Tag Archives: Mathematics

Meet the Woman Who Supervised the Computations That Proved an Atomic Bomb Would Work

Naomi Livesay worked on computations that formed the mathematical basis for implosion simulations. Despite her crucial role on the project, she is rarely mentioned as more than a footnote—until now

By Katie Hafner, The Lost Women of Science Initiative on August 3, 2023

Credit: Paula Mangin

Listen to the podcast: https://beta.prx.org/stories/484826

Nic Lewis: She was walking past where Oppenheimer was living. And he had walked outta his house just a little before her and he paused and waited for her to catch up. he asked all about how she was doing, what was happening in the punch card operation, what kind of results they were getting. Did she need anything?

She was astounded.

Katie Hafner: During World War II, thousands of scientists took part in the three year race led by J. Robert Oppenheimer to build an atomic bomb that would end the war. Hundreds of those scientists were women. They were physicists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians … and computation experts, whose calculations helped determine if the theoretical ideas behind the bomb would work.

This is Lost Women of the Manhattan Project, a special series of Lost Women of Science focusing on a few of those women.

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/meet-the-woman-who-supervised-the-computations-that-proved-an-atomic-bomb-would-work/

How Pythagoras turned math into a tool for understanding reality

The ‘music of the spheres’ was born from the effort to use numbers to explain the universe

By Tom Siegfried, Contributing Correspondent, May 9, 2023 at 7:00 am

The Pythagoreans believed that the motions of the heavenly bodies, with just the right ratios of their distances from a central fire, made pleasant music — a concept that evolved into the “music of the spheres.” NASA, ESA, the GOODS Team, and M. Giavalisco (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)/T. Tibbitts

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “the music of the spheres,” your first thought probably wasn’t about mathematics.

But in its historical origin, the music of the spheres actually was all about math. In fact, that phrase represents a watershed in the history of math’s relationship with science.

In its earliest forms, as practiced in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, math was mainly a practical tool for facilitating human interactions. Math was important for calculating the area of a farmer’s field, for keeping track of workers’ wages, for specifying the right amount of ingredients when making bread or beer. Nobody used math to investigate the nature of physical reality.

Source: How Pythagoras turned math into a tool for understanding reality