Monday, 2 April 2012

On This Day in Math - April 2

Gerber's Abacus, *

The notion of a set is too vague for the continuum hypothesis to have a positive or negative answer.
~Paul Cohen

The 93rd day of the year; The first 93 digits of 93! form a prime number.  *Prime Curios ( Can students find a smaller number n for which the first n digits of n!  form a prime? Send results to me.)
93! = 11567725070816415747592051623062404362147532295764135351861422812132468
07121467315215203289516844845303838996289 ...
999 Gerbert was elected Pope Sylvester II. He introduced into the West the practice of making calculations by using marked discs (apices). This method, which has nearly all the advantages of positional arithmetic, was used in abacus calculations throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries. *VFR More about Pope Sylvester's Abacus.

1792 U.S. Mint established. It was Jefferson who suggested decimal coinage. *VFR

1827 In 1827, lead pencils were first manufactured by Joseph Dixon, who built his factory in Salem, Mass. Dixon was responsible for the development of the graphite industry in the U.S. In 1859 he patented graphite crucibles. When he died, the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company was the largest manufacturer of graphite products in the world. The first* pencil factory in the U.S. however, was started earlier by William Monroe of Concord, Mass., in Jun 1812. His first 30 pencils were bought by Benjamin Adams, a hardware dealer in Boston, Mass. The first pencils made in Great Britain (1584) used graphite from Borrowdale, Cumberland. *TIS

1845 Fizeau and Foucault take the first successful photograph of the sun. *VFR
"Taking advantage of a relatively new technology, the daguerreotype, French physicists Louis Fizeau and Leon Foucault made the first successful photographs of the sun on April 2, 1845. The original image, taken with an exposure of 1/60th of a second, was about 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) in diameter and captured several sunspots, visible in this reproduction. "

1933 Emmy Noether's right to teach at Gottingen was withdrawn because of her Jewish ancestry. The resulting infusion of scientists played a major role in transferring mathematical leadership from Germany to the United States. See AMM, 90(1983), 717. *VFR Thony Christie (see comment) sent me a note assuring me that it was not her religion, but her politics. Seems she had Marxist leanings.

1948 Kurt Godel became a United States citizen. Being the diligent individual that he was, he studied the constitution carefully beforehand and felt that he had found a contradiction. On the way to the ceremony Einstein and von Neumann tried to keep his mind on other issues, but when the judge called them into his chambers (so that he could meet Einstein) he asked Godel if he had anything to say. It was only with considerable effort that his friends were able to change the subject when Godel brought up the contradiction. *VFR

1953 In 1953, the journal Nature published a paper with this date from Francis Crick and James Watson, titled Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, in which they described a double helix structure for DNA. The diagram published with the caper was captioned, "The figure is purely diagrammatic. The two ribbons symbolize the phosphate-sugar chains, and the horizontal rods the pairs of bases holding the chains together. The vertical line marks the fibre axis." *TIS

1618 – Francesco Maria Grimaldi (2 April 1618 – 28 December 1663) was an Italian Jesuit priest, mathematician and physicist who taught at the Jesuit college in Bologna.
Between 1640 and 1650, working with Riccioli, he investigated the free fall of objects, confirming that the distance of fall was proportional to the square of the time taken. In astronomy, he built and used instruments to measure geological features on the Moon, and drew an accurate map or selenograph which was published by Riccioli. He was the first to make accurate observations on the diffraction of light (although by some accounts Leonardo da Vinci had earlier noted it), and coined the word 'diffraction'. Later physicists used his work as evidence that light was a wave, and Isaac Newton used it to arrive at his more comprehensive theory of light. *Wik

1906 Shokichi Iyanaga (April 2, 1906 – June 1, 2006) was a Japanese mathematician. Iyanaga published many papers which arose through several courses such as algebraic topology, functional analysis, and geometry, which he taught. He became Professor at the University of Tokyo in 1942. It was during World War II. Towards the end of the war, many Japanese cities were bombarded and he had to find refuge in the countryside. He was busy in editing textbooks from primary and secondary schools and he continued to give courses and organise seminars.*Wik

1923 – George Spencer-Brown (born April 2, 1923, Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England, ) is a polymath best known as the author of Laws of Form. He describes himself as a "mathematician, consulting engineer, psychologist, educational consultant and practitioner, consulting psychotherapist, author, and poet.",*Wik
In a 1976 letter to the Editor of Nature, Spencer-Brown claimed a proof of the four-color theorem, which is not computer-assisted. The preface of the 1979 edition of Laws of Form repeats that claim, and further states that the generally accepted computational proof by Appel, Haken, and Koch has 'failed' (page xii). Spencer-Brown's claimed proof of the four-color theorem has yet to find any defenders; Kauffman provides a detailed review of parts of that work. *VFR

1934 Paul Joseph Cohen (2 Apr 1934, )American mathematician who received the Fields Medal (1966) for his fundamental work on the foundations of set theory. Cohen invented a technique called "forcing" to prove the independence in set theory of the axiom of choice and of the generalised continuum hypothesis. The continuum hypothesis problem was the first of Hilbert's famous 23 problems delivered to the Second International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris in 1900. Hilbert's famous speech The Problems of Mathematics challenged (then and now) mathematicians to solve these fundamental questions and Cohen has the distinction of solving Problem 1. He also worked on differential equations and harmonic analysis. *TIS


1952 Bernard(-Ferdinand) Lyot (27 Feb 1897; 2 Apr 1952 at age 55) French astronomer who invented the coronagraph (1930), an instrument which allows the observation of the solar corona when the Sun is not in eclipse. Earlier, using his expertise in optics, Lyot made a very sensitive polariscope to study polarization of light reflected from planets. Observing from the Pic du Midi Observatory, he determined that the lunar surface behaves like volcanic dust, that Mars has sandstorms, and other results on the atmospheres of the other planets. Modifications to his polarimeter created the coronagraph, with which he photographed the Sun's corona and its analyzed its spectrum. He found new spectral lines in the corona, and he made (1939) the first motion pictures of solar prominences.*TIS

1995 Hannes Olof Gösta Alfvén (30 May 1908, 2 Apr 1995 at age 86) was a Swedish astrophysicist who was one of the founders of the field of plasma physics (the study of ionized gases). He shared the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physics (with Frenchman Louis Néel). Alfvén was recognized “for fundamental work in magnetohydrodynamics with fruitful applications in different parts of plasma physics.” He conceived plasma cosmology as an alternative to the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. In the concept of plasma cosmology, the universe has no specific beginning nor has any forseeable end. Instead of a dominance by gravitational forces, the theory maintains that it is the electromagnetic forces of plasma throughout the universe that organizes the matter of the universe into its observed structure of stars. *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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