Thursday, 3 July 2014

On This Day in Math - July 3



Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting
without being aware that it is counting. 
 ~Gottfried Leibniz

The 184th day of the year; 184 = 23 * 23 (concatenation of the first two primes). *Prime Curios


EVENTS
1822 Charles Babbage described his ideas for a “difference engine” to the Royal Society. *VFR

1841, John Couch Adams decided to determine the position of an unknown planet by the irregularities it causes in the motion of Uranus. He entered in his journal; "Formed a design in the beginning of this week in investigating, as soon as possible after taking my degree, the irregularities in the motion of Uranus... in orderto find out whether they may be attributed to the action of an undiscovered planet beyond it..." In Sep 1845 he gave James Challis, director of the Cambridge Observatory, accurate information on where the new planet, as yet unobserved, could be found; but unfortunately the planet was not recognized at Cambridge until much later, after its discovery at the Berlin Observatory on 23 Sep 1846. *TIS

2011  Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a fourth moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The tiny, new satellite – temporarily designated P4 -- was uncovered in a Hubble survey searching for rings around the dwarf planet.



Two labeled Hubble WFC3/UVIS images of the Pluto system with new moon P4 circled. Left side image taken on June 28, 2011. Right side image taken on July 3, 2011.
Two labeled images of the Pluto system taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 ultraviolet visible instrument with newly discovered fourth moon P4 circled. The image on the left was taken on June 28, 2011. The image of the right was taken on July 3, 2011. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI institute)



BIRTHS
1820 Ernest de Jonquières (3 July 1820 Carpentras, France – 12 Aug 1901 Mousans-Sartoux, France) was a French naval officer who discovered many results in geometry. After his introduction to advanced mathematics by Chasles it is not surprising that his main interests were geometry throughout his life. He made many contributions many of them extending the work of Poncelet and Chasles. An early work, the treatise Mélanges de géométrie pure (1856) contains: an amplifications of Chasles' ideas on the geometric properties of an infinitely small movement of a free body in space; a commentary on Chasles' work on conic sections; the principle of homographic correspondence; and constructions relating to curves of the third order. In a final section de Jonquières presented a French translation of Maclaurin's work on curves. *SAU

1849 Prosper-René Blondlot (3 July 1849 – 24 November 1930) was a French physicist, best remembered for his mistaken "discovery" of N rays, a phenomenon that subsequently proved to be illusory.
In order to demonstrate that a Kerr cell responds to an applied electric field in a few tens of microseconds, Blondlot, in collaboration with Ernest Bichat, adapted the rotating-mirror method that Léon Foucault had applied to measure the speed of light. He further developed the rotating mirror to measure the speed of electricity in a conductor, photographing the sparks emitted from two conductors, one 1.8 km longer than the other and measuring the relative displacement of their images. He thus established that the speed of electricity in a conductor is very close to that of light.
In 1891, he made the first measurement of the speed of radio waves, by measuring the wavelength using Lecher lines. He used 13 different frequencies between 10 and 30 MHz and obtained an average value of 297,600 km/s, which is within 1% of the current value for the speed of light. This was an important confirmation of James Clerk Maxwell's theory that light was an electromagnetic wave like radio waves.
In 1903, Blondlot announced that he had discovered N rays, a new species of radiation. The "discovery" attracted much attention over the following year until Robert W. Wood showed that the phenomena were purely subjective with no physical origin. The French Academy of Sciences awarded the Prix Leconte (₣50,000) for 1904 to Blondot, although they hedged on the reason, citing the totality of his work rather than the discovery of N-rays.
Little is known about Blondlot's later years. William Seabrook stated in his Wood biography Doctor Wood, that Blondlot went insane and died, supposedly as a result of the exposure of the N ray debacle: "This tragic exposure eventually led to Blondlot's madness and death." Using an almost identical wording this statement was repeated later by Martin Gardner, possibly without having investigated into the subject: "Wood's exposure led to Blondlot's madness and death." However, Blondlot continued to work as a university professor in Nancy until his early retirement in 1910. He died at the age of 81; at the time of the N-ray affair he was nearly 60 years old. *Wik

1866 Henry Frederick Baker FRS (3 July 1866 – 17 March 1956) was a British mathematician, working mainly in algebraic geometry, but also remembered for contributions to partial differential equations (related to what would become known as solitons), and Lie groups.
Baker was born in Cambridge, England and educated at The Perse School before winning a scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge in October 1884. Baker graduated as Senior Wrangler in 1887, bracketed with 3 others.
Baker was elected Fellow of St John's in 1888 where he remained for 68 years.
In June, 1898 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1911, he gave the presidential address to the London Mathematical Society.
In January 1914 he was appointed Lowndean Professor of Astronomy. *Wik
In the 1930s before the war Baker's graduate students would meet at what they called Professor Baker’s "Tea Party", who met once a week to discuss the areas of research in which we were all interested. It was to one of these meetings that a young Donald Coxeter brought his "Aunt Alice", the 69 year old Alicia Boole to co-present on the subject of Polytopes in higher dimensions.

1897 Jesse Douglas (3 July 1897 – 7 September 1965) born in New York City. He did important work on Plateau’s problem, which asks for the minimal surface connecting a given boundary. For this work he received a Fields medal in 1936, the first time that they were given. *VFR ..the Plateau problem... had first been posed by the Italian-French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange in 1760. The Plateau problem is one of finding the surface with minimal area determined by a fixed boundary. Experiments (1849) by the Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau demonstrated that the minimal surface can be obtained by immersing a wire frame, representing the boundaries, into soapy water. Douglas developed what is now called the Douglas functional, so that by minimizing this functional he could prove the existence of the solution to the Plateau problem. Douglas later developed an interest in group theory.*TIS

1933 Frederick Justin Almgren,(July 3, 1933, Birmingham, Alabama–February 5, 1997, Princeton, New Jersey) Almost certainly Almgren's most impressive and important result was only published in 2000, three years after his death. Why was this? The paper was just too long to be accepted by any journal. Brian Cabell White explains the background in a review of the book published in 2000 containing the result:-
By the early 1970s, geometric analysts had made spectacular discoveries about the regularity of mass-minimizing hypersurfaces. (Mass is area counting multiplicity, so that if k sheets of a surface overlap, the overlap region is counted k times.) In particular, the singular set of an m-dimensional mass-minimizing hypersurface was known to have dimension at most m - 7. By contrast, for an m-dimensional mass-minimizing surface of codimension greater than one, the singular set was not even known to have m-measure 0. Around 1974, Almgren started on what would become his most massive project, culminating ten years later in a three-volume, 1700-page preprint containing a proof that the singular set not only has m-dimensional measure 0, but in fact has dimension at most (m - 2). This dimension is optimal, since by an earlier result of H Federer there are examples for which the dimension of the singular set is exactly (m - 2). ... Now, thanks to the efforts of editors Jean Taylor and Vladimir Scheffer, Almgren's three-volume, 1700-page typed preprint has been published as a single, attractively typeset volume of less than 1000 pages.*SAU

1933 William (Bill) Parry FRS (3 July 1934–20 August 2006) was an English mathematician. During his research career, he was highly active in the study of dynamical systems, and, in particular, ergodic theory, and made significant contributions to these fields. He is considered to have been at the forefront of the introduction of ergodic theory to the United Kingdom. He played a founding role in the study of subshifts of finite type, and his work on nilflows was highly regarded.*Wik

1945 Saharon Shelah (July 3, 1945 - ) is an Israeli mathematician. He is a professor of mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Rutgers University in New Jersey. Shelah is one of the most prolific contemporary mathematicians. As of 2009, he has published nearly 900 mathematical papers (together with over 200 co-authors). His main interests lie in mathematical logic, model theory in particular, and in axiomatic set theory.*Wik


DEATHS
1749 William Jones, FRS (1675 – 3 July 1749) was a Welsh mathematician, most noted for his proposal for the use of the symbol π (the Greek letter pi) to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. He was a close friend of Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Edmund Halley. In November, 1711 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was later its Vice-President.*Wik

1789 Jakob Bernoulli II died. *VFR    Born in Basel in 1759 (17 October), the son of Johann (II).  assistant to Daniel in experimental physics
He graduated in Jurisprudence in 1778 but also studied Maths and Physics. In 1782, he applied for Daniel's former chair but was unsuccessful.
He became secretary to an imperial representative in Venice
In 1786 he went to Petersburg, to the Academy of Science (Fuss recommended him to Dashkoff) and in 1788 became ordentlich academy member for mathematics.
He married one of Euler's granddaughters, Charlotte.
At thirty years of age, he drowned in the Neva.  *Brian Daugherty

1991 Ernst Witt (June 26, 1911-July 3, 1991) was a German mathematician born on the island of Als (German: Alsen). Shortly after his birth, he and his parents moved to China, and he did not return to Europe until he was nine.
Witt's work was mainly concerned with the theory of quadratic forms and related subjects such as algebraic function fields.*Wik


Credits :
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF=Kane, Famous First Facts
*NSEC= NASA Solar Eclipse Calendar
*RMAT= The Renaissance Mathematicus, Thony Christie
*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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