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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Feynman

UFOs (Unusual Feynman Objects)…

 

Richard Feynman was a once-in-a-generation intellectual. He had no shortage of brains. (In 1965, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on quantum electrodynamics.) He had charisma. (Witness this outtake from his 1964 Cornell physics lectures [available in full here].) He knew how to make science and academic thought available, even entertaining, to a broader public. (We’ve highlighted two public TV programs hosted by Feynman here and here.) And he knew how to have fun. The clip above brings it all together.

From Open Culture (where one can also find Feynman’s elegant and accessible 1.5 minute explanation of “The Key to Science.”)

 

As we marvel at method, we might recall that it was on this date in 1864 that Giovanni Batista Donati made the first spectroscopic observations of a comet tail (from the small comet, Tempel, 1864 b).  At a distance from the Sun, the spectrum of a comet is identical to that of the Sun, and its visibility is due only to reflected sunlight.  Donati was able to show that a comet tail formed close to the Sun contains luminous gas, correctly deducing that the comet is itself partially gaseous.  In the spectrum of light from the comet tail, Donati saw the three absorption lines now known as the “Swan bands” superimposed on a continuous spectrum.

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“Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry”*…

Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.
—Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature

Benoit Mandelbrot, Sterling Professor of Mathematics at Yale and the father of fractal geometry, died last Thursday at age 85.  As Heinz-Otto Peitgen, professor of mathematics and biomedical sciences at the University of Bremen, observed, “if we talk about impact inside mathematics, and applications in the sciences, he is one of the most important figures of the last 50 years.”

“I decided to go into fields where mathematicians would never go because the problems were badly stated,” Dr. Mandelbrot once said. “I have played a strange role…”  Indeed, one hopes that Mandelbrot had the consolation of his own fascination as he contemplated the diffusion pattern of the pancreatic cancer that killed him.

At TED2010, mathematics legend Benoit Mandelbrot develops a theme he first discussed at TED in 1984 — the extreme complexity of roughness, and the way that fractal math can find order within patterns that seem unknowably complicated.

* Richard Feynman

In other sad news, Barbara Billingsley, the avatar of American motherhood in her role as Mrs. Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver, passed away on Saturday.

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As we marvel at patterns nested within themselves, we might recall that it was on this date in in 1962 that In 1962, Dr. James D. Watson, Dr. Francis Crick, and Dr. Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for their work in determining the double-helix molecular structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

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It’s all about the ink…

Euler’s Identity (source)

Called “the most remarkable formula in mathematics” by Richard Feynman, Leonhard Euler‘s Identity, as the equation in the tattoo is known, was named in a reader poll conducted by Mathematical Intelligencer as the most beautiful theorem in mathematics. Another reader poll conducted by Physics World named it the “greatest equation ever.” *

One can find other mathematical and scientific tattoos here…  and if one wishes to design one’s own, well…

… just click here.

As we steel ourselves for the needle, we might recall that on this date in 1947, George C. Marshall, a former general serving as Secretary of State, gave the speech at Harvard that laid the foundation for what became known as The Marshall Plan– the program under which the U.S. provided around $12 Billion (a fraction of the sum that the Federal government is “investing” in G.M, but real money in those days… ) to help finance the economic recovery of Europe in the wake of World War II.

George C. Marshall

Oh, and lest we forget, June is Accordion Appreciation Month.

* Why is Euler’s Identity considered beautiful?  Three basic arithmetic operations occur exactly once each: addition, multiplication, and exponentiation. The identity also links five fundamental mathematical constants:

-The number 0.
-The number 1.
-The number π, which is ubiquitous in trigonometry, geometry of Euclidean space, and mathematical analysis (π ≈ 3.14159).
-The number e, the base of natural logarithms, which also occurs widely in mathematical analysis (e ≈ 2.71828).
-The number i, imaginary unit of the complex numbers, which contain the roots of all nonconstant polynomials and lead to deeper insight into many operators, such as integration.

And the equation is “balanced,” with zero on one side.

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