the Dirichlet theorem appears in most modern textbooks. However he made many deep contributions including Mertens' theorems, three results in number theory related to the density of the primes. He proved these results using Chebyshev's theorem, a weak version of the prime number theorem. *SAU

1856 Frederick Winslow Taylor (20 Mar 1856, 21 Mar 1915 at age 58) was an American engineer and inventor who is known as the father of scientific management. His system of industrial management has influenced the development of virtually every country enjoying the benefits of modern industry. He introduced a scientific approach (1881) to “time and motion study” while chief engineer at Midvale Steel Company, Philadelphia, Pa. Taylor and his associates used stop-watches to time the laborers as they performed various tasks, counted the number of shovel-loads they each moved, and the load per shovel. Thus he was able to determine an optimum shovel size and length. Such careful observations, aimed at recognizing wasted effort and minimizing time used, increased the efficiency of actions of factory workers.*TIS

1884 Philipp Frank (20 Mar 1884; 22 Jul 1966 at age 82) Austrian-American physicist and mathematician whose theoretical work covered a broad range of mathematics, including variational calculus, Hamiltonian geometrical optics, Schrödinger wave mechanics, and relativity. Frank had a deep and lasting interest in the philosophy of science. In a number of writings, he strove to reconcile science and philosophy and “bring about the closest rapprochement between” them. The 1907 paper he wrote analyzing the law of causality caught Einstein's attention, who in 1912 recommended Frank as his successor as professor of theoretical physics at the German University of Prague. He held that position until 1938, when he moved to Harvard University in the U.S., first as visiting lecturer, but remaining there until retirement in 1954. He wrote on misinterpretations of the Theory of Relativity.*TIS

1920 Douglas George Chapman (20 Mar 1920; 9 Jul 1996 at age 76) was a Canadian-born U.S. mathematical statistician and an expert on wildlife statistics. He was one of the scientific advisors to the International Whaling Commission that warned in the 1960s that the number of whales being taken by the whaling industry was far in excess of what the population could stand, and proposed annual fin whale catch quotas that would permit the depleted populations of this species to recover. His later research on fish farming expanded to include mollusk aquaculture and he directed a program to develop quantitative methods to aid in the management of fisheries resources.*TIS

1938 Sergi Petrovich Novikov (20 Mar 1938, ) Russian mathematician who was awarded the Fields Medal in 1970 for his work in algebraic topology. His parents were both mathematicians, and Novikov showed his own talent while a youth. In 1960, the year he obtained his first degree, he published a paper on some problems in the topology of manifolds connected with the theory of Thom spaces. In 1965, he proved his famous theorem on the invariance of Pontryagin classes. He was unable receive the Fields Medal in person because Soviet authorities would not permit his travel. Thereafter he pursued an interest in mathematical physics, including the theory of solitons, quantum field theory and string theory. *Tis

1726/7 Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1727 [NS: 4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727) English physicist and mathematician, who made seminal discoveries in several areas of science, and was the leading scientist of his era. His study of optics included using a prism to show white light could be split into a spectrum of colors. The statement of his three laws of motion are fundamental in the study of mechanics. He was the first to describe the moon as falling (in a circle around the earth) under the same influence of gravity as a falling apple, embodied in his law of universal gravitation. As a mathematician, he devised infinitesimal calculus to make the calculations needed in his studies, which he published in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, 1687)*TIS
Newton died intestate. Immediately his relatives began to quarrel over the division of his estate, which amounted to a considerable fortune. Thomas Pellet examined Newton’s manuscript holdings in hopes of turning a quick profit. His “thick clumsy annotations ‘Not fit to be printed,’ now seem at once pitiful and ludicrous.” See Whiteside, Newton Works, I, xvii ff for details. *VFR

1878 (Julius) Robert Mayer (25 Nov 1814; 20 Mar 1878) a German physicist. While a ship's doctor sailing to Java, he considered the physics of animal heat. In 1842, he measured the mechanical equivalent of heat. His experiment compared the work done by a horse powering a mechanism which stirred paper pulp in a caldron with the temperature rise in the pulp. He held that solar energy was the ultimate source of all energy on earth, both living and nonliving. Mayer had the idea of the conservation of energy before either Joule or Helmholtz. The prominence of these two scientists, however, diminished credit for Mayer's earlier insights. James Joule presented his own value for the mechanical equivalent of heat. Helmhotlz more systematically presented the law of conservation of energy. *TIS

1895 Ludwig Schläfli (15 Jan 1814 in Grasswil, Bern, Switzerland - 20 March 1895 in Berne, Switzerland) Schläfli is best known for the so-called Schläfli symbols which are used to classify polyhedra. In this work, Theorie der vielfachen Kontinuität (Theory of continuous manifolds), Schläfli introduced polytopes (although he uses the word polyschemes) which he defines to be higher dimensional analogues of polygons and polyhedra. Schläfli introduced what is today aclled the Schläfli symbol. It is defined inductively. {n} is a regular n-gon, so {4} is a square. There {4, 3} is the cube, since it is a regular polyhedron with 3 squares {4} meeting at each vertex. Then the 4 dimensional hypercube is denoted as {4, 3, 3}, having three cubes {4, 3} meeting at each vertex. Euclid, in the Elements, proves that there are exactly five regular solids in three dimensions. Schläfli proves that there are exactly six regular solids in four dimensions {3, 3, 3}, {4, 3, 3}, {3, 3, 4}, {3, 4, 3}, {5, 3, 3}, and {3, 3, 5}, but only three in dimension n where n ≥ 5, namely {3, 3, ..., 3}, {4, 3, 3, ....,3}, and {3, 3, ...,3, 4}.
Most of Schläfli's work was in geometry, arithmetic and function theory. He gave the integral representation of the Bessel function and of the gamma function. His eight papers on Bessel functions played an important role in the preparation of G N Watson's major text Treatise on the theory of Bessel functions (1944). *SAU

1993 Polykarp Kusch (26 Jan 1911; 20 Mar 1993) German-American physicist who shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1955 for his accurate determination that the magnetic moment of the electron is greater than its theoretical value. This he deduced from researching the hyperfine structure of the energy levels in certain elements, and in 1947 found a discrepancy of about 0.1% between the observed value and that predicted by theory. Although minute, this anomaly was of great significance and led to revised theories about the interactions of electrons with electromagnetic radiation, now known as quantum electrodynamics. (He shared the prize with Willis E. Lamb, Jr. who performed independent but related experiments at Columbia University on the hyperfine structure of the hydrogen atom.)*TIS

1962 Andrew Ellicott Douglass (5 Jul 1867, 20 Mar 1962 at age 94) American astronomer and archaeologist who coined the name dendrochronology for tree-ring dating, a field he originated while working at the Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Ariz. (1894-1901). He showed how tree rings could be used to date and interpret past events. Douglass also sought a connection between sunspot activity and the terrestrial climate and vegetation. The width of tree rings is a record of the rainfall, with implications on the local food supply in dry years. Archaeologist Clark Wissler collaborated in this work by furnishing sections of wooden beams from Aztec Ruin and Pueblo Bonito so Douglass could cross-date the famous sites. Thus the study of tree rings enables archaeologists to date prehistoric remains. *TIS

1983 Ivan Matveyevich Vinogradov (2 Sep 1891, 20 Mar 1983 at age 91) Soviet mathematician known for his contributions to the analytical theory of numbers, including a partial solution of the Goldbach conjecture proving that every sufficiently large odd integer can be expressed as the sum of three odd primes. He described his methods in his most celebrated piece of work Some Theorems Concerning the Theory of Prime Numbers (1937).*TIS

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