Happy Birthday, Blaise Pascal

Caty Fairclough June 19, 2018

What sparked Blaise Pascal’s interest in mathematics? One possibility is that when Pascal’s father tried to put off teaching it to his son, it didn’t go as planned. Instead, the delay piqued Pascal’s interest and he wound up teaching himself mathematics, developing an early fascination with the subject. Today, Blaise Pascal is known for his work in mathematics as well as in other areas, such as philosophy and theology.

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Thomas Forrister June 10, 2018

The early 1800s were difficult for the townsfolk of Dijon, France. They’d made several attempts to supply the region with clean water by drilling wells, but the wells were too few, too dirty, and too dry. Fortunately, Henry Darcy, an engineer and Dijon native dedicated to public service, found a solution. His study of fluid dynamics for the project led to the formulation of the equation now known as Darcy’s law, as well as other contributions to hydraulics.

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Thomas Forrister May 21, 2018

Gustave-Gaspard Coriolis was a French physicist with a passion for mechanics. He spent much of his time contemplating the nature of movement in machinery and introduced the concept of kinetic energy in relation to work. When he extended these ideas to rotating machinery, his sphere of influence grew: The Coriolis force and subsequent Coriolis effect are observed in rotating systems with applications in engineering, meteorology, stellar dynamics, and more.

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Caty Fairclough May 13, 2018

What’s at the center of the earth? To answer this question, Inge Lehmann, a Danish geophysicist and seismologist, used seismic waves generated by earthquakes to study the middle of the planet. Her results revealed what truly lies at the center of the earth: a solid inner core inside a molten outer core.

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Caty Fairclough May 4, 2018

Born to a family with a longstanding military lineage, it’s no surprise that Jean-Charles de Borda joined the French army and navy. He was a man of many trades and is also seen as a surveyor, mathematician, political scientist, and physicist. Due to his wide interests, Borda contributed to the advancement of fluid mechanics, geodesy, navigation, and more during his lifetime.

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Thomas Forrister April 30, 2018

Known as the “father of information theory”, Claude Shannon shaped the way we think about computer operations and communications between devices as a single framework. His groundbreaking ideas about testing digital circuits, coding messages in binary, and programming artificial intelligence ushered us into the digital age. The internet was made possible by Shannon’s classical foundations in information science, and thanks to his equations, the amount of data we’re able to store and share consistently increases.

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Thomas Forrister April 15, 2018

Prolific and profound, Leonhard Euler is considered one of the greatest mathematical scientists of all time. He made formative contributions to whole branches of mathematics, among them infinitesimal calculus, graph theory, and topology. Best known for his eponymous formula and identity equation, part of his genius was the ability to apply equations to the world around him and explain scientific concepts in terms that a layperson could understand.

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Brianne Costa March 27, 2018

In early 2018, the northeast coast of the U.S. was hit with three major winter storms (locals “lovingly” call them nor’easters) all in a matter of weeks. Cape Cod in Massachusetts faced especially severe coastal erosion that damaged many homes and businesses. After one of the storms, residents surveyed the aftermath and noticed something interesting…

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Thomas Forrister March 23, 2018

Pierre-Simon Laplace was a French physicist who made many contributions to mathematics and astronomy and is best known for demonstrating the stability of our solar system. Sometimes referred to as “the French Sir Isaac Newton”, Laplace confirmed Newton’s theory of gravitation by applying it to planetary orbits. Many of his formulas are still used by physicists today.

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Jenn Nguyen March 14, 2018

“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” –Albert Einstein A passionate and curious intellectual, Albert Einstein is considered one of the most influential physicists of the 20th century. The German-born mathematician and physicist made numerous discoveries throughout his lifetime. Most notably, he developed the special and general theories of relativity. For discovering the law of the photoelectric effect, he earned a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

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Caty Fairclough March 6, 2018

In 1801, the building around a glassmaker apprentice named Joseph von Fraunhofer collapsed, trapping him in rubble. While he didn’t know it at the time, this dramatic event (and resulting encounter with a prince-elector and politician) set him on the path toward improving the field of optics…

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