Wednesday, 26 September 2012

On This Day in Math - September 26



"mathematics is not yet ready for such problems"
~Paul Erdos in reference to Collatz's problem

The 270th day of the year; the harmonic mean of the factors of 270 is an integer. The first three numbers with this property are 1, 6, and 28.. what is the next one?

EVENTS

1874 James Clerk Maxwell in a letter to Professor Lewis Campbell describes Galton, "Francis Galton, whose mission it seems to be to ride other men's hobbies to death, has invented the felicitous expression 'structureless germs'. " *Lewis Campbell and William Garnett (eds.), The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (1884), 299.
1991 The first two year closed mission of Biosphere 2 began just outside Tucson, Arizona. *David Dickinson ‏@Astroguyz
 2011 Astronauts had this view of the aurora on September 26, 2011. Credit: NASA

We’ve had some great views of the aurora submitted by readers this week, but this one taken from the International Space Station especially highlights the red color seen by many Earth-bound skywatchers, too. Karen Fox from the Goddard Space Flight Center says the colors of the aurora depend on which atoms are being excited by the solar storm. In most cases, the light comes when a charged particle sweeps in from the solar wind and collides with an oxygen atom in Earth’s atmosphere. This produces a green photon, so most aurora appear green. However, lower-energy oxygen collisions as well as collisions with nitrogen atoms can produce red photons — so sometimes aurora also show a red band as seen here. *Universe Today


BIRTHS

1688 Willem 'sGravesande (26 September 1688 – 28 February 1742)was a Dutch mathematician who expounded Newton's philosophy in Europe. In 1717 he became professor in physics and astronomy in Leiden, and introduced the works of his friend Newton in the Netherlands.
His main work is Physices elementa mathematica, experimentis confirmata, sive introductio ad philosophiam Newtonianam or Mathematical Elements of Natural Philosophy, Confirm'd by Experiments (Leiden 1720), in which he laid the foundations for teaching physics. Voltaire and Albrecht von Haller were in his audience, Frederic the Great invited him in 1737 to come to Berlin.
His chief contribution to physics involved an experiment in which brass balls were dropped with varying velocity onto a soft clay surface. His results were that a ball with twice the velocity of another would leave an indentation four times as deep, that three times the velocity yielded nine times the depth, and so on. He shared these results with Émilie du Châtelet, who subsequently corrected Newton's formula E = mv to E = mv2. (Note that though we now add a factor of 1/2 to this formula to make it work with coherent systems of units, the formula as expressed is correct if you choose units to fit it.) *Wik

1754 Joseph-Louis Proust (26 Sep 1754; 5 Jul 1826) French chemist who proved (1808) that the relative quantities of any given pure chemical compound's constituent elements remain invariant, regardless of the compound's source, and thus provided crucial evidence in support of John Dalton's “law of definite proportions,” which holds that elements in any compound are present in fixed proportion to each other. *TIS

1784 Christopher Hansteen (26 Sep 1784; 15 Apr 1873) Norwegian astronomer and physicist noted for his research in geomagnetism. In 1701 Halley had already published a map of magnetic declinations, and the subject was studied by Humboldt, de Borda, and Gay-Lussac, among others. Hansteen collected available data and also mounted an expedition to Siberia, where he took many measurements for an atlas of magnetic strength and declination.*TIS

1854 Percy Alexander MacMahon (26 Sept 1854 , 25 Dec 1929) His study of symmetric functions led MacMahon to study partitions and Latin squares, and for many years he was considered the leading worker in this area. His published values of the number of unrestricted partitions of the first 200 integers which proved extremely useful to Hardy and Littlewood in their own work on partitions. He gave a Presidential Address to the London Mathematical Society on combinatorial analysis in 1894. MacMahon wrote a two volume treatise Combinatory analysis (volume one in 1915 and the second volume in the following year) which has become a classic. He wrote An introduction to combinatory analysis in 1920. In 1921 he wrote New Mathematical Pastimes, a book on mathematical recreations. *SAU

1887 Sir Barnes (Neville) Wallis (26 Sep 1887; 30 Oct 1979) was an English aeronautical designer and military engineer whose famous 9000-lb bouncing "dambuster" bombs of WW II destroyed the German Möhne and Eder dams on 16 May 1943. He designed the R100 airship, and the Vickers Wellesley and Wellington bombers. The specially-formed RAF 617 Squadron precisely delivered his innovative cylindrical bombs which were released from low altitude, rotating backwards at high speed that caused them to skip along the surface of the water, right up to the base of the dam. He later designed the 5-ton Tallboy and 10-ton Grand Slam earthquake bombs (which used on many enemy targets in the later years of the war). Postwar, he developed ideas for swing-wing aircraft. *TIS (His courtship with his wife has been written by his daughter, Mary Stopes-Roe from the actual courtship in the entertaining, but perhaps overpriced book, Mathematics With Love: The Courtship Correspondence of Barnes Wallis, Inventor of the Bouncing Bomb.)

1891 Hans Reichenbach (September 26, 1891, April 9, 1953) was a leading philosopher of science, educator and proponent of logical empiricism. Reichenbach is best known for founding the Berlin Circle, and as the author of The Rise of Scientific Philosophy.*Wik

1924 Jean Hoerni, a pioneer of the transistor, is born in Switzerland. A physicist, Hoerni in 1959 invented the planar process, which, combined with Robert Noyce's technique for placing a layer of silicon dioxide on a transistor, led to the creation of the modern integrated circuit. Hoerni's planar process allowed the placement of complex electronic circuits on a single chip. *CHM

1926 Colin Brian Haselgrove (26 September 1926 , 27 May 1964) was an English mathematician who is best known for his disproof of the Pólya conjecture in 1958. the Pólya conjecture stated that 'most' (i.e. more than 50%) of the natural numbers less than any given number have an odd number of prime factors. The conjecture was posited by the Hungarian mathematician George Pólya in 1919.. The size of the smallest counter-example is often used to show how a conjecture can be true for many numbers, and still be false. *Wik

1927 Brian Griffiths (26 Sept 1927 , 4 June 2008) He was deeply involved in the 'School Mathematics Project', he served as chairman of the 'Joint Mathematical Council', and chaired the steering group for the 'Low Attainers Mathematics Project' from 1983 to 1986. This project became the 'Raising Achievement in Mathematics Project' in 1986 and he chaired this from its foundation to 1989. *SAU


DEATHS

1766 Giulio Carlo Fagnano dei Toschi died. He is important for the identity
\pi = 2i\log{1 - i \over 1 +i}
and for his rectification of the lemmiscate. *VFR An Italian mathematician who worked in both complex numbers and on the geometry of triangles.*SAU

1802 Jurij Vega (23 Mar 1754, 26 Sept 1802) wrote about artillery but he is best remembered for his tables of logarithms and trigonometric functions. Vega calculated π to 140 places, a record which stood for over 50 years. This appears in a paper which he published in 1789.
In September 1802 Jurij Vega was reported missing. A search was unsuccessful until his body was found in the Danube near Vienna. The official cause of death was an accident but many suspect that he was murdered. *SAU

1867 James Ferguson (31 Aug 1797, 26 Sep 1867) Scottish-American astronomer who discovered the first previously unknown asteroid to be detected from North America. He recorded it on 1 Sep 1854 at the U.S. Naval Observatory, where he worked 1848-67. This was the thirty-first of the series and is now known as 31 Euphrosyne, named after one of the Charites in Greek mythology. It is one of the largest of the main belt asteroids, between Mars and Jupiter. He was involved in some of the earliest work in micrometry was done at the old U.S. Naval Observatory at Foggy Bottom in the midst of the Civil War using a 9.6 inch refractor. He also contributed to double star astronomy. Earlier in his life he was a civil engineer, member of the Northwest Boundary Survey, and an assistant in the U.S. Coast Survey *TIS

1868 August Ferdinand Mobius died. He discovered his famous strip in September 1858. Johann Benedict Listing discovered the same surface two months earlier.*VFR (It is somewhat amazing that we call it after Mobius when Listing discovered it first and published, and it seems, Mobius did not. However Mobius did seem to have thought on the four color theorem before Guthrie, or anyone else to my knowledge.)

1877 Hermann Günther Grassmann (15 Apr 1809, 26 Sep 1877) German mathematician chiefly remembered for his development of a general calculus of vectors in Die lineale Ausdehnungslehre, ein neuer Zweig der Mathematik (1844; "The Theory of Linear Extension, a New Branch of Mathematics"). *TIS

1910 Thorvald Nicolai Thiele (24 Dec 1838, 26 Sept 1910) He is remembered for having an interpolation formula named after him, the formula being used to obtain a rational function which agrees with a given function at any number of given points. He published this in 1909 in his book which made a major contribution to numerical analysis. He introduced cumulants (under the name of "half-invariants") in 1889, 1897, 1899, about 30 years before their rediscovery and exploitation by R A Fisher. *SAU

1976 Paul (Pál) Turán (18 August 1910, 26 September 1976) was a Hungarian mathematician who worked primarily in number theory. He had a long collaboration with fellow Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős, lasting 46 years and resulting in 28 joint papers. *SAU

1978 Karl Manne Georg Siegbahn (3 Dec 1886, 26 Sep 1978) Swedish physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1924 for his discoveries and investigations in X-ray spectroscopy. In 1914 he began his studies in the new science of x-ray spectroscopy which had already established from x-ray spectra that there were two distinct 'shells' of electrons within atoms, each giving rise to groups of spectral lines, labeled 'K' and 'L'. In 1916, Siegbahn discovered a third, or 'M', series. (More were to be found later in heavier elements.) Refining his x-ray equipment and technique, he was able to significantly increase the accuracy of his determinations of spectral lines. This allowed him to make corrections to Bragg's equation for x-ray diffraction to allow for the finer details of crystal diffraction. *TIS

1990 Lothar Collatz​ (July 6, 1910, , September 26, 1990) was a German mathematician. In 1937 he posed the famous Collatz conjecture, which remains unsolved. The Collatz-Wielandt formula for positive matrices important in the Perron–Frobenius theorem is named after him. *Wik The Collatz conjeture is an iteration problem that deals with the following algorithm..
If a number n is odd, then f(n)= 3n+1
if n is even, then f(n) = 1/2 (n)
Each answer then becomes the new value to input into the function. The problem, or should I say problems, resolve around what happens to the sequence of outcomes when we keep putting the answer back into the function. For example if we begin with 15 we get the following sequence, also called the orbit of the number:
15, 46, 23, 70, 35, 106, 53, 160, 80, 40, 20, 10, 5, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1...
One of the unproven conjectures is that for any number n, the sequence will always end in the number 1. This has been shown to be true for all numbers up to just beyond 1016. A second interesting question is how long it takes for a number to return to the value of 1. For the example above, the number 15 took 17 steps to get back to the unit value. Questions such as which three (or other n) digit number has the longest orbit. There are many vairations of the problem, but if you are interested in a good introduction, check this link from Simon Fraser University"
Collatz's Problem is often also called the Syracuse Algorithm, Hasse's problem, Thwaite's problem, and Ulam's problem after people who have worked and written on the problem. It is unclear where the problem originated, as it seems to have had a long history of being passed by word of mouth before it was ever written down. It is often attributed to Lothar Collatz from the University of Hamburg who wrote about the problem as early as 1932. The name "Syracuse Problem" was applied by after H. Hasse, an associate of Collatz, visited and discussed the problem at Syracuse University in the 1950's. During the 1960's Stan Ulam circulated the problem at Los Alamos laboratory. One famous quote about the problem is from Paul Erdos who stated, "mathematics is not yet ready for such problems". *Personal notes


Credits
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF=Kane, Famous First Facts
*NSEC= NASA Solar Eclipse Calendar
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
*TIA= Today in Astronomy
*TIS= Today in Science History
*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*Wik = Wikipedia
*WM = Women of Mathematics, Grinstein & Campbell
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