The Parthenon is a masterpiece of symmetry and proportion. This temple to the Goddess Athena was built with pure white marble quarried at Pentelikon, about 20km from Athens. It was erected without mortar or cement, the stones being carved to great accuracy and locked together by iron clamps. The building and sculptures were completed in just 15 years, between 447 and 432 BC. [TM141 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

## Posts Tagged 'History'

### Optical Refinements at the Parthenon

Published June 21, 2018 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Geometry, History

### Mathematics at the Science Museum

Published May 17, 2018 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Education, History

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].

### Fourier’s Wonderful Idea – II

Published April 5, 2018 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Analysis, History

**Solving PDEs by a Roundabout Route**

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].

### Fourier’s Wonderful Idea – I

Published March 29, 2018 Occasional Leave a CommentTags: Analysis, History

**Breaking Complex Objects into Simple Pieces**

“In a memorable session of the French Academy on the

21st of December 1807, the mathematician and engineer

Joseph Fourier announced a thesis which inaugurated a

new chapter in the history of mathematics. The claim of

Fourier appeared to the older members of the Academy,

including the great analyst Lagrange, entirely incredible.”

** Introduction **

The above words open the *Discourse on Fourier Series*, written by Cornelius Lanczos. What greatly surprised and shocked Lagrange and the other academicians was the claim of Fourier that an arbitrary function, defined by an arbitrarily capricious graph, can always be resolved into a sum of pure sine and cosine functions. There was good reason to question Fourier’s theorem. Since sine functions are continuous and infinitely differentiable, it was assumed that any superposition of such functions would have the same properties. How could this assumption be reconciled with Fourier’s claim?

### Cubic Skulduggery & Intrigue

Published March 15, 2018 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Algebra, History

Babylonian mathematicians knew how to solve simple polynomial equations, in which the unknown quantity that we like to call *x *enters in the form of powers, that is, *x* multiplied repeatedly by itself. When only *x* appears, we have a linear equation. If *x*-squared enters, we have a quadratic. The third power of *x* yields a cubic equation, the fourth power a quartic and so on [TM135 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

### Subtract 0 and divide by 1

Published March 8, 2018 Occasional Leave a CommentTags: Analysis, History

We all know that division by zero is a prohibited operation, and that ratios that reduce to “zero divided by zero” are indeterminate. We probably also recall proving in elementary calculus class that

This is an essential step in deriving an expression for the derivative of .

### Galileo’s Book of Nature

Published February 15, 2018 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Astronomy, History, Mechanics

In 1971, astronaut David Scott, standing on the Moon, dropped a hammer and a feather and found that both reached the surface at the same time. This popular experiment during the Apollo 15 mission was a dramatic demonstration of a prediction made by Galileo three centuries earlier. Galileo was born in Pisa on 15 February 1564, just 454 years ago today [TM133 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].