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Posts Tagged ‘Leibniz

“The camera is an instrument of detection. We photograph not only what we know, but also what we don’t know”*…


When top chemists and engineers at Harvard and MIT are preparing to reveal new research in the world’s premier journals, they call Felice Frankel.  For over two decades, Frankel has had a front-row seat at some of the biggest discoveries emerging from both ends of Cambridge, photographing experiments within the labs that created them.

Read her extraordinary story in “Photographer has front-row seat for big scientific discoveries“; and check out her work– from daisy-colored yeast colonies through rainbow-colored quantum dots to soft. flexible electronics that can be tattooed onto the skin– on her site.

* Lisette Model


As we find focus, we might remark that today is the birthday of not one but two extraordinary mathematicians:  Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646; variants on his date of birth are due to calendar changes), the German  philosopher, scientist, mathematician, diplomat, librarian, lawyer, co-inventor, with Newton, of The Calculus, and “hero” (well, one hero) of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Trilogy…  and  Alan Turing (1912), British mathematician, computer science pioneer (inventor of the Turing Machine, creator of “the Turing Test” and inspiration for “The Turing Prize”), and cryptographer (leading member of the team that cracked the Enigma code during WWII).

Go figure…

Liebnitz (source: UNC)

Turing (source: Univ. of Birmingham)

Written by LW

June 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

Adventures in the Counterintuitive…

Your correspondent is headed away for a week or so, ranging more then ten times zones from home– the current limit to continuous timely posting of (R)D…  So, while regular service will resume on-or-around the 20th, a little something to keep one occupied:


Readers will recall that, on the occasion of an earlier hiatus, your correspondent wheeled out “the Monty Hall Problem” (c.f., “Riddle Me This” and “Birdbrains“).  This time, with thanks to Prof. Stan Wagon at Macalester College:

Monty Hall Takes a Vacation

Alice and Bob face three doors marked 1, 2, 3. Behind the doors are placed, randomly, a car, a key, and a goat. The couple wins the car if Bob finds the car and Alice finds the key.

First Bob (with Alice removed from the scene) will open a door; if the car is not behind it he can open a second door. If he fails to find the car, they lose. If he does find the car, then all doors are closed and Alice gets to open a door in the hope of finding the key and, if not, trying again with a second door.

Alice and Bob do not communicate except to make a plan beforehand. What is their best strategy?

Source: A. S. Landsberg (Physics, Claremont Colleges, California), Letters, Spring 2009 issue of The Mathematical Intelligencer.

The answer is here— and more nifty puzzles, here.

As we craft our own strategies, we might solve a memorial problem for Gabrielle-Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet, the French mathematician and physicist who is probably better known as Voltaire’s mistress; she died on this date in 1749.  Fascinated by the work of Newton and Leibniz, she dressed as a man to frequent the cafes where the scientific discussions of the time were held. Her major work was a translation of Newton’s Principia, for which Voltaire wrote the preface. The work was published a decade after her death, and was for many years the only translation of the Principia into French.

Judge me for my own merits, or lack of them, but do not look upon me as a mere appendage to this great general or that great scholar, this star that shines at the court of France or that famed author. I am in my own right a whole person, responsible to myself alone for all that I am, all that I say, all that I do. it may be that there are metaphysicians and philosophers whose learning is greater than mine, although I have not met them. Yet, they are but frail humans, too, and have their faults; so, when I add the sum total of my graces, I confess I am inferior to no one.
– Mme du Châtelet to Frederick the Great of Prussia


Waldo, found…

©2009 ~sfumato21

(via Daily What)

As we call off the dogs, we might recall that it was reputedly on this date in 1675 that Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz first used the “long s” as the integral symbol in calculus:

It was understood to be Leibnitz’s co-option of the Latin “summa.”

When Newton and Leibniz first published their versions of calculus (in the late 1680s), there was tremendous controversy over which mathematician (and therefore which country, England or Germany) deserved credit.  Newton derived his results first, but Leibniz published first.  The prickly Newton claimed Leibniz had stolen ideas from Newton’s unpublished notes, which Newton had shared with a few members of the Royal Society; a bitter argument ensued, dividing English-speaking mathematicians from continental mathematicians for many years– much to the detriment of English mathematics.   A careful examination of the papers of Leibniz and Newton has convinced scholars that the two arrived at their results independently, with Leibniz starting with integration; and Newton, with differentiation.  It was the symbolically-gifted Leibniz, however, who gave this new branch of mathematics its name.  Newton called his version of calculus the “the science of fluxions”…  One shudders to imagine that on one’s textbook (or in the mouths of schoolchildren…)

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Written by LW

October 26, 2009 at 12:01 am

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