Community Digest

Top new questions this week:

Blackboards as math tech!

A question about the history of the maths classroom (which I hope isn't off topic). The idea of using a chalky stone to write graffiti diagrams on a dark plastered wall (marks that could be washed off ...

asked by Peter Smith 3 votes
answered by Gerald Edgar 2 votes

Who was E. Busche?

Donald E. Knuth reports in his: TAOCP: Volume 1: Fundamental Algorithms (3rd ed.) in $\S1.2.4$: Integer Functions and Elementary Number Theory: Exercise 38 that this result: $$\sum_{0 \mathop \le k \...

mathematicians biographical-details  
asked by Prime Mover 3 votes
answered by njuffa 7 votes

Where can I find the complete papers of abstracts published by P. G. Tait in Proc. Roy. Soc. Edinburgh in 1880?

I am interested in looking up P. G. Tait's flawed proof of the four-colour theorem, published in 1880. The citation that I have seen is: P. G. Tait, On the colouring of maps, Proc. Roy. Soc. ...

mathematics reference-request geometry graph-theory  
asked by anonymous_user 3 votes

What is the source of Hopf's (boundary) lemma?

In an introductory course on PDE's I got as a project to prove and present a version of Hopf's (boundary) lemma. Namely: Let $\Omega \subset R^{d}$ be an non-empty open connected set with a twice ...

mathematics reference-request  
asked by André Armatowski 3 votes

Who came up with the name "Manhattan distance"?

Who came up with the name "Manhattan distance" (for the distance between two points as measured by the sum of the horizontal and vertical distances, as opposed to the length of the straight ...

mathematics terminology geometry  
asked by Akiva Weinberger 3 votes
answered by njuffa 5 votes

How much radiation did the Curies get while synthetising Radium?

While Marie Skłodowska's husband, Pierre Curie, died in a traffic accident, she died of cancer. Various sources claim that the radiation she got during their experiments might have contributed ...

physics radiation radioactivity radiobiology  
asked by peterh - Reinstate Monica 3 votes

Could 17th century astronomers in the Netherlands predict solar eclipses a few months in advance?

In the 17th century Netherlands, could the astronomers, or sailors trained in stellar navigation, predict either total or partial (at least 40% obscured) solar eclipses over the the town of Aardenburg ...

physics astronomy 17th-century navigation  
asked by Bob516 2 votes
answered by Alexandre Eremenko 1 vote

Greatest hits from previous weeks:

What's the famous story about a mathematician who gave a talk without saying a word?

Years ago, I read a story about a mathematician who found a numerical counterexample to some conjecture long believed to be true. He gave a talk during which he didn't utter a single word but simply ...

biographical-details discoveries number-theory  
asked by user4894 57 votes
answered by Conifold 72 votes

Old square bracket notation for units

As discussed in this answer there are several common conventions for the notation $[q]$ of a physical quantity $q$. However, I often see people to put ...

physics notation units engineering  
asked by student 4 votes
answered by Otto 1 vote

Why were 20th Century German scientists so impressive?

German (and Austrian) scientists of the late 19th - early 20th centuries seem to have been the backbone of most of modern physics - namely quantum theory/mechanics. The following are a few predominant ...

quantum-mechanics theoretical-physics physicists education scientists  
asked by galois 21 votes
answered by Alexandre Eremenko 19 votes

Why did Aristotle make mistakes in his laws of motion?

I was studying Aristotle's laws of motion and comparing them to Newton's. He states that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones. I really can't understand how he could have committed such a ...

physics philosophy-of-science ancient-greece ancient aristotle  
asked by jack 6 votes
answered by Conifold 10 votes

What equation is Stephen Hawking most noted for?

I am trying to equate the famous Stephen Hawking to some of our other famous scientists and noted that the vast majority have an associated equation with their name. As for example Einstein was the ...

quantum-mechanics cosmology  
asked by Sedumjoy 10 votes
answered by Conifold 16 votes

Mathematical results that became known long after their authors passed away

Liouville published Galois' work a decade after the death of this singular mathematician. Are there other cases of results being rescued by the mathematical community long after their authors were ...

mathematicians mathematics-social-history  
asked by Leandro Caniglia 14 votes
answered by Big Brother 18 votes

Ancient Chinese numbering system

It has been said that the invention of zero was a great leap forward, not only in abstract understanding, but in the ability to introduce place value notation and do computations; computing using ...

mathematics number-theory ancient-china zero  
asked by rogerl 23 votes
answered by Will Orrick 19 votes

Can you answer these questions?

Validity of Maxwell's equations in the aether's reference frame

If Maxwell's equations were experimentally found on Earth such as Faradays law, coulombs law , and worked in the Earth's frame of reference, then why did people believe them to be valid in the aether'...

physics theoretical-physics electromagnetism light maxwell  
asked by Kashmiri 1 vote

Fourth powers and quartic equations before Descartes

How did mathematicians interpret quartic equations and fourth powers before Descartes propose to perform elementary arithmetic on line segments? I ask this because it seems strange to me that ...

mathematics reference-request geometry elementary-algebra descartes  
asked by Renan Maneli Mezabarba 1 vote

Did a boat full of Louis XIV's Jesuits and some Siamese dignitaries plan on seeing a solar eclipse on May 17, 1687

The interesting Cosmic Elk article Eclipses in Siam (now Thailand) History and Legends says: While the Siamese ambassadors and their entourage were visiting ship yards and armouries and making ...

astronomy 17th-century france  
asked by uhoh 1 vote
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