Sunday 4 March 2012

On This Day in Math - March 4

Willet Memorial in Petts Wood *Diamond Geezer Blog
there is no philosophy which is not founded upon knowledge of the phenomena, but to get any profit from this knowledge it is absolutely necessary to be a mathematician.
~Daniel Bernoulli

The 64th day of the year; 64 is the smallest power of two with no prime neighbor.  (What is next value of 2n with no prime neighbor?)

1675 date of Charles II’s Royal Warrant that ordered the Board of Ordnance to pay for “the support and Maintenance” of John Flamsteed, appointed “our astronomical observator” and charged:
“to apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find our the so much-desired longitude of places for the perfecting the art of navigation.”
*Rebekah Higgitt, Teleskopos (although Ms. Higgitt is not fond of historical anniversaries)

1801 Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the United States. During his two terms in office he repeatedly sponsored bills providing governmental support of science for the common good. *VFR

1929 When Herbert Hoover was sworn in as President of the United States, his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, became the first “First Lady” with a degree in a scientific field. Like her husband, she had graduated from Stanford with a degree in geology. *FFF pg 313

1949 The first time the carbon-14 radioactive dating technique was used. To test the theory the method was used to determine the age of Egyptian artifacts where their age was already known. Willard Frank Libby dated a piece of wood from the Third Dynasty Pharaoh Djoser's tomb that was about 4,700 years old. This age was nearly the same as the half-life of carbon-14, they expected the concentration of carbon-14 would be half that found today. This test was successful. *
1956 An Wang Sells Core Memory Patent to IBM:
An Wang sells his patent for ferrite core memory to IBM for $500,000. One of the most important inventions in computer history, ferrite core memory was widely used in digital computers from the mid-1950s until the mid-1970s. The U.S. Patent Office awarded Wang the patent for what he called a pulse transfer controlling device in 1949. Jay Forrester at MIT is considered the inventor of core memory. *CHM

In 1977, the first Freon-cooled Cray-1 supercomputer, costing $19,000,000, was shipped to Los Alamos Laboratories, NM, and was used to help the defense industry create sophisticated weapons systems. This system had a peak performance of 133 megaflops and used the newest technology, integrated circuits and vector register technology. The Cray-1 looked like no other computer before or since. It was a cylindrical machine 7 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter, weighed 30 tons and required its own electrical substation to provide it with power (an electric bill around $35,000/month). The inventor, Seymour Cray, died 5 Oct 1996 in an auto accident. His innovations included vector register technology, cooling technologies, and magnetic amplifiers. *TIS

1979 Voyager I photo reveals rings of Jupiter. *VFR

2012 Today's date can be written (yr/mo/day) as 12/3/4 (I missed this until it was pointed out to me by Don McDonald)
1822 Jules Antoine Lissajous (4 March 1822 in Versailles, France - 24 June 1880 in Plombières, France) was a French mathematician best known for the Lissajous figures produced from a pair of sine waves. *SAU The curves are also called Bowditch curves for the early American mathematician, Nathanial Bowditch,  who worked with them earlier. In general, a parametric curve with equations x= A sin(k t ); y= B sin(m t), the curves can describe things as simple as a circle or ellipse to more complex open and closed curves. If the ratio of k/m is rational, the curve will eventually close.(EEB)
Lissajous was interested in waves and developed an optical method for studying vibrations. He wanted to be able to see the waves that were created by vibrations, usually expressed in the form of sound. At first he studied waves produced by a tuning fork in contact with water, studying the ripples that were caused. Working on these ideas, he published Sur la position des noeuds dans les lames qui vibrent transversalement (1850). In 1855 he described a way of studying acoustic vibrations by reflecting a light beam from a mirror attached to a vibrating object onto a screen. *SAU

1854 Sir (William) Napier Shaw (4 Mar 1854; 23 Mar 1945 at age 90) was an English meteorologist who applied his training in mathematics. He studied the upper atmosphere, using instruments carried by kites and high-altitude balloons. He measured (1906) the movement of air in two anti-cyclones, finding descent rates of 350 and 450 metres per day. He calculated the reduction in pressure due to a certain depression to correspond to the removal of two million million tons of air. He introduced the millibar unit for measurement of air pressure (1000 millibar = 1 bar = 1 standard atmosphere) and the tephigram to illustrate the temperature of a vertical profile of the atmosphere. He also co-authored an early work on atmospheric polluiton, The Smoke Problem of Great Cities (1925).*TIS

1862 Robert Emden (4 Mar 1862, 8 Oct 1940) Swiss astrophysicist and mathematician who wrote Gaskugeln (Gas Spheres, 1907), giving a mathematical model of stellar structure as the expansion and compression of gas spheres, wherein the forces of gravity and gas pressure are in equilibrium. He expanded on earlier work by J. H. Lane (1869) and A. Ritter (1878-83) who first derived equations describing stars as gaseous chemical, spherical bodies held together by their own gravity and obeying the known gas laws of thermodynamics. For four decades, the Lane-Emden equation was the foundation of theoretical work on the structure of stars: their central temperatures and pressures, masses, and equilibria. Emden also devised a hypothesis, no longer taken seriously, to explain sunspots. *TIS

1866 Eugène Maurice Pierre Cosserat (4 March 1866 in Amiens, France - 31 May 1931 in Toulouse, France) Cosserat studied the deformation of surfaces which led him to a theory of elasticity. *SAU

1881 Richard C(hace) Tolman (4 Mar 1881, 5 Sep 1948) was an American physicist and chemist who demonstrated that electrons are the charge-carrying entities in the flow of electricity, and also made a measurement of its mass. During the Manhattan Project of WW II, he was the chief scientific adviser to Brig. General Leslie Groves, the head of military affairs overseeing the development of the atomic bomb. After the war he was adviser to the U.S. representative to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. *TIS

1904 George Gamow (4 Mar 1904,19 Aug 1968) Russian-born American nuclear physicist, cosmologist and writer who was one of the foremost advocates of the big-bang theory, which desribes the origin of the universe as a colossal explosion that took place billions of years ago. In 1954, he expanded his interests into biochemistry and his work on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) made a basic contribution to modern genetic theory. *TIS

1914 Robert Rathbun Wilson (4 Mar 1914, 16 Jan 2000) was an American physicist who was the first director of Fermilab. From 1967, he led the design and construction of Fermilab (the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory) near Chicago, Illinois. He also improved the environment by restoring prairie at the site. It began operating in 1972 with the world's most powerful particle accelerator. With later improvements, it retained that status for well over three decades until it was superceded by the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Wilson is remembered for his justification of the needed financing at a Senate hearing in 1969, where he said “It has nothing to do with defending our country, except to make it worth defending.” He resigned in 1978 because he did not believe the government was giving it sufficient funding for its research mission.*TIS The stately 16-story Robert Rathbun Wilson Hall rises above the surrounding Illinois countryside. Inspired by a Gothic cathedral in Beauvais, France, its twin towers are joined by crossovers beginning at the seventh floor.

1923 Patrick (Alfred Caldwell) Moore, (4 Mar 1923, )English amateur astronomer, writer and broadcaster. He was educated at home due to childhood illness, from which time he acquired his interest in observational astronomy. Moore is best known as the enthusiastic and knowledgeable presenter of the BBC TV program The Sky at Night, which he began in 1957. With a half-century of broadcasts, this is the world's longest-running television series, and it remains so with the original presenter. Moore has written over 60 books, including The Amateur Astronomer (1970), The A-Z of Astronomy (1986), and Mission to the Planets (1990). As an accomplished xylophone player, his interest in astronomy also shows in the title of one of his musical compositions: Perseus and Andromeda (1975)*TIS

1910 Knut Johan Angstrom (12 Jan 1857; 4 Mar 1910) Swedish physicist, son of Anders Angstrom, who invented an electric compensation pyrheliometer and other devices for infra-red photography. With these, he studied the sun's heat radiation*TIS

1915 William Willett (10 Aug 1856, 4 Mar 1915 at age 58)English builder who invented Daylight Saving Time. He claimed he had the idea while taking an early summer morning ride in Petts Wood near to his home in Chislehurst, London. He observed that many blinds were still down, although there was already good daylight, yet many made no use of it. He used his wealth as a prominent home builder to campaign for a scheme of adjusting clocks with the season and published a pamphlet in 1907. His original idea was to make four weekly changes of 20-mins each, for a total of 80-mins. The first Daylight Saving Bill, proposing a single one hour at the change of season failed in 1908. After his death, the idea was adopted during WW I for wartime fuel savings. A memorial was erected in Petts Wood.*TIS A sun dial Memorial was erected in the Petts Wood in his honor.*TIS

1976 Walter Schottky (23 Jul 1886, 4 Mar 1976 at age 89)Swiss-born German physicist whose research in solid-state physics led to development of a number of electronic devices. He discovered the Schottky effect, an irregularity in the emission of thermions in a vacuum tube and invented the screen-grid tetrode tube (1915). The Schottky diode is a high speed diode with very little junction capacitance (also known as a "hot-carrier diode" or a "surface-barrier diode.") It uses a metal-semiconductor junction as a Schottky barrier, rather than the semiconductor-semiconductor junction of a conventional diode. *TIS

1997 Robert Henry Dicke (6 May 1916 St. Louis, Missouri, USA - 4 Mar 1997 at age 80) American physicist who worked in such wide-ranging fields as microwave physics, cosmology, and relativity. As an inspired theorist and a successful experimentalist, his unifying theme was the application of powerful and scrupulously controlled experimental methods to issues that really matter. He also made a number of significant contributions to radar technology and to the field of atomic physics. His visualization of an oscillating universe stimulated the discovery of the cosmic microwave background, the most direct evidence that our universe really did expand from a dense state. A key instrument in measurements of this fossil of the Big Bang is the microwave radiometer he invented. His patents ranged from clothes dryers to lasers. *TIS

2000 Hermann Alexander Brück (15 August 1905 in Berlin, Germany – 4 March 2000 in Edinburgh, Scotland) was a German-born astronomer who spent the great portion of his career in the United Kingdom.
Upon graduation from Munich, Brück followed his friend Albrecht Unsöld to the Potsdam Astrophysical Observatory; Unsöld had earned his doctorate the year before, also under Sommerfeld. While there, he participated in the physics colloquium at the Humboldt University of Berlin with the physicists Max von Laue and Albert Einstein and the astronomer Walter Grotrian. With growing difficulties under National Socialism, Brück left Germany in 1936 to take a temporary research assistantship at the Vatican Observatory. In 1937 he moved to the University of Cambridge to join the circle of the modern astrophysicists around Arthur Eddington. In time, Brück became Assistant Director of the Observatories and John Couch Adams, specializing in solar spectroscopy. He taught a course in classical astronomy and started the student astronomical society, which fostered the careers of many astronomers.
In 1947, at the invitation of Éamon de Valera, Brück moved to Dublin to direct the Dunsink Observatory, which was part of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, where he associated with Erwin Schrödinger. In 1950, the Observatory, along with the Royal Irish Academy, hosted the first meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1955, the International Astronomical Union held their triennial Assembly in Dublin. At this gathering, the Observatory demonstrated photoelectric equipment for photometry, which had been developed by M. J. Smyth, who had been Brück’s student in Cambridge. Also displayed was the UV solar spectroscopy which extended the Utrecht Atlas and formed part of the revised Rowland tables of the Solar spectrum; Brück’s wife, Dr. Mary Brück (née Conway), was a leading figure in this work.
In 1957, Brück moved to the University of Edinburgh. With his vision and drive, he transformed the Royal Observatory into an internationally-ranked center of research. He put together a team of astronomers and engineers headed initially by P. B. Fellgett and later by V. C. Reddish *Wik
2011 Simon van der Meer (24 Nov 1925, )Dutch engineer and physicist who along with Italian physicist Carlo Rubbia, discovered the W particle and the Z particle by colliding protons and antiprotons, for which both men shared the Nobel Prize for Physics. These subatomic particles (units of matter smaller than an atom) transmit the weak nuclear force, one of four fundamental forces in nature. The discovery supported the unified electroweak theory put forward in the 1970's. Working at CERN in Switzerland, Van der Meer improved the design of particle accelerators used produce collisions between beams of subatomic particles. He invented a device that would monitor and adjust the particle beam with correcting magnetic fields by a system of 'kickers' placed around the accelerator ring.*TIS

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

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