Thursday, 25 October 2012

On This Day in Math - October 25

Unfortunately what is little recognized is that the most worthwhile scientific books are those in which the author clearly indicates what he does not know; for an author most hurts his readers by concealing difficulties.t.
E. Torricelli

The 299th day of the year; If a cubic cake was cut with 12 straight cuts, it can produce a maximum of 299 pieces.... a good day to "let 'em eat cake."


1666 William Lilly, astrologer, was called before the House of Commons to explain the embarrassing success of his 1651 prediction of the plague (of 1665) and “exorbitant fire” of 1666. The House ultimately attributed the fire to the papists. *W W Rouse Ball, Mathematical Recreations and Essays,6th edition, p. 390 Lilly caused much controversy in 1652 for allegedly predicting the Great Fire of London some 14 years before it happened. For this reason many people believed that he might have started the fire, but there is no evidence to support these claims. He was tried for the offence in Parliament but was found to be innocent.*Wik

In 1671, Giovanni Cassini discovered Iapetus, one of Saturn's moons. Iapetus is the third largest and one of the stranger of the 18 moons of Saturn. Its leading side is dark with a slight reddish color while its trailing side is bright. The dark surface might be composed of matter that was either swept up from space or oozed from the moon's interior. This difference is so striking that Cassini noted that he could see Iapetus only on one side of Saturn and not on the other. In Greek mythology Iapetus was a Titan, the son of Uranus, the father of Prometheus and Atlas and an ancestor of the human race. Cassini (1625-1712), first director of the Paris Royal Observatory, also discovered other moons of Saturn (Tethys, Dione, Rhea) and the major gap in its rings. *TIS

1713 Leibniz, in a letter to Johann Bernoulli, observed that an alternating series whose terms monotonically decrease to zero in absolute value is convergent. In a letter of January 10, 1714, he gave an incorrect proof (Big Kline, p. 461). Examination of the proof reveales that it is the one we give today, except he fails to say anything about the completeness of the reals. *VFR

1846 William Thompson (Lord Kelvin) writes to Sir George Stokes regarding the "recent proceedings about Oceanus, or Neptune, or Le Verrier. " commenting that "Cambridge is behind the rest of the world on scientific subjects.". John C. Adams, later became a fellow at Pembroke College, and he and Stokes became close friends. *The correspondence between Sir George Gabriel Stokes and Sir William Thompson, pg 2
1881 Clerk Seaton writes to the chairman of the committee on the census that he has discovered a paradox with the apportionment. Seaton had discovered the Alabama Paradox.
It seemed so easy. The 1787 US Constitution laid out simple rules for deciding how many representatives each state shall receive:
"Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, ... The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each State shall have at least one Representative ..."
It may have seemed easy, but for the 200+ years of US government, the question of "Who gets how many?" continues to perplex and promote controversy.
When congress discussed mathematical methods of applying this constitutional directive there were two methods of prime consideration, Jefferson's method, and Hamilton's method. Congress selected Hamilton's method and in the first use of the Presidential veto (make a note of this for extra points in History or Government class) President Washington rejected the bill. Congress submitted and passed another bill using Jefferson's method. The method used has changed frequently over the years with a method by Daniel Webster adopted in 1842, (the original 65 Representatives had grown to 223) and then replaced with Hamilton's method in 1852 (234 Representatives). In a strange "Only in America" moment in 1872, the congress reapportioned without actually adopting an official method and some analysis suggest that the difference caused Rutherford Hayes to Win instead of Samuel Tilden who would have won had Hamilton's method been used. Since 1931 the US House has had 435 Representatives with the brief exception of when Alaska and Hawaii became states. Then there was a temporary addition of one seat for each until the new apportionment after the 1960 Census. In 1941 the Huntington-Hill Method was adopted and has remained in continuous (and contentious) use ever since.
In 1880 the first of what are called the apportionment paradoxes was discovered. Here is how they state it at the Wikipedia web site:
After the 1880 census, C. W. Seaton, chief clerk of the U. S. Census Office, computed apportionments for all House sizes between 275 and 350, and discovered that Alabama would get 8 seats with a House size of 299 but only 7 with a House size of 300. In general the term Alabama paradox refers to any apportionment scenario where increasing the total number of items would decrease one of the shares. They also show a nice example (with small numbers) so you might check their site.

2001 Microsoft Releases Windows XP​, the family of 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers. The name "XP" stands for “Experience.” The successor to both Windows 2000 Professional​ and Windows ME, Windows XP was the first consumer-oriented operating system Microsoft built on the Windows NT​ kernel and architecture. Over 400 million copies were in use by January 2006, according to an International Data Corporation​ analyst. It was succeeded by Windows Vista, which was released to the general public in January 2007*CHM

2011   Scientists in California and Sweden have solved a 250-year-old mystery — a coded manuscript written by a secret society.  The University of Southern California announced Tuesday, Oct 25th, that researchers had broken the Copiale Cipher — the writing used in a 105-page 18th century document from Germany.
Kevin Knight, of USC, and Beata Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer, of Uppsala University, did the work.
They used a statistical computer program to decipher part of the manuscript, which was found in East Berlin after the Cold War and is now in a private collection.
The book, written in symbols and Roman letters, details complicated initiation ceremonies of a society fascinated by ophthalmology. They include making mystical signs and plucking a hair from a candidate's eyebrow. The convoluted text swears candidates to loyalty and secrecy. *Associated Press,


1789 Samuel Heinrich Schwabe (25 Oct 1789; 11 Apr 1875) Amateur German astronomer who discovered the 10-year sunspot activity cycle. Schwabe had been looking for possible intramercurial planets. From 11 Oct 1825, for 42 years, he observed the Sun virtually every day that the weather allowed. In doing so he accumulated volumes of sunspot drawings, the idea being to detect his hypothetical planet as it passed across the solar disk, without confusion with small sunspots. Schwabe did not discover any new planet. Instead, he published his results in 1842 that his 17 years of nearly continuous sunspot observations revealed a 10-year periodicity in the number of sunspots visible on the solar disk. Schwabe also made (1831) the first known detailed drawing of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter.*TIS

1796 James Curley (Irish: Séamus MacThoirealaigh (26 October 1796 – 24 July 1889) was an Irish-American astronomer. He was born at Athleague, County Roscommon, Ireland. His early education was limited, though his talent for mathematics was discovered, and to some extent developed, by a teacher in his native town. He left Ireland in his youth, arriving in Philadelphia on 10 October 1817. Here he worked for two years as a bookkeeper and then taught mathematics at Frederick, Maryland. In 1826 he became a student at the old seminary in Washington, DC, intending to prepare himself for the Catholic priesthood, and at the same time taught one of its classes. The seminary, however, which had been established in 1820, was closed in the following year and he joined the Society of Jesus on 29 September 1827. After completing his novitiate he again taught in Frederick and was sent in 1831 to teach natural philosophy at Georgetown University. He also studied theology and was ordained priest on 1 June 1833. His first Mass was said at the Visitation Convent, Georgetown, where he afterwards acted as chaplain for fifty years.He spent the remainder of his life at Georgetown, where he taught natural philosophy and mathematics for forty-eight years. He planned and superintended the building of the Georgetown Observatory in 1844 and was its first director, filling this position for many years. One of his earliest achievements was the determination of the latitude and longitude of Washington, D.C. in 1846. His results did not agree with those obtained at the Naval Observatory, and it was not until after the laying of the first transatlantic cable in 1858 that his determination was found to be near the truth. *Wik

1811 Evariste Galois born in the little village of Bourg-la-Reine, near Paris, France. *VFR (25 Oct 1811; 31 May 1832) famous for his contributions to the part of higher algebra known as group theory. His theory solved many long-standing unanswered questions, including the impossibility of trisecting the angle and squaring the circle. Galois fought a duel with Perscheux d'Herbinville on 30 May 1832, the reason for the duel not being clear but certainly linked with a love affair. Galois was wounded in the duel, and died in hospital the following day, at age 20. His funeral was held on 2 June. It was the focus for a Republican rally and riots followed which lasted for several days. He was commemorated as a revolutionary and geometrician on a French postal stamp issued on 10 Nov 1984.*TIS

1877 Henry Norris Russell (25 Oct 1877; 18 Feb 1957) American astronomer and astrophysicist who showed the relationship between a star's brightness and its spectral type, in what is usually called the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, and who also devised a means of computing the distances of binary stars. As student, professor, observatory director, and active professor emeritus, Russell spent six decades at Princeton University. From 1921, he visited Mt. Wilson Observatory annually. He analyzed light from eclipsing binary stars to determine stellar masses. Russell measured parallaxes and popularized the distinction between giant stars and "dwarfs" while developing an early theory of stellar evolution. Russell was a dominant force in American astronomy as a teacher, writer, and advisor. *TIS

1886 Lester Randolph Ford (25 Oct 1886 in Missouri, USA - 11 Nov 1967 in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA) was an American mathematician who lectured for several years in Edinburgh before moving back to the USA. He wrote some important text-books and is best known for his contributions to the Mathematical Association of America and the American Mathematical Monthly. *SAU (Ford circles are named after him. If you have never explored this idea, and the related idea of mediants, do it today)

1910 William Higinbotham (Oct 1910; 10 Nov 1994) American physicist who invented the first video game, Tennis for Two, as entertainment for the 1958 visitor day at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he worked (1947-84) then as head of the Instrumentation Division. It used a small analogue computer with ten direct-connected operational amplifiers and output a side view of the curved flight of the tennis ball on an oscilloscope only five inches in diameter. Each player had a control knob and a button. Late in WW II he became electronics group leader at Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the nuclear bomb was developed. After the war, he became active with other nuclear scientists in establishing the Federation of American Scientists to promote nuclear n)on-proliferation.*TIS (raise your hand if you are old enough to remember "Pong")

1945 David N. Schramm (25 Oct 1945; 19 Dec 1997) American theoretical astrophysicist who was an authority on the particle-physics aspects of the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. He considered the nuclear physics involved in the synthesis of the light elements created during the Big Bang comprising mainly hydrogen, with lesser quantities of deuterium, helium, lithium, beryllium and boron. He predicted, from cosmological considerations, that a third family of neutrinos existed - which was later proven in particle accelerator experiments (1989). Schramm worked to evaluate undetected dark matter that contributed to the mass of the universe, and which would determine whether the universe would ultimately continue to expand. He died in the crash of the small airplane he was piloting. *TIS


1400 Geoffrey Chaucer died. Although rightly famous for his Canterbury Tales, he also wrote two astronomical works. [DSB 3, 217] *VFR In his lifetime he was far more known for his “Treatise on the Astrolabe”

1647 Evangelista Torricelli (15 Oct 1608- 25 Oct 1647)Born in Faenza, Italy, Torricelli was an Italian physicist and mathematician who invented the barometer and whose work in geometry aided in the eventual development of integral calculus. Inspired by Galileo's writings, he wrote a treatise on mechanics, De Motu ("Concerning Movement"), which impressed Galileo. He also developed techniques for producing telescope lenses. The barometer experiment using "quicksilver" filling a tube then inverted into a dish of mercury, carried out in Spring 1644, made Torricelli's name famous. The Italian scientists merit was, above all, to admit that the effective cause of the resistance presented by nature to the creation of a vacuum (in the inverted tube above the mercury) was probably due to the weight of air*TIS

1733 Girolamo Saccheri (5 Sep 1667, 25 Oct 1733) Italian mathematician who worked to prove the fifth postulate of Euclid, which can be stated as, "Through any point not on a given line, one and only one line can be drawn that is parallel to the given line." Euclid saw the proof was not self-evident, yet neither did he provide one; instead he accepted it as an assumption. Subsequently many mathematicians tried to prove this fifth postulate from the remained axioms - and failed. Saccheri took the novel approach of first assuming that the postulate was wrong, then followed the all consequences seeking any one contradiction that then leaves the only original postulate as the only possible solution. In the process, he came close to discovering non-Euclidian geometry, but gave up too early.*TIS

1884 Carlo Alberto Castigliano (9 November 1847, Asti – 25 October 1884, Milan) was an Italian mathematician and physicist known for Castigliano's method for determining displacements in a linear-elastic system based on the partial derivatives of strain energy.*Wik

1905 Otto Stolz (3 May 1842 in Hall (now Solbad Hall in Tirol), Austria - 25 Oct 1905 in Innsbruck, Austria) Stolz's earliest papers were concerned with analytic or algebraic geometry, including spherical trigonometry. He later dedicated an increasing part of his research to real analysis, in particular to convergence problems in the theory of series, including double series; to the discussion of the limits of indeterminate ratios; and to integration.*SAU

1914 Wilhelm Lexis studied data presented as a series over time thus initiating the study of time series.*SAU

1933 Albert Wangerin worked on potential theory, spherical functions and differential geometry. *SAU

1996 Ennio de Giorgi (Lecce, February 8, 1928 – Pisa, October 25, 1996) was an Italian mathematician who worked on partial differential equations and the foundations of mathematics.*SAU

2002 René Frédéric Thom (September 2, 1923 – October 25, 2002) was a French mathematician. He made his reputation as a topologist, moving on to aspects of what would be called singularity theory; he became world-famous among the wider academic community and the educated general public for one aspect of this latter interest, his work as founder of catastrophe theory (later developed by Erik Christopher Zeeman). He received the Fields Medal in 1958.*Wik

*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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