Mathematics at the Science Museum

The new Winton Gallery at London’s Science Museum in South Kensington holds a permanent display on the history of mathematics over the past 400 years. The exhibition shows how mathematics has underpinned astronomy, navigation and surveying in the past, and how it continues to pervade the modern world [see TM139, or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

HardingGallery

Central Display at the Science Museum

Continue reading ‘Mathematics at the Science Museum’

Marden’s Marvel

Although polynomial equations have been studied for centuries, even millennia, surprising new results continue to emerge. Marden’s Theorem, published in 1945, is one such — delightful — result.

Marden-Polynomial

Cubic with roots at x=1, x=2 and x=3.

Continue reading ‘Marden’s Marvel’

Stan Ulam, a mathematician who figured how to initiate fusion

Stanislaw Ulam, born in Poland in 1909, was a key member of the remarkable Lvov School of Mathematics, which flourished in that city between the two world wars. Ulam studied mathematics at the Lvov Polytechnic Institute, getting his PhD in 1933. His original research was in abstract mathematics, but he later became interested in a wide range of applications. He once joked that he was “a pure mathematician who had sunk so low that his latest paper actually contained numbers with decimal points” [TM138 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

Thermonuclear-Explosion

Operation Castle, Bikini Atoll, 1954

Continue reading ‘Stan Ulam, a mathematician who figured how to initiate fusion’

Waves Packed in Envelopes

In this article we take a look at group velocity and at the extraction of the envelope of a wave packet using the ideas of the Hilbert transform.

Hovmoeller-Arrows

Continue reading ‘Waves Packed in Envelopes’

Geodesics on the Spheroidal Earth-II

Geodesy is the study of the shape and size of the Earth, and of variations in its gravitational field. The Earth was originally believed to be flat, but many clues, such as the manner in which ships appear and disappear at the horizon, and the changed perspective from an elevated vantage point, as well as astronomical phenomena, convinced savants of its spherical shape. In the third century BC, Eratosthenes accurately estimated the circumference of the Earth [TM137 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

Singapore-Quito-Open

Geodesic at bearing of 60 degrees from Singapore. Passes close to Quito, Ecuador. Note that it is not a closed curve: it does not return to Singapore.

Continue reading ‘Geodesics on the Spheroidal Earth-II’

Geodesics on the Spheroidal Earth – I

Both Quito in Ecuador and Singapore are on the Equator. One can fly due eastward from Singapore and reach Quito in due course. However, this is not the shortest route. The equatorial trans-Pacific route from Singapore to Quito is not a geodesic on Earth! Why not?

FlatEllipsoid

A drastically flattened spheroid. Clearly, the equatorial route between the blue and red points is not the shortest path.

Continue reading ‘Geodesics on the Spheroidal Earth – I’

Fourier’s Wonderful Idea – II

Solving PDEs by a Roundabout Route

Fourier-3

Joseph Fourier (1768-1830)

Joseph Fourier, born just 250 years ago, introduced a wonderful idea that revolutionized science and mathematics: any function or signal can be broken down into simple periodic sine-waves. Radio waves, micro-waves, infra-red radiation, visible light, ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma rays are all forms of electromagnetic radiation, differing only in frequency  [TM136 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

Continue reading ‘Fourier’s Wonderful Idea – II’


Last 50 Posts

Categories