Monday 7 November 2011

On This Day in Math - Nov 7

I am one of those who think, like Nobel, that humanity will draw more good than evil from new discoveries.
~Marie Curie

The 311th day of the year; 311 not only prime, but is a prime under any permutation of it's digits (113, 131, 311) (students might search for the next smaller, or larger number which is also a permutable prime)
Also, 311 is prime, and is also the sum  of three, five, seven, eleven, and thirteen consecutive primes.  *PB

1631 Transit of Mercury across the sun, the first observation of a transit of a planet, observed by Pierre Gassendi. This had been predicted by Kepler in 1629. [Scott, Works of Wallis, p. 191, had 1621] *VFR When Gassendi observed the dot of Mercury passing across the face of the Sun, he was surprized - it seemed far too small, according to ancient conceptions of the relative sizes of heavenly objects. With a Galilean telescope he observed the transit by projecting the sun's image on a screen of paper. He recorded this in Mercurius in sole visus (1632; Mercury in the Face of the Sun) as support for the new astronomy of Johannes Kepler. His instrument was not strong enough, however, to disclose the occultations and transits of Jupiter's satellites. *TIS (for more on the march to accepting a heliocentric system, see this blog by The Renaissance Mathematicus.)

1749 Benjamin Franklin enters in his notebook a list of 12 ways in which lightening and electrical fluid agree, from 1) "giving light", to 12) "sulphurous smell". He then considers whether lightning will be as equally attracted to "points" and lays out the framework for an experiment. *A history of physics in its elementary branches By Florian Cajori

1849 The official opening of Queen’s College in Cork, Ireland. George Boole was the professor of mathematics—the only university post he ever applied for. [MacHale, George Boole, His Life and Work, p 88]. *VFR

In 1908, Prof. Ernest Rutherford announced in London that he had isolated a single atom of matter. *TIS

1915 In connection with the celebration of the centenary of his birth (31 October 1815), a memorial tablet was unvieled at his birthplace, Osterfelde, near Warendorf in Westphalia. It reads” “An dieser St¨att wurde am 31•X•1815 Karl Weierstrass, der grosse Mathematiker, eine Leuchte der Berliner Universit¨at, geboren.” *VFR

1917 The “October Revolution” of the Bosheviks broke out in Russia. It is now celebrated on 7 November as the Gregorian calendar was not adopted there until 1918. *VFR

1940 at approximately 11:00 am, the first Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge collapsed due to wind-induced vibrations. Situated on the Tacoma Narrows in Puget Sound, near the city of Tacoma, Washington, the bridge had only been open for traffic a few months. *TIS “Galloping Gertie,” suspension bridge over the Narrows of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington, breaks up from a torsional oscillation of steadily increasing amplitude caused by the wind known as the von Karman vortice street. The film is instructive for classes in Differential Equations.

1660 Thomas Fantet de Lagny (7 Nov 1660 in Lyon, France - 11 April 1734 in Paris, France) De Lagny is well known for his contributions to computational mathematics, calculating π to 120 places and also making useful comments on the convergence of the series he was using. In about 1690 he developed a method of giving approximate solutions of algebraic equations and, in 1694, Halley published a twelve page paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society giving his method of solving polynomial equations by successive approximation which is essentially the same as that given by Lagny a few years earlier. One should note that although methods based on the differential calculus were being developed at this time, neither Lagny not Halley used these new ideas. Lagny's publications on this topic are Méthodes nouvelle infiniment générale et infiniment abrégée pour l'extraction des racines quarrées, cubique (1691) and Méthodes nouvelles et abrégée pour l'extraction et l'approximation des racines (1692).
Lagny constructed trigonometric tables and used binary arithmetic in his text Trigonométrie française ou reformée published in Rochefort in 1703. In 1733 he examined the continued fraction expansion of the quotient of two integers and, as an example, considered adjacent Fibonacci numbers as the worst case expansion for the Euclidean algorithm in his paper Analyse générale ou Méthodes nouvelles pour résoudre les problèmes de tous les genres et de tous les degrés à l'infini.*SAU

1799 Karl Gräffe was a German mathematician best remembered for his method of numerical solution of algebraic equations.*SAU

1867 Marie Marja Sklodowska Curie (7 Nov 1867; 4 Jul 1934) was a Polish-born French chemist and physicist. In 1898, her celebrated experiments on uranium minerals led to discovery of two new elements. First she separated polonium, and then radium a few months later. The quantity of radon in radioactive equilibrium with a gram of radium was named a curie (subsequently redefined as the emission of 3.7 x 1010 alpha particles per sec.) With Henri Becquerel and her husband, Pierre Curie, she was awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics. She was then sole winner of a second Nobel Prize in 1911, this time in Chemistry. Her family won five Nobel awards in two generations. She died of radiation poisoning from her pioneering work before the need for protection was known. *TIS

1878 Lise Meitner (7 Nov 1878; 27 Oct 1968) Austrian physicist who shared the Enrico Fermi Award (1966) with the chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann for their joint research beginning in 1934 that led to the discovery of uranium fission. She refused to work on the atom bomb. In 1917, with Hahn, she had discovered the new radioactive element protactinium. She was the first to describe the emission of Auger electrons. In 1935, she found evidence of four other radioactive elements corresponding to atomic numbers 93-96. In 1938, she was forced to leave Nazi Germany, and went to a post in Sweden. Her other work in the field of nuclear physics includes study of beta rays, and study of the three main disintegration series. Later, she used the cyclotron as a tool. *TIS

1888 Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (7 Nov 1888; 21 Nov 1970) Indian physicist whose work was influential in the growth of science in India. He was the recipient of the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physics for the 1928 discovery now called Raman scattering: a change in frequency observed when light is scattered in a transparent material. When monochromatic or laser light is passed through a transparent gas, liquid, or solid and is observed with the spectroscope, the normal spectral line has associated with it lines of longer and of shorter wavelength, called the Raman spectrum. Such lines, caused by photons losing or gaining energy in elastic collisions with the molecules of the substance, vary with the substance. Thus the Raman effect is applied in spectrographic chemical analysis and in the determination of molecular structure. *TIS

1906 Jean Leray was a French mathematician who worked on algebraic topology and differential equations. *SAU

1872 Rudolf Friedrich Alfred Clebsch (19 January 1833 – 7 November 1872) was a German mathematician who made important contributions to algebraic geometry and invariant theory. He attended the University of Königsberg and was habilitated at Berlin. He subsequently taught in Berlin and Karlsruhe. His collaboration with Paul Gordan in Giessen led to the introduction of Clebsch–Gordan coefficients for spherical harmonics, which are now widely used in quantum mechanics.
Together with Carl Neumann at Göttingen, he founded the mathematical research journal Mathematische Annalen in 1868. *Wik

1918 Artemas Martin was a self-taught mathematician and book-collector whose output covered a wide range of mathematical problems. *SAU

1913 Alfred Russel Wallace (8 Jan 1823, 7 Nov 1913) British naturalist, and biogeographer (who studies the distribution of organisms). He was the first westerner to describe some of the most interesting natural habitats in the tropics. He is best known for devising a theory of the origin of species through natural selection made independently of Darwin. Between 1854 and 1862, Wallace assembled evidence in the Malay Archipelago, sending his conclusions to Darwin in England. Their findings were presented to the Linnaean Society in 1858. Wallace found that Australian species were more primitive, in evolutionary terms, than those of Asia, and that this reflected the stage at which the two continents had become separated. He proposed an imaginary line (now known as Wallace's line) dividing the fauna of the two regions.*TIS

1936 Gury Vasilievich Kolosov was a Russian mathematician who worked on the theory of elasticity.*SAU

1968 Aleksandr Osipovich Gelfond (24 Oct 1906, 7 Nov 1968) Russian mathematician who originated basic techniques in the study of transcendental numbers (numbers that cannot be expressed as the root or solution of an algebraic equation with rational coefficients). He profoundly advanced transcendental-number theory, and the theory of interpolation and approximation of complex-variable functions. He established the transcendental character of any number of the form ab, where a is an algebraic number different from 0 or 1 and b is any irrational algebraic number, which is now known as Gelfond's theorem. This statement solved the seventh of 23 famous problems that had been posed by the German mathematician David Hilbert in 1900. *TIS

2003 Donald R(edfield) Griffin (3 Aug 1915, 7 Nov 2003) American biophysicist, known for his research in animal navigation, animal behaviour, and sensory biophysics. With Robert Galambos, he studied bat echolocation (1938), a term he coined (1944) for how the bat's ears replace eyes in flight guidance. Using specialized high-frequency sound equipment by G.W. Pierce, they found that bats in flight produced ultrasonic sounds used to avoid obstacles. In WW II, he used physiological principles to design such military equipment as cold-weather clothing and headphones. Griffin also worked extensively on bird navigation. In the late 1940s, he flew in a Piper Cub to observe the flight paths of gannets and gulls. In his career, he pioneered rigorous techniques to study animals in their natural environment. *TIS

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

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