Tuesday, 12 July 2011

On This Day in Math - July 12

Technical skill is mastery of complexity while creativity is mastery of simplicity.
Sir Christopher Zeeman

This is the 193rd day of the year, 193 is a twin prime (with 191)

1493 First issue of Nuremberg Chronicles published in Latin (A German edition would be issued in December). The journal is said to have printed an image of the 684 passage of Halley's comet. Roberta Olsen and Jay Pasachoff of Wheaton College have written that the same woodblock was used to depict four other comets. They also said the Chronicles use three more prints to depict this same 684 comet in different editions. The one below, from the Library of Congress Collection, is the one which was in the Art Exhibit at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., entitled: "Fire and Ice - A History of Comets in Art"

1831 Gauss to Schumacher: “I protest against the use of an infinite quantity as an actual entity; this is never allowed in mathematics. The infinite is only a manner of speaking, in which one properly speaks of limits to which certain ratios can come as near as desired, while others are permitted to increase without bound.” *VFR

1844 Captain J.N. Taylor of the Royal Navy first demonstrated the fog horn. At the time, it was called a telephone - to mean far-signalling, thus an instrument like a fog-horn, used on ships, railway trains, etc., for signalling by loud sounds or notes. The 19 July 1844 Times (London) reported, "Yesterday week was a levee day at the Admiralty, and amongst the numerous models..was Captain J. N. Tayler's telephone instrument... The chief object of this powerful wind instrument is to convey signals during foggy weather. Also the Illustrated London News on 24 Aug. 1844 referred to "The Telephone; a Telegraphic Alarum. Amongst the many valuable inventions..that of the 'Telephone, or Marine Alarum and Signal Trumpet', by Captain J. N. Taylor."*TIS

1925 Heisenberg announced the basic principles of quantum mechanics. *VFR

1979 The Gossamer Albatross completed the first wholly man-powered flight across the English Channel. See August 23, 1971. *VFR

2011  Google annouces winners of  Google Science Fair  "The results are in—and this year was all about girl power. Our top three winners by age category are:

  • Lauren Hodge in the 13-14 age group. Lauren studied the effect of different marinades on the level of potentially harmful carcinogens in grilled chicken.
  • Naomi Shah in the 15-16 age group. Naomi endeavored to prove that making changes to indoor environments that improve indoor air quality can reduce people’s reliance on asthma medications.
  • Shree Bose in the 17-18 age group. Shree discovered a way to improve ovarian cancer treatment for patients when they have built up a resistance to certain chemotherapy drugs.

1854 George Eastman's birthday. Eastman was the American inventor of rolled photographic film. He formed the Eastman Kodak Company to bring photography to the average person. For $25, a person could buy a camera with 100 exposures. Eastman promised, "You push the button, we do the rest." Once all 100 pictures were taken, the camera and a $10 processing fee was returned to Kodak where they reloaded the camera with film and developed and printed the pictures. *This Day in Science History
1861 George Washington Carver African-American educator, scientist, chemist, inventor, botanist. After the Civil War, Southern farmers planted cotton year after year, and the soil lost its fertility. Yields dropped. Between1890 and 1910, the cotton crop was devastated by the bolweevil. George Washington Carver was appointed head of the agriculture department at The Tuskegee Institute in Alabama by Booker T. Washington (1896). Carver discovered and taught how to maintain the fertility of the soil. Further, his discovered two new crops that would grow well there: peanuts and sweet potatoes. Further, Carver created a market by inventing hundreds of new uses for for these crops, from milk to printer's ink .*TIS

1875 Ernst Fischer is best known for the Riesz-Fischer theorem in the theory of Lebesgue integration.*SAU

1895 R(ichard) Buckminster Fuller was an American inventor, educator, author, philosopher, engineer and architect who developed the geodesic dome, the only large dome that can be set directly on the ground as a complete structure, and the only practical kind of building that has no limiting dimensions (i.e., beyond which the structural strength must be insufficient). He held over 2000 patents.*TIS

1913 Willis Eugene Lamb, Jr. was an American physicist and joint winner, with Polykarp Kusch, of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1955 "for his discoveries concerning the fine structure of the hydrogen spectrum." His experimental work spurred refinements in the quantum theories of electromagnetic phenomena.*TIS The Lamb shift was an energy difference between the 2S½ and 2P½ energy levels of the hydrogen atom. According to the current theory, these two levels should have the same amount of energy, but when the electrons were exposed to a magnetic field, the energy level of 2S½ was slightly different. This discovery led to the renormalization theory of quantum electrodynamics. *This Day in Science History

1922 Michael Ventris English architect and cryptographer who in 1952 deciphered the Minoan Linear B script. These were the inscriptions on ancient clay tablets found in Crete and a few other locations; writings which had baffled archaeologists since their discovery in 1900. He showed the script to be Greek in its oldest known form, dating from about 1400 to 1200 BC, roughly the period of the events narrated in the Homeric epics. One of the most tantalizing riddles of classical archaeology was solved, but not without creating some puzzling situations. The reading of these tablets in the Greek language raised the question: How could a literate people in the fourteenth century BC become illiterate for almost five centuries, to regain literacy in the eighth century? Ventris died young, in an auto accident, soon after his triumph.*TIS

1682 Jean Picard French Jesuit, active astronomer, cartographer, hydraulics engineer, Jean Picard devised a movable-wire micrometer to measure the diameters of celestial objects such as the Sun, Moon and planets. For land surveying and leveling, he designed instruments that incorporated the astronomical telescope. He greatly increased the accuracy of measurements of the Earth, using Snell's method of triangulation (Mesure de la Terre, 1671). This data was used by Newton in his gravitational theory. Picard was one of the first to apply scientific methods to the making of maps. Among his other skills were hydraulics; he solved the problem of supplying the fountains at Versailles with water.*TIS

1834 David Douglas Scottish botanist who was one of the most successful of the great 19th century plant collectors. He established about 240 species of plants in Britain. His first foreign plant-hunting expedition (1824) was made throughout the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. The Douglas fir, which he cultivated from 1827, is named after him. He introduced other conifers including the Sitka spruce, now commercially important to the timber industry, and numerous garden plants and shrubs, including the lupin, California poppy and the flowering currant. At age 35, he died in by accident in Hawaii, when he fell into a pit dug by the islanders to trap wild cattle where he was trapped with a bull that also fell into the pit. He was gored to death by the bull.*TIS (add to candidate for most unusual death. see also Eduord Lucas, and Francis Bacon, send your nominees)

1983 Ernst Gabor Straus (February 25, 1922 – July 12, 1983) was a German-American mathematician who helped found the theories of Euclidean Ramsey theory and of the arithmetic properties of analytic functions. His extensive list of co-authors includes Albert Einstein and Paul Erdős as well as other notable researchers including Richard Bellman, Béla Bollobás, Sarvadaman Chowla, Ronald Graham, László Lovász, Carl Pomerance, and George Szekeres. It is due to his collaboration with Straus that Einstein has Erdős number 2. *Wik

*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*TIS= Today in Science History
*Wik = Wikipedia
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History

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