Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Strange Connections

I recently came across a note that the Peter Mark Roget whose name is associated so closely with the thesaurus was a scientific type.  More particularly, in 1815 he invented the log-log scale (the logarithm of the logarithm of the number on the C and D scales... ) on the slide rule which facilitated finding powers and roots of numbers. 

I looked into his history and found that his education was in medicine and his work on the thesaurus was part of a lifelong coping mechanism to fight depression.  But before he actually got around to publishing his great book, he not only invented the slide rule scale, but following the death of Sir John Hershell, Roget was secretary of the Royal Society from 1827 to 1848. He also made observations in sight and persistance of vision that influenced the development of movies. 

From"Cheshire Antiquities,© Craig Thornber, Cheshire, England, UK.
"His observations were based initially on looking at the world through a series of slits such as one might have in a vertical Venetian blind or pallisade. A rotating cartwheel viewed through such as system gives an optical illusion. The spokes at the top and bottom appear straight but those at the sides appear to bend downwards. Roget worked out the path of the light to show how this happened. He went on to explain a phenomenon that often perplexes devotees of Westerns, a hundred years before the invention of film. At certain speeds, the cartwheel appears to stop or go backwards. Roget's observations were made by viewing through vertical slits but he showed the position of each spoke in the wheel at each glimpse and how this could lead to the optical illusion of stasis or backward motion. The same phenomenon is observed when a film is made with a cine camera. In 1820, Roget worked with Michael Faraday and Joseph Plateau in a series of experiments on vision leading to Roget's paper to the Royal Society on the Persistence of Vision. Roget's work showed that an image persists in human perception for about one sixteenth of a second and this forms the basis on which animations, film and television are based. "
On 9 December 1824, Roget presented a paper entitled Explanation of an optical deception in the appearance of the spokes of a wheel when seen through vertical apertures. ...
While Roget's explanation of the illusion was probably wrong, his consideration of the illusion of motion was an important point in the history of film, and probably influenced the development of the Thaumatrope, the Phenakistiscope and the Zoetrope.

He also was involved in the creation of University of London and the precursor to the Royal Medical Society.    A busy Guy...

While I was searching this out, I came across the fact that the invention of the Ln scale (for finding e^x) was by an 11th grade high school student. 
From a post by Robert Adams:

The Ln scale was invented by a high school student, Stephen B. Cohen, in 1958. The original intent was to allow the user to select an exponent (in the range 0 to 2.3) on the Ln scale and read e^x on the C (or D) scale and e^(-x) on the CI (or DI) scale. Pickett and Eckel were given exclusive rights to the scale in the early sixties. Later, Stephen Cohen created a set of "marks" on the Ln scale to extend the range beyond the 2.3 limit, but Pickett never incorporated these marks on any of their slide rules.

And just one more footnote, I always found it a little quirky that the log scale on the slide rule was linear.


Steven Colyer said...

Interesting and thanks. Can anyone think of others? I can think of three off hand:

Art Garfunkel studied Mathematics at Columbia University.

Mick Jagger went to The London School of Economics.

August Ferdinand Möbius of Möbius strip fame was primarily an Astronomer.

There are more, but I think I'll let others speak for a change. :-)

Pat's Blog said...

Steven, I can think of a couple that I mentioned in a partially finished blog post I never finsihed...Maybe I will finish it now..
Terry Hatcher was a math person... and of course the guy who writes the Simpsons ... I think the girl who played Ginger on Gilligan's Island (deal with it, we are really old) was a Math major or minor...
Don't forget the great Mikey Jordan... before he studied journalism...
Lots more... will follow up
Thaks for the reminder

Steven Colyer said...

Ginger ?! I preferred "Mary Anne", in fact you just made me realize that I think I was looking for a "Mary Anne" when I sought my lifemate, and sure enough, I found one.

C'mon pat, we're not THAT old! 60 is the new 40 and about 5 years into retirement 70 is the new 30. Viagra doesn't hurt in that regard, right?

Although speaking for myself, I'm just a boy of 54 so I wouldn't know. ;-)

My WWII gen Dad once said: "Your memory ... that's the SECOND thing to go!" He said this before Viagra was invented.

Here's one more: Danica McKeller, who played "Winnie" on the popular American sitcom "The Wonder Years", is a 30's-something Mom now, and has written several popular books on the Joy of Algebra called "Hot X: Algebra Exposed!"

Good for her and all popularizers of Math such as yourself. Strange connections, indeed.