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Author Topic: The "Famous people you've probably never heard of but should have" thread  (Read 15384 times)

Offline BFM_three60

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The thing about Science as a discipline that makes it so reliable is that it can make testable predictions. Obviously, then, the test would have to be carried out and if it turns out that the prediction does not match the results then it's back to the drawing board... but that's how science works. Come up with a theory, test it by experiment, accept or discard it. Rinse and repeat.

One of the more interesting problems of astronomy in the 19th Century was why the orbit of Uranus (pronounced "yurr an uss" properly, by the way, so we can avoid all them thar childish jokes) was off from it "should" have been. Newton's theory of gravity had been around for almost 200 years and tested, refined, etc., over that time. But Uranus just wasn't fitting the theory as it stood at the time. And this problem hadn't been solved for sixty years or so.

So the mathematicians and theorists got to work, refining their calculations, trying out new ideas, correcting for the elliptical motions of Jupiter here and Saturn's being raised out of the celestial plan there. Still no luck.

Finally a French mathematician named Urbain le Verrier tried introducing a new planet, near to Uranus but as yet unseen, and tried fiddling about with where to put it. Eventually, on September 23rd, 1846, his prediction of where this planet could be found arrived at the Berlin Observatory. That very same evening, astronomers there found the planet almost exactly in the place le Verrier told them to look! This planet is now called Neptune.

Predict, test, accept.

At the other side of the Solar system, Mercury's orbit was also found to be highly irregular, and le Verrier suggested that there might be a new planet even closer to the sun than Mercury. This one, by contrast, was never found (because it isn't there), but later Einstein would come along and account for the problem using General Relativity. Predict, test, discard, try something else. Science moves forward.

le Verrier's name can now be found on the Eiffel Tower, on the North-East side.
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Offline BFM_three60

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March 19th marks the 62nd anniversary of Sir Norman Haworth's death, and also the 129th anniversary of his birth. This handy coincidence makes it  lot easier to keep records about him. Anyway...

Haworth was a chemist. Despite that, he did manage to do some useful work involving sugar structures (knowing how a molecule is shaped tells you a lot about how it behaves. we hope), and also successfully synthesized Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid. Of course we could all just eat a lot of oranges, but being able to mass-produce the stuff is obviously very important. Particularly to combat scurvy etc.. Haworth won a Nobel prize for that work.

His final contribution was in introducing a useful scheme for drawing the structures of these complex 3D molecules on a piece of paper, known still as the Haworth projection.

So now you know. Now go forget about him and mark March 20th, 2016 in your diaries. 100th anniversary of General Relativity coming up then, woohoo! Partay! :toot: :toot:
Check out my Short introduction... corner and my "Historical figures who should perhaps be better-known" thread!!

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Offline BFM_three60

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Finally, a decent(-ish) anniversary...

Tomorrow sees the 130th anniversary of Emmy Noether's birth.

Emmy Noether is a mathematician noteworthy for two reasons:

1. She was pretty good.
2. She was a woman - one of very, very few women who've ever worked in mathematics (at least to the point of being famous) - but that's another story...

Perhaps it's not surprising that Emmy Noether became a mathematician, since her father Max was also a thumping good one. Emmy Noether's remarkable career stretched over about 30 years at one of the top mathematics centres in Europe, Gottingen, working with other giants (at least to maths students) as David Hilbert and Felix Klein.

Much of Emmy Noether's work lies in highly technical subjects such as hypercomplex number theory, non-commutative algebras and representation theory, and probably will always be beyond me. But in 1915 she came up with a remarkable, powerful and hugely applicable result, now known as Noether's Theorem.

Technically this says that "for every differentiable symmetry of the action of a physical system the associated Noether current is conserved". I'll try to explain what this means, as briefly as I can.

In High school physics you're introduced to Newton's Law, F=ma and all that, that basically describes motion in terms of forces. This is all well and good, but in the full-scale world of Forces you would have to work with vectors pointing every which way and things just get tedious.

There's an alternative approach, that involves working with energy. Write down a term for how much energy a moving object has, and take potential energy terms (due to gravity, springs, etc.). This sets up the approach known as Lagrangian mechanics, and its cousin Hamiltonian mechanics.

To say this approach is simpler would probably be a downright lie, but there it has a few strengths. No vectors, for one. Secondly it boils down to maths that has been around for ages so there are a lot of tricks of the trade developed over the years. Thirdly, you can jump pretty much straight from this to quantum mechanics, so it's much more general. But anyway...

Again in high school physics, you might consider what happens when two balls hit each other and use "conservation of momentum" to help you solve the problem. That's cool but why is momentum conserved? It's sort of assumed that it is without really being justified.

Here's where Noether's theorem comes in. Instead of assuming that momentum, say, is conserved, you set up the equations, and find that for the two-balls problem it turns out that the balls could be anywhere in space and would behave the same. This is the symmetry of the system in the theorem, where a symmetry is just any way of transforming a system that doesn't actually change it. Now, from Noether's theorem, as a direct consequence of this symmetry there must be something that is conserved, and it turns out to be momentum.

In the same way, if you could start an experiment tomorrow instead of today without making any difference to the way it behaves, then that too corresponds to a symmetry, and from Noether's theorem we find that Energy* is conserved.

Still not excited? Ever heard of a "Theory of Everything" that would try to explain all of physics? How might physicists go about trying to construct one?

The answer, again, is due to Noether's theorem. Conservation of Energy and momentum are old-hat and were known about long before Noether came on to the scene. But this goes the other way too. Suppose you find that something is conserved. Then the equation describing the experiment must have the right symmetry. No ifs, no buts. So you can develop your theory to account for all the observed conservation laws, and discard any ideas that fail to do so.

Anyone who has looked at particle physics at high school will have had a swathe of conservation laws thrown at them - "strangeness", lepton number, flavour, blah blah blah. They come from Noether's theorem. It's that important - giving physicists a whole new way to get a handle on the world.

Mind, you probably still aren't that excited. Oh well.

*Strictly speaking it isn't energy that is conserved, but something called the "Hamiltonian". They're usually the same thing, though - but not always. Keep that one in mind in case it should ever come up...
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 12:03:41 AM by BFM_three60 »
Check out my Short introduction... corner and my "Historical figures who should perhaps be better-known" thread!!

Exciting videos: 1.1 / 1.2 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6



               

Offline BFM_Kiwi

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I was just going to PM you with her name! 



(thanks TrkKing)


Offline BFM_three60

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 :winkgrin:
Check out my Short introduction... corner and my "Historical figures who should perhaps be better-known" thread!!

Exciting videos: 1.1 / 1.2 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6



               

Offline BFM_three60

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It's a sad state of affairs when your greatest contribution to the world is when you die. Still, that's basically the truth in the case of Arthur Tudor, eldest son of Henry VII and older brother of the man who became Henry VIII.

Arthur died in 1502 - 510 years ago today, in fact - shortly after his marriage to a young Catherine of Aragon, who would also become Henry VIII's first wife. The massive religious, legal and constitutional mess that followed some 30 years later, when Henry sought divorce (technically an annulment), tore apart the Church with consequences that are still felt today.

Since the legendary King Arthur, there's never been a king of England with that name. Pity, as maybe this Arthur could have saved England from the turmoil of the 16th Century. We'll never know.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2012, 04:38:26 AM by BFM_three60 »
Check out my Short introduction... corner and my "Historical figures who should perhaps be better-known" thread!!

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Offline BFM_SüprM@ñ

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What do you have against chemists Jim? Not that I'm a chemist but still...
Being a good racer in Halo isn't just about getting the best times. You have to know where your teammates and enemies are, and most of all... how to be crafty! XD -nods-

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Offline BFM_three60

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It's sort of a physics in-joke. The great New Zealand Physicist Rutherford once said that "all science is either physics or stamp-collecting". which makes it very amusing to me that his Nobel Prize was award in Chemistry. but there you go.

Anyway, Physics is clearly the boss of all science. most of the rest is just application.
Check out my Short introduction... corner and my "Historical figures who should perhaps be better-known" thread!!

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Offline -db-swa.

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Anyway, Physics is clearly the boss of all science. most of the rest is just application.


Couldn't agree with you more!

Offline BFM_three60

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This is what the London Underground actually looks like, in terms of where the lines actually are in relation to each other:



A bit of a pain to follow, that? Although you'd probably get used to it.

Still, a lot easier to just know which stations are on which lines and at which stations lines cross:



Mind, even that takes some getting used to, but at least it's relatively easy to follow. Mind, you can have all sorts of fun with it (see, e.g. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson), and experienced users of the Tube start to learn which end of the train to get on.

Anyway, kudos to Harry Beck for realising that the neat circuit diagram tells you all you need to know about getting about. Although it's worth mentioning that the modern layout of the Tube map is not his original work. Still, it was his idea first. Nearly all train networks use his scheme these days.


« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 09:37:20 AM by BFM_three60 »
Check out my Short introduction... corner and my "Historical figures who should perhaps be better-known" thread!!

Exciting videos: 1.1 / 1.2 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6



               

Offline BFM_SüprM@ñ

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Re: The "Famous people you've probably never heard of but should have" thread
« Reply #130 on: August 21, 2012, 03:13:26 PM »
Can we have something about Jules Verne? I've recently started reading some of his works and I'm definitely fascinated. Granted he is rather popular so he probably has been heard of by many here but.... He has become my favorite author.
Being a good racer in Halo isn't just about getting the best times. You have to know where your teammates and enemies are, and most of all... how to be crafty! XD -nods-

Oh... and "v.v" = sad face.







Props to Plixity for the first sig, Slayton for the Season XIII trophy sig, and Jane for the banner(s)! Thx guys! ^.^

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Offline BFM_three60

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Re: The "Famous people you've probably never heard of but should have" thread
« Reply #131 on: August 25, 2012, 03:49:13 AM »
I might add him but he's probably too famous to be included.

Here's a list of (rough) criteria for inclusion in this thread:

1. The person must be a relative unknown. People famous in specialised circles can be mentioned because the layman is probably not aware of them, at least not in any detail. But the giants of their area will never fit in - no room for Keynes the economist, or Newton, or Shakespeare here. I'm sure they're gutted.

2. The person should have influenced the world today. A couple of exceptions for quirky stories to make you smile (such as Pickles the dog), but if they've not had an impact on modern life in some tangible way, sorry. This means that people who are "too" specialised don't fit in - so no mathematician who studies the elliptic integrals in hypercomplex space or other gobbledygook.

Also, and contentiously, I think this rules out most artists, authors and musicians. Very few of those have truly influenced the modern world IMO, and the ones who have are bound to be famous. Beethoven and Mozart; Hendrix and Les Paul; The Beatles and Elvis Presley; Tolkien and CS Lewis; Enid Blyton and Jacqueline Wilson; Monet and Picasso, etc. - all of these people in one way or another have some influence - but in culture, if you've not heard of them then they probably don't matter much any more - since this is about Culture, about taste, and fashions and tastes change.

3. I have to care. So there.
Check out my Short introduction... corner and my "Historical figures who should perhaps be better-known" thread!!

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Offline BFM_SüprM@ñ

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Re: The "Famous people you've probably never heard of but should have" thread
« Reply #132 on: October 04, 2012, 09:42:35 AM »
You should really post something. >.>
Being a good racer in Halo isn't just about getting the best times. You have to know where your teammates and enemies are, and most of all... how to be crafty! XD -nods-

Oh... and "v.v" = sad face.







Props to Plixity for the first sig, Slayton for the Season XIII trophy sig, and Jane for the banner(s)! Thx guys! ^.^

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Offline BFM_SüprM@ñ

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Re: The "Famous people you've probably never heard of but should have" thread
« Reply #133 on: November 04, 2014, 07:14:39 PM »
You should really post something. >.>
-still waiting-
Being a good racer in Halo isn't just about getting the best times. You have to know where your teammates and enemies are, and most of all... how to be crafty! XD -nods-

Oh... and "v.v" = sad face.







Props to Plixity for the first sig, Slayton for the Season XIII trophy sig, and Jane for the banner(s)! Thx guys! ^.^

Applied for Recruitment: January 22nd, 2008
Received Vent: March 25th, 2008
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Resigned: May 15th, 2008
Re-Applied: June 16th, 2009
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Promoted to Corporal: January 30, 2010
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