Friday, October 31, 2014

Adolf von Baeyer and the Color Blue

Adolf von Baeyer
(1835 – 1917)
On October 31, 1835, German chemist and Nobel Laureate Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer was born. He was the first who succeeded with the synthesis of indigo (1880) and formulated its structure (1883), for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1905.

Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer was interested in chemical experiments from early age. His father was a lieutenant-general and originated the European system of geodetic measurement. Von Baeyer enrolled at the University of Berlin in 1853 studying mostly mathematics and physics. He visited Bunsen's laboratory in Heidelberg and began working on methyl chloride. Von Baeyer published his first work in 1857 and was able to start working at Kekulé's private laboratory in Heidelberg. He became interested in the ingenious structure theory and received his doctorate in 1858 in Berlin for his work on cacodyl compounds which had been done in Kekulé's laboratory. [1,3]

About two years later, the scientist became university teacher and lecturer in organic chemistry at the "Gewerbe-Akademie" in Berlin. In 1866, the University of Berlin, at the suggestion of A.W. Hofmann, conferred on him a senior lectureship, which, however, was unpaid. In this period however, Baeyer started his work on indigo, which soon led to the discovery of indole and to the partial synthesis of indigotin. Also in this period, Baeyer developed his theory of carbon-dioxide assimilation in formaldehyde. He was appointed chair at the University of Munich after Justus von Liebig had passed away and Baeyer was able to perform the synthesis of indigo. One year later, in 1881, the Royal Society of London awarded him the Davy Medal for his work with indigo. To celebrate his 70th birthday, a collection of his scientific papers was published in 1905. [1,2]

Adolf von Baeyer's work was known to be completed with admirable penetration and extraordinary experimental skill. He was careful never to overestimate the value of a theory. While Kekulé sometimes approached Nature with preconceived opinions, von Baeyer would say: "I have never set up an experiment to see whether I was right, but to see how the materials behave". Even in old age his views did not become fixed, and his mind remained open to new developments in chemical science. [1]

At yovisto, you may be interested in a short video on how to create indigo.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hans Grade - German Aviation Pioneer

Hans Grade before takeoff, 1912
On October 30, 1909, German aviation pioneer Hans Grade won the 40.000 Reichsmark "Lanz-Preis der Lüfte", flying a new monoplane design, the 'Libelle' (Dragon Fly), the first really airworthy motor plane of Germany. Most probably, you have never heard of Hans Grade, who is also scarcely known in his home country. Nevertheless, he is one of the early pioneers of aviation and today, we will tell his story.

Hans Grade was born on May 17, 1879, in Köslin, the largest city of Middle Pomerania in today's north-western Poland. Working as a trainee in mechanical engineering in Grevenbroich, Cologne, he studied engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Berlin from 1900 to 1904. In 1903, Grade designed and constructed his first motorbike in Köslin and took over an engine workshop. In 1905, he founded the Grade-Motoren-Werke GmbH in Magdeburg and in 1907, he began experiments with a triplane at Magdeburg Athletic Field. On 28 October 1908 he successfully conducted the first motor-flight over German soil in a motorized triplane aircraft of his own construction at Magdeburg, where he succeeded in making a short hop, attaining an altitude of 8 meters. In September 1909, he made the first recognized flight of a German designed and built airplane from the Johannisthal Aerodrome at Berlin. The first flights were scarcely more than hops, but by November, 1909, he had logged one journey of 55 minutes duration.

On 30 October 1909, flying a new monoplane design he won the 40.000 Reichsmark "Lanz-Preis der Lufte", for the first German to fly a flat "8" in a German aircraft with German engine around two pylons 1000 meters apart, no match for pilots from other nations at that time. In 1910, Grade established the first aviation school in Germany. Grade continued with air displays in Hamburg, Bremen, Breslau and Magdeburg. On April 10, 1910, Grade sets an altitude record in Magdeburg of 1450 meters and in 1912 he was awarded The Crown Medal 4th class by the German Emperor.

It was also a Grade monoplane that carried Germany's first air mail, when pilot Pentz made a flight from Bork to Bruck in February 1912 with a small sack of mail in his lap. Although successful, Grade monoplanes did not become as famous as many contemporary European designs, and for this reason comparatively few were built. The small aircraft company, founded with his prize money, did not survived the Versaille-agreement of 1918. His extraordinary construction of driving a car with no use of a gear-box did not stand against the established constructions.

In 1921 he established an automobile company called "Grade Automobilwerke AG", which produced small, 2 seater personal cars. The Grade Automobilwerke AG was closed in 1927 owing to financial difficulties. After the Nazi takeover in the 1930s Grade tried, without success, to develop a new Volksflugzeug and in 1934 he undertook research projects for the German aircraft manufacturers. In 1939 May 14 he re-flew his original monoplane from 1909, then 30 years old, at Berlin Tempelhof Airport for about 550 metres to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. Hans Grade died in 1946 at the age of 67.

At yovisto you can learn more about the future of aviation and space flight in the presentation from Marc Millis on 'Space Flight Predictions: After AI & Transhumanism'

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Othniel Charles Marsh and the Great Bone Wars

O.C. Marsh (back row and center), surrounded by armed assistants for his 1872 expedition.
On October 29, 1831, American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh was born. Being one of the preeminent scientists in the field, he discovered over 1000 fossils and contributed greatly to knowledge of extinct North American vertebrates. From the 1870s to 1890s he competed with rival paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope in a period of frenzied Western American expeditions known as the Bone Wars.

The term "paleontology" was coined just nine years before Othniel Charles Marsh's birth October 29, 1831 on a farm in Lockport, New York. A family of modest means, his father's only ambition for his son was that he become a field hand on the family farm. But his mother Mary was the younger sister of famous banker and philanthropist George Peabody. Unfortunately she died when the boy was not quite 3 years old. With the support of his millionaire uncle, Marsh graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover in 1856 and Yale College in 1860. He then studied geology and mineralogy at Yale's Sheffield Scientific School (1860-1862), and afterwards paleontology and anatomy in Berlin, Heidelberg and Breslau (1862-1865). He returned to the United States in 1866 and was appointed the first Professor of vertebrate paleontology at Yale University in the U.S. It was at this time, in the early 1860s, while Peabody was making plans for the eventual distribution of his fortune to worthy causes, that Marsh persuaded him to include Yale in his list of beneficiaries and to establish the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale with a gift of $150,000. In 1867 he was appointed one of the Museum’s first curators, and also assumed the (unofficial) directorship of the Museum which he had been instrumental in establishing.[2] Marsh himself received a substantial inheritance after Peabody’s death in 1869, which spared him the necessity of receiving a salary from Yale — and doing the teaching to earn it.

Marsh should meet his strongest competitor and opponent Edward Drinker Cope, while being in Berlin as a graduate student. Edward Drinker Cope was born nine years after Marsh on July 28, 1840 to a wealthy family in Pennsylvania. He took an immediate liking to natural history as a child and attended classes at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. At 18, Cope published his first scholarly article while working as a researcher at the Academy of Natural Sciences. In 1863, to avoid Cope being drafted into the Civil War, Cope's father sent his son to Germany to study natural history. There he met fellow graduate student O.C. Marsh at age thirty-two, also attending the University of Berlin. Marsh held two university degrees in comparison to Edward's lack of formal schooling past sixteen, but Edward had written 37 scientific papers in comparison to Marsh's two published works. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1864, Cope and Marsh maintained their friendly relationship and maintained correspondence, exchanging manuscripts, fossils, and photographs.[4]

Legend has it that the battle between the men began when Marsh paid some of Cope's hired diggers to send fossils to him and not to Cope. Matters became worse in 1870, when Cope published a description of Elasmosaurus, a giant plesiosaur - and Marsh gleefully pointed out that Cope had accidentally placed the skull on the wrong end of the beast. The battle was on: for the next twenty years, the two men attacked and slandered each other in print, while they and their crews raced to find and describe the most and the finest new fossils. Each scientist hired field crews to unearth and ship back fossils as fast as possible. The rival crews were known to spy on each other, dynamite their own and each other's secret localities to keep their opponents from digging there, and occasionally steal each other's fossils - all the time exposed to harsh conditions and danger from hostile Native Americans. Marsh eventually "won" the so-called "Bone Wars" by finding 80 new species of dinosaur, while Cope found 56. Cope did not take this lightly, and the two fought within scientific journals for many years to come, rumored to be at the expense of recognized scientific method.[4]

Credited with the discovery of more than a thousand fossil vertebrates and the description of at least 500 more, Marsh published major works on toothed birds, gigantic horned mammals, and North American dinosaurs. He also wrote Fossil Horses in America (1874) and Introduction and Succession of Vertebrate Life in America (1877). Marsh garnered national attention in the late 1860s when he revealed that the alleged remains of a prehistoric man known as the Cardiff Giant were fake.[3] O.C. Marsh died on March 18, 1899, a few years after his great rival Cope

At yovisto you can learn more about paleontology in the TED talk of Dr. Paul Sereno on 'What can Fossils Teach Us?'.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Constantine and the Battle at the Milvian Bridge

Battle of the Milvian Bridge by Giulio Romano, 1520-24
On October 28, 312 AD, the Battle of the Milvian Bridge between the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius took place. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. According to historians, the battle marked the beginning of Constantine's conversion to Christianity and thus fostered the rise of Christianity.

So, just another of those Roman Battles? Well, some consider it as THE decisive battle in the rise of Christianity - and therefore also responsible for the course of development of the entire so-called 'Western' world. But, let's first look at the historical facts. The underlying causes of the battle were the rivalries inherent in Diocletian's Tetrarchy. The power was divided among four rulers, a system instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293 AD, marking the end of the Crisis of the Third Century and the recovery of the Roman Empire. The four Tetrarchs based themselves not at Rome but in other cities closer to the frontiers, mainly intended as headquarters for the defence of the Empire against bordering rivals and barbarians at the Rhine and Danube. The four Tetrarchic capitals were: Nicomedia in northwestern Asia Minor (modern Izmit in Turkey), Sirmium (modern Sremska Mitrovica) in the Vojvodina region of modern Serbia, Mediolanum (modern Milan, near the Alps), and Augusta Treverorum (modern Trier, in Germany, where I was doing my PhD by the way....).

After Diocletian stepped down on 1 May 305, his successors began to struggle for control of the Roman Empire almost immediately. Although Constantine was the son of the Western Emperor Constantius, the Tetrarchic ideology did not necessarily provide for hereditary succession. When Constantius died on 25 July 306, his father's troops proclaimed Constantine as Augustus in Eboracum (York). In Rome, the favorite was Maxentius, the son of Constantius' imperial colleague Maximian, who seized the title of emperor shortly after on 28 October 306. But whereas Constantine's claim was recognized by Galerius, ruler of the Eastern provinces and the senior emperor in the Empire, Maxentius was treated as a usurper. Galerius ordered his co-Augustus, Severus, to put him down in early 307. Once Severus arrived in Italy, however, his army defected to Maxentius. Severus was captured, imprisoned, and executed. Galerius himself marched on Rome in the autumn, but failed to take the city.

Constantine avoided conflict with both Maxentius and the Eastern emperors for most of this period. By 312, however, Constantine and Maxentius were engaged in open hostility with one another, although they were brothers in law. In the spring of 312, Constantine gathered his forces and decided to oust Maxentius himself. He easily overran northern Italy, winning two major battles: the first near Turin, the second at Verona.

It is commonly stated that on the evening of 27 October with the armies preparing for battle, Constantine had a vision which led him to fight under the protection of the Christian God. The details of that vision, however, differ between the sources reporting it. From Eusebius, two accounts of the battle survive. The first, shorter one in the Ecclesiastical History promotes the belief that God helped Constantine but does not mention any vision. In his later Life of Constantine, Eusebius gives a detailed account of a vision and stresses that he had heard the story from the Emperor himself. According to this version, Constantine with his army was marching, when he looked up to the sun and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words "Εν Τούτῳ Νίκα", En toutō níka, usually translated into Latin as "in hoc signo vinces," both phrases have the literal meaning "In this sign,[you shall] conquer;" At first he was unsure of the meaning of the apparition, but in the following night he had a dream in which Christ explained to him that he should use the sign against his enemies. Eusebius then continues to describe the labarum, the military standard used by Constantine in his later wars against Licinius, showing the Chi-Rho sign.

When the two armies clashed at the Milvian Bridge in Rome, Constantine won a decisive victory. The dispositions of Maxentius may have been faulty as his troops seem to have been arrayed with the River Tiber too close to their rear, giving them little space to allow re-grouping in the event of their formations being forced to give ground. The temporary bridge set up alongside the Milvian Bridge, over which many of the Maxentian troops were escaping, collapsed, and those stranded on the north bank of the Tiber were either taken prisoner or killed. Maxentius was among the dead, having drowned in the river while trying to swim across it in a desperate bid to escape or, alternatively, he is described as having been thrown by his horse into the river.

Constantine’s victory gave him total control of the Western Roman Empire paving the way for Christianity to become the dominant religion for the Roman Empire and ultimately for Europe. The following year, 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan, which made Christianity an officially recognised and tolerated religion in the Roman Empire.

At yovisto you can learn more the Roman Empire under emperor Constantine in the lecture series of Prof Diana Kleiner on Roman Architecture about 'Rome of Constantine and a New Rome'.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Jean-Rondolphe Perronet and the Bridges of Paris

Jean-Rodolphe Perronet (1708-1794)
On October 27, 1708, French architect and structural engineer Jean-Rodolphe Perronet was born. He is best known for his many stone arch bridges, among them his most popular work, the Paris Pont de la Concorde.

Jean-Rodolphe Perronet was born in Suresnes, a suburb of Paris, the son of a Swiss Guardsman. At 17 he entered the architectural practice of Jean Beausire, "first architect" to the city of Paris, as an apprentice. He was put in charge of the design and construction of Paris's grand sewer, embankment works and the maintenance of the banlieue's roads. In 1735, he was named sous-ingénieur (under-engineer) to Alençon. Perronet’s perceived energy for the district of Alençon came to the notice of Trudaine - the overseer of finances in charge of roads - who put him in charge of training surveyors and those drawing maps to provide competent staff for the Ponts et Chaussées - Bridges and Embankments (Civil Engineering Department) in 1736. [3] In 1737, he became sous-ingénieur, then engineer to the généralité of Alençon.

In 1747, Perronet was named director of the Bureau des dessinateurs du Roi (Royal office of designers), which had also just put Daniel-Charles Trudaine in charge of producing maps and plans for the kingdom. This first École des ponts et chaussées was based in the hôtel Libéral Bruant in Paris. Perronet was given the task of training bridge and road engineers and of overseeing their work in the généralités in which they worked. The Bureau became the Bureau des élèves des ponts et chaussées, then in 1775 was renamed the École des ponts et chaussées. Its organiser, inspiration and teacher, Perronet was a true spiritual father to his students and used a new teaching method which seems very contemporary to modern eyes. During this time he became friends with the Swiss bridge-builder Charles Labelye. Perronet was an outstanding leader and teacher, and the "spiritual father" of the 350 engineers he trained during the 47 years in which he directed the School. Once they had qualified from the School, Perronet was often responsible for their appointments and then followed their progress and gave them advice throughout their careers.

Perronet’s work as an engineer is just as remarkable and innovative as his work as an administrator. During construction of a bridge at Mantes in 1763, Perronet made the discovery that the horizontal thrust of a series of elliptical arches was passed along to the abutments at the ends of the bridge. Armed with this knowledge, he carried the stone arch bridge to its ultimate design form, with extremely flat arches that were supported during construction by timbering (falsework) and mounted on very slender piers, which widened the waterway for navigation and reduced scour from the current.[2]

Pont de Neuilly, completed in 1794
Besides his 13 bridges, he constructed more than 2500 km of tree-lined roads when working for the District of Paris, but also worked as a hydraulic engineer on the Canal de l’Yvette; he can be seen as a founding father of Neoclassicism. Together with his pupil, Émiliand-Marie Gauthey , he sought the best building-stones in France, subjecting them to scientific tests to ensure the Church of Ste-Geneviève would be structurally stable. Perronet is therefore of great importance in the development of structural theory, experiment, and calculations and projects to supply drinking to Paris, the harbours of Cherbourg and Saint Jean de Luz, and the Ports of Le Havre, Dunkerque and Saint Domingo. He also contributed, in an advisory capacity to a multitude of other projects. [3] The best-known bridges — among the thirteen that Perronet designed — are the Pont de Neuilly (completed 1774 and often called the most graceful stone bridge ever built), the Pont Sainte-Maxence (1785), and the Pont de la Concorde (1791), still standing.

Perroner was named premier ingénieur du roi in 1763 and became a member of the associate of the Académie des sciences in 1765. Besides his bridges, he also contributed the article Pompe à feu (fire-engine) to the Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. In 1772, Perronet was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He was 80 years old when he began the Pont de la Concorde, originally called the Pont Louis XV, in 1787. Despite the outbreak of the French Revolution, he kept the work going, completing it in 1791. In 1794, Perronet died in Paris, aged 85.

At yovisto, unfortunately we don't have a video featuring the work of Jean-Rodolphe Perronet. Nevertheless, you might be interested in a lecture of Design Thinking by Timothy Brown about 'Designers should think big'.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Giovanni Maria Lancisi and his Medical Discoveries

Giovanni Maria Lancisi (1654-1720)
On October 26, 1654, Italian physician, epidemiologist and anatomist Giovanni Maria Lancisi was born. A personal physician to three popes, he is considered the first modern hygienist. He made a correlation between the presence of mosquitoes and the prevalence of malaria. He was also known for his studies about cardiovascular diseases, and is remembered in the eponymous Lancisi's sign.

Giovanni Maria Lancisi, also often referred to under his Latinized name Johannes Maria Lancisius, was educated at the Collegio Romano and the University of Rome, where he where he studied philosophy and liberal arts. He also briefly studied theology, but became progressively interested in natural history. Finally, he turned his attention to medicine and enrolled in the senior college of the Sapienza at Rome from where he graduated as Doctor of Philosophy and Medicine in 1672. [3]

In 1684, Lancisi was appointed Public Professor of Anatomy in the Senior College of the University of Sapienza in Rome. Ag ate 34, Lancisi was appointed physician to Pope Innocent XI and in 1689 after the Pope's death subsequently he was physician to Popes Innocent XII and Clement XI. Lancisi wrote the classic monograph De subitaneis mortibus (1707, “On Sudden Death”) at the request of Clement XI to explain an increase in the number of sudden deaths in Rome. Lancisi attributed sudden death to such causes as cerebral hemorrhage, cardiac hypertrophy and dilatation, and vegetations on the heart valves. This treatise and De motu cordis et aneurysmatibus (1728, “On the Motion of the Heart and on Aneurysms”), in which he discussed the various causes of heart enlargement and was the first to describe aneurysms of syphilitic origin, markedly contributed to knowledge of cardiac pathology.

Although a clear description of angina pectoris would not appear for more than half a century, Lancisi described complaints which surely represented this entity. He wrote, “internal pains of the chest, accompanied at one moment by difficulty of breathing, especially when ascending hills, and at another by a strangling sensation of the heart and frequently by an uneven pulse ... are apt to kill out of time, particularly if the patients subject themselves to violent exertions and glut themselves with unwholesome food. ” Lancisi also published De Noxiis Paludum Effluviis (On the Noxious Effluvia of Marshes) in 1717, in which he recognized that mosquito-infested swamps are the breeding ground for malaria and recommended drainage of these areas to prevent it.

He was given the lost anatomical plates of Bartolomeo Eustachius by Pope Clement XI. These plates were made in 1562 and had been forgotten in the Vatican Library. Lancisi edited and published them in 1714 as the Tabulae anatomicae. Early in the 18th century, Lancisi had protested the medieval approaches to containing rinderpest in cattle by famously stating that “it is better to kill all sick and suspect animals, instead of allowing the disease to spread in order to have enough time and the honour to discover a specific treatment that is often searched for without any success”. It was no wonder then, that it was the same Giovanni Maria Lancisi who made the first breakthrough in the control of rinderpest, a procedure that was later adopted by Thomas Bates.

Arguably, Lancisi's most notable medical contribution was the anatomical description of the medial longitudinal striae of the corpus callosum, in addition to other documents he wrote in the field of neurology. Lancisi was a multifaceted man with vast interests outside of medicine including language and literature.[2] Lancisi died in 1720 after brief illness.

At yovisto, you can learn more about Malaria, one of the diseases Giovanni Maria Lancisi was struggling with in the lecture of Gresham College Prof. Francis Cox on "Twenty-first Century Threats: Malaria".

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

William Higinbotham and Tennis for Two

Tennis for Two played on an Oscilloscope
On October 25, 1910, US-american physicist William "Willy" A. Higinbotham was born. A member of the Manhattan Project, he later became a leader in the nonproliferation movement of nuclear weapons. Moreover, he is also known for his development of 'Tennis for Two', the first interactive analog computer game and one of the first electronic games to use a graphical display.

William Alfred Higinbotham was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and grew up in Caledonia, New York. His father was a minister in the Presbyterian Church. He earned his undergraduate degree from Williams College in 1932 and continued his studies at Cornell University. He worked on the radar system at MIT from 1941 to 1943.

During World War II, he worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and headed the lab's electronics group in the later years of the war, where his team developed electronics for the first nuclear bomb. His team created the bomb's ignition mechanism as well as measuring instruments for the device. Higinbotham also created the radar display for the experimental B-28 bomber. Following his experience with nuclear weapons, Higinbotham helped found the nuclear nonproliferation group Federation of American Scientists, serving as its first chairman and executive secretary. From 1974 until his death in 1994, Higinbotham served as the technical editor of the Journal of Nuclear Materials Management.

The History of video games dates back to the time directly after World War 2. In 1947 Higinbotham took a position at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he worked until his retirement in 1984. In 1958, Higinbotham created Tennis for Two to cure the boredom of visitors to Brookhaven National Laboratory. He learned that one of Brookhaven's computers could calculate ballistic missile trajectories and he used this ability to form the game's foundation. The game was created on a Donner Model 30 analog computer. The game uses an oscilloscope as the graphical display to display the path of a simulated ball on a tennis court. The designed circuit displayed the path of the ball and reversed its path when it hit the ground. The circuit also sensed if the ball hit the net and simulated velocity with drag. Users could interact with the ball using an analog aluminum controller to click a button to hit the ball and use a knob to control the angle. Hitting the ball also emitted a sound. The device was designed in about two hours and was assembled within three weeks with the help of Robert V. Dvorak.

In fact, when the game was first shown on October 18, 1958, hundreds of visitors lined up to play the new game during its debut. It was such a hit that Higinbotham created an expanded version for the 1959 exposition; this version allowed the gravity level to be changed so players could simulate tennis on Jupiter and the Moon. Higinbotham never patented Tennis for Two, though he obtained over 20 other patents during his career. Largely forgotten for years, critics began to recognize Tennis for Two's significance to the history of video games in the 1980s. Prior to Tennis for Two, there were few computer-based games. NIM and Chess were developed in 1951, followed by OXO or Noughts and Crosses in 1952. However, those games did not display motion or allow dual players to control the action.[3]

Higinbotham remained little interested in video games, preferring to be remembered for his work in nuclear nonproliferation.

At yovisto, you can see the original version of Tennis for Two.

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    Friday, October 24, 2014

    Charles Joseph Minard and the Art of Infographics

    Charles Joseph Minard (1781-1870)
    On October 24, 1870, French civil engineer Charles Joseph Minard passed away. He is best noted for his ground breaking inventions in the field of information graphics.

    Charles Joseph Minard was born on March 27, 1781, in Dijon, France, as the son of Pierre Etienne Minard, a clerk of the court and an officer of the secondary school, and Benign Lame lady. He was baptized at Saint Michel on the day of his birth. At age four Minard learned to read and to write, and when he was six his father enrolled him an elementary course in anatomy. He completed his fourth year of study at the secondary school at Dijon early, and then applied himself to studying Latin, literature, and physical and math sciences. At age 15, he was admitted to the prestigious École Polytechnique, where among his professors among others Lagrange and Fourier made a profound impression on him [1]. He left there in order to study civil engineering at École nationale des ponts et chaussées (the School of Bridges and Roads).

    In September 1810 he was sent by the government to Anvers and then almost immediately to the port of Flessingue. There, he solved a critical problem with a cofferdam that was leaking water faster than it could be removed. He solved the problem by using pumps driven by a steam engine, only the third time this solution had been applied to a project.

    He worked for many years as a civil engineer on the construction of dams, canals and bridge projects throughout Europe. On November 1, 1830, he was named superintendent of the School of Bridges and Roads, where he continued to serve through 1836. While there he was awarded the cross of the Legion of Honor. He then became inspector of the Corps of Bridges until he retired in 1851, after which he dedicated himself to private research.

    Charles Minard's map of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812.
    Minard was a pioneer of the use of graphics in engineering and statistics. He first began to publish cartes figuratives (figurative maps) during the mid-1840s, when he was nearly sixty-five years old. Most of his early maps dealt with flows of goods and passengers along railroad, river and oceangoing routes of commerce. Minard's maps became renowned around France not so much for their statistical or cartographic merits, but for the style he used in visualizing the numerical and relational aspects of flows.[2]

    He is most well known for his famous cartographic depiction of numerical data on a map of of Napoleon's disastrous losses suffered during the Russian campaign of 1812 (Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l'Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813). The illustration is perhaps the single best-known statistical graphic of the nineteenth century and depicts Napoleon's army departing the Polish-Russian border. A thick band illustrates the size of his army at specific geographic points during their advance and retreat. It displays six types of data in two dimensions: the number of Napoleon's troops; the distance traveled; temperature; latitude and longitude; direction of travel; and location relative to specific dates.[2,3] This type of band graph for illustration of flows was later named Sankey diagram.

    At yovisto you can learn more about the visualization of statistical data in the famous TED-talk of Prof. Hans Rosling on 'Let my dataset change your mindset'.

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    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    Felix Bloch and the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Method

    Felix Bloch
    (1905 – 1983)
    Image: Stanford University / Courtesy Stanford News Service
    On October 23, 1905, Swiss-born American physicist Felix Bloch was born. He is best known for his investigations into nuclear induction and nuclear magnetic resonance, which are the underlying principles of MRI. He was awarded the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics for developing the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method of measuring the magnetic field of atomic nuclei.

    Felix Bloch was educated at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, starting out in engineering. Later on, he increased his interest in physics and attended the lectures of Peter Debye and Hermann Weyl at ETH Zürich and Erwin Schrödinger at the University of Zurich.

    One of his fellow students was also John von Neumann. Bloch graduated in 1927 and continued his studies at the University of Leipzig. There, he met and studied with Werner Heisenberg, he received his Ph.D. in 1928. His doctoral thesis established the quantum theory of solids, using Bloch waves to describe the electrons.

    Bloch remained in Europe in the following period. He studied with Wolfgang Pauli in Zürich, Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and Enrico Fermi in Rome. He was then appointed privatdozent in Leipzig and had to leave Germany due to the rise of the Nazi party. Bloch continued his career at Stanford University and later Berkeley. He became a citizen of the United States and worked on nuclear power at Los Alamos National Laboratory during World War II before resigning to join the radar project at Harvard University. Felix Bloch focused on his research on nuclear magnetic resonance and nuclear induction. Nuclear magnetic resonance was first described and measured in molecular beams by Isidor Rabi around 1938. In 1944, Rabi was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for this work on the topic. About two years later, Felix Bloch and Edward Mills Purcell expanded the technique for use on liquids and solids, for which they shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1952. The three scientists, Rabi, Bloch, and Purcell observed that magnetic nuclei could absorb RF energy when placed in a magnetic field and when the RF was of a frequency specific to the identity of the nuclei. When this absorption occurs, the nucleus is described in resonance. Different atomic nuclei within a molecule resonate at different frequencies for the same magnetic field strength. The observation of such magnetic resonance frequencies of the nuclei present in a molecule allows any trained user to discover essential chemical and structural information about the molecule. The development of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance as a technique in analytical chemistry and biochemistry parallels the development of electromagnetic technology and advanced electronics and their introduction into civilian use.

    At yovisto, you may be interested in a video lecture on MRI-Driven Turbulence - MRI-driven Turbulence with Resistivity by Professor Takayoshi Sano at Princeton.

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    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    The Planetary Tables of Erasmus Reinhold

    On October 22, 1511, German astronomer and mathematician Erasmus Reinhold was born. He is considered to be the most influential astronomical pedagogue of his generation. Furthermore, he is best known for his carefully calculated first set of planetary tables applying Copernican theory, published in 1551.

    Erasmus Reinhold was born and died in Saalfeld, Thuringia, Germany. His father Johannes Reinhold was a tax collector. In 1530 went to Wittenberg to study at the Academia Leucorea under Jacob Milich, from where he graduated in 1535 as Magister. In 1536 he was appointed professor of higher mathematics by Philipp Melanchthon. In contrast to the limited modern definition, "mathematics" at the time also included applied mathematics, especially astronomy.

    His colleague, Georg Joachim Rheticus, also studied at Wittenberg and was appointed professor of lower mathematics in 1536. Reinhold catalogued a large number of stars. In summer 1549 he became dean of the artistic faculty and one year later principal of the university Wittenberg. His publications on astronomy include a commentary on Georg Purbach's Theoricae novae planetarum. Reinhold knew about Nicolaus Copernicus and his heliocentric ideas prior to the publication of De revolutionibis and made a favourable reference to him in his commentary on Purbach.

    However, Reinhold like other astronomers translated Copernicus' mathematical methods back into a geocentric system, rejecting heliocentric cosmology on physical and theological grounds. In 1551, Duke Albert of Brandenburg Prussia supported Reinhold and financed the printing of Reinhold's Prutenicae Tabulae or Prussian Tables, upon which Reinhold spent seven years labour. These astronomical tables helped to disseminate calculation methods of Copernicus throughout the Empire. Both Reinholds's Prutenic Tables and Copernicus' studies were the foundation for the Calendar Reform by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. With his tables, Reinhold intended to replace the Alfonsine Tables; he added redundant tables to his new tables so that compilers of almanacs familiar with the older Alfonsine Tables could perform all the steps in an analogous manner. Copernicus's heliocentric claims did not, then, win over the hearts of all European astronomers overnight. Rather, the Prussian Tables became popular in German speaking countries for nationalistic and confessional reasons, it seems, and it is through these tables that Copernicus's reputation was established as a skilled mathematician or an astronomer on a par with Ptolemy, and helped to disseminate the Copernicus' methods of calculating the positions of astronomical objects throughout the Holy Roman Empire.

    Erasmus Reinhold died in 1553 in Saalfeld because of a lung disease at age 42.

    At yovisto, you can learn more about the scientific, social and religious impact of the Copernican Revolution with the lecture 'Mathematics, Motion, and Truth: The Earth goes round the Sun' by Jeremy Gray of Gresham University.

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    Tuesday, October 21, 2014

    Samuel W. Alderson and the Crash Test Dummies

    Thy Hybrid III crash test dummy family
    On October 21, 1914, US-american engineer Samuel W. Alderson was born. He is best known for his development of the crash test dummy, a device that, during the last half of the twentieth century, was widely used by automobile manufacturers to test the reliability of automobile seat belts and other safety protocols.

    Samuel W. Alderson attended several colleges including Reed College, California Institute of Technology, and the University of California Berkeley. However, his higher education was interrupted by his periods of working at his family's sheet-metal business. Alderson started his PhD in physics at the University of Berkeley under J. Robert Oppenheimer and E.O. Lawrence, but never finished his dissertation. He began developing electric motors for missile guidance systems during World War II and continued his career at IBM in order to design motor-powered prosthetic arms. Alderson founded his own company in 1952 in order to create anthropometric dummies to test the safety of the ejection seats used in aircraft.

    Back then, the automobile industry became also increasingly interested in testing the impact of strong forces to the human bodies like in car accidents. It is known that the first experiments were performed with cadavers, mostly older white male bodies were used. Then, volunteers served as living crash test dummies before living animals (mostly pigs) were used to collect the data. However, tests like these were highly controversial. Also, it was hard to collect reliable data that was comparable, since cadavers differed from each other and often could only be used once. Thus, Alderson began creating an anthropometric test dummy that could be mass-produced, tested, and re-tested. [2]

    Other companies enteres the market as well. The very first test dummy was called 'Sierra Sam' followed by Alderson's V.I.P produced in 1968. The V.I.P had a steel rib cage, articulated joints and a flexible neck, with cavities to hold instrumentation, and was designed to mimic the acceleration and weight distribution properties of an average male. The Hybrid I was introduced in the 1970s by General Motors, which combined Alderson's design with that of Sierra Engineering. The following most notable versions were titled Hybrid II and III and had improved neck flexibility and head rotation. Also, the bodies not only simulated a male body anymore, whole dummy families have been created to improve safety in automobiles.

    In the further development of crash test dummies, models were designed for specific impacts, like front or side crashes. Side impact dummies would measure, what happened to the ribs, the spine and internal organs. To the most advanced dummies belong WorldSID model, able to record 258 separate measurements in one test, and the prototype from Denton ATD, with LEDs on each of the dummy’s 12 ribs that can then be tracked by light-angle sensors, thereby measuring movement in all three dimensions.

    Samuel Alderson also became known for his humanoid figures that were able to dub medical phantoms. They were designed to measure radiation exposure, as well as synthetic wounds worn by soldiers during training exercises. The dummies were even capable of oozing fake blood. However, his contribution to automotive safety, in the form of the crash test dummy, that saved the most lives and become an icon of popular culture.

    At yovisto, you may be interested in crash test dummy footage.

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    Monday, October 20, 2014

    Vannoccio Biringuccio and the Art of Metalworking

    De la Pirotechnia (1540)
    by Vannoccio Biringuccio
    Probably on October 20, 1480, Italian matallurgist Vannoccio Biringuccio was born. He is best known for his manual on metalworking, De la pirotechnia, published posthumously in 1540. Biringuccio is considered by some as the father of the foundry industry.

    Biringuccio was born in Siena to Paolo Biringuccio, thought to have been an architect and public servant, and his mother was Lucrezia di Bartolommeo Biringuccio. He was baptised on October 20, 1480. Thus, he might have been born the day before. He was a follower of Pandolfo Petrucci, the head of the powerful Petrucci family, the rulers of the Italian city of Siena. As a young man Biringuccio was travelling in Italy as well as in Germany inspecting metallurgical operations. After running an iron mine and forge at Boccheggiano for Pandolfo Petrucci, he was appointed to a post with the arsenal at Siena and in 1513 directed the mint. When Pandolfo died, Biringuccio remained tied to the Petrucci family, being employed by Pandolfo's son Borghese Petrucci. However, the uprising of 1515 forced Borghese to flee from Siena, taking Biringuccio with him. Biringuccio traveled about Italy, and visited Sicily in 1517.

    In 1523 Pope Clement VII caused the reinstatement of the Petrucci family, and along with them Biringuccio was able to return from exile. In 1524 he was granted a monopoly on the production of saltpeter across all of Siena. However, this was short lived — already in 1526, the people of Siena revolted and threw the Petrucci family out again. Although, the family made an attempt aided by Biringuccio to regain Siena by force, but it failed. Thereafter Biringuccio served the Venetian and Florentine republics, and cast cannon and built fortifications for the Este and Farnese families.

    In 1530, Siena entered a more peaceful phase, and Biringuccio returned, time in honor, as senator and, succeeding Baldassare Peruzzi, as architect and director of building construction at the Duomo. In 1538 he became head of the papal foundry in Rome, and director of munitions. His exact place and date of death is unknown; all that is known is that a document dated 1539 mentions his death.

    The reason for Biringuccio's fame is certainly the publication of his manual on metalworking, De la pirotechnia, published posthumously in 1540. Thus, Biringuccio is considered by some as the father of the foundry industry as De la pirotechnia is the first printed account of proper foundry practice. It also gives details of mining practice, the extraction and refining of numerous metals, alloys such as brass, and compounds used in foundries and explosives. It preceded the printing of De re metallica by Georg Agricola by more than a decade. Moreover, Agricola's famed sections on glass, steel, and the purification of salts by crystallization are in fact taken nearly verbatim from the Pirotechnia. The work is one of earliest technical manuscripts to survive from the Renaissance, and is thus a valuable source of information on technical practice at the time of writing. The work was printed in 1540 in Venice, and has been reprinted numerous times [2].

    Biringuccio is also important in art history for his description of the peculiarly Renaissance arts of casting medallions, statues, statuettes, and bells. His account of typecasting, given in considerable detail, is the earliest known. The Pirotechnia contains eighty-three woodcuts, the most useful being those depicting furnaces for distillation, bellows mechanisms, and devices for boring cannon and drawing wire.[2]

    A member of Fraternita di Santa Barbara guild, before his book information on metallurgy and military arts were closely held secrets. In fact, his book is credited with starting the tradition of scientific and technical literature.[2] Also, Pirotechnia offers one of the first written attempts to explain what causes a rocket to move. Biringuccio attributed the propulsive force to a "strong wind":
    One part of fire takes up as much space as ten parts of air, and one part of air takes up the space of ten parts of water, and one part of water as much as ten parts of earth. Now sulfur is earth, consisting of the four elementary principles, and when the sulfur conducts the fire into the driest part of the powder, fire, and air increase ... the other elements also gird themselves for battle with each other and the rage of battle is changed by their heat and moisture into a strong wind. (Vannoccio Biringuccio, De la Pirotechnia, 1540)
    At yovisto, you can learn more about the epoch of the European Renaissance in the lecture of Prof. Thomas W. Laqceur from Berkeley on 'European Civilization from the Renaissance to the Present'.

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    Sunday, October 19, 2014

    Eudoxus and the Method of Exhaustion

    Eudoxus, Lunar Crater
    As for many people from antiquity, we also have no birthdate for Eudoxus of Cnidus, who was a Greek astronomer, mathematician, scholar and student of Plato. All of his works are lost or have survived as fragments in the texts of other classical writers. He is best known for having developed the method of exhaustion, a precursor to the integral calculus.

    Eudoxus of Cnidus was born around 408 BC as the son of Aischines of Cnidus. His name Eudoxus means "honored" or "of good repute". It is analogous to the Latin name Benedictus. As to his teachers, we know according to the 3rd-century-ce historian Diogenes Laërtius that Eudoxus travelled to Tarentum, Italy, where he studied with Archytas who was a follower of Pythagoras, from whom he learned mathematics. Eudoxus also visited Sicily, where he studied medicine with Philiston, before making his first visit to Athens in the company of the physician Theomedon in about 387 BC. Eudoxus spent two months in Athens on this visit and he certainly attended lectures on philosophy by Plato and other philosophers at the Academy which had only been established a short time before.[1] Eudoxus was quite poor and could only afford an apartment at the Piraeus. To attend Plato's lectures, he walked the seven miles each direction, each day.

    Due to his poverty, his friends raised funds sufficient to send him to Heliopolis, Egypt to pursue his study of astronomy and mathematics. He lived there for 16 months. From Egypt, he then traveled north to Cyzicus, located on the south shore of the Sea of Marmara, the Propontis. He traveled south to the court of Mausolus. During his travels he gathered many students of his own. After a brief interlude in Athens, he eventually returned to his native Cnidus, where he served in the city assembly. However he continued his scholarly work, writing books and lecturing on theology, astronomy and meteorology. He had built an observatory on Cnidus and we know that from there he observed the star Canopus. The observations made at his observatory in Cnidus, as well as those made at the observatory near Heliopolis, formed the basis of two books referred to by Hipparchus. These works were the Mirror and the Phaenomena which are thought by some scholars to be revisions of the same work. Hipparchus tells us that the works concerned the rising and setting of the constellations but unfortunately these books, as all the works of Eudoxus, have been lost.

    In mathematical astronomy, his fame is due to the introduction of the astronomical globe, and his early contributions to understanding the movement of the planets. According to Eudoxus' model, the spherical earth is at rest at the center. Around this center, 27 concentric spheres rotate. The exterior sphere caries the fixed stars, the others account for the sun, moon, and five planets. Each planet requires four spheres, the sun and moon, three each. Eudoxus is considered by some to be the greatest of classical Greek mathematicians, and in all antiquity, second only to Archimedes. His work on proportions shows tremendous insight into numbers; it allows rigorous treatment of continuous quantities and not just whole numbers or even rational numbers. When it was revived by Tartaglia and others in the 16th century, it became the basis for quantitative work in science for a century, until it was replaced by Richard Dedekind, who himself emphasised that his work was inspired by the ideas of Eudoxus.

    Another remarkable contribution to mathematics made by Eudoxus was his early work on integration using his method of exhaustion. This work developed directly out of his work on the theory of proportion since he was now able to compare irrational numbers. It was also based on earlier ideas of approximating the area of a circle by Antiphon where Antiphon took inscribed regular polygons with increasing numbers of sides. According to Eratosthenes of Cyrene, Eudoxus also contributed a solution to the problem of doubling the cube—that is, the construction of a cube with twice the volume of a given cube. Aristotle preserved Eudoxus’s views on metaphysics and ethics. Unlike Plato, Eudoxus held that forms are in perceptible things. He also defined the good as what all things aim for, which he identified with pleasure.

    At yovisto, you you can learn more about Eudoxus in the lecture of Prof. N. J. Wildenberger on 'The Infinity in Greek Mathematics'.

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