Where does the Metric System come from?

The beginning

If any one man can be credited with being the creator of the Metric System it would be the French vicar, Gabriel Mouton. As far back as 1670 his method of measurement, based on the decimal system, was discussed. He based the ideas for this upon the measurement of what would later become a nautical mile: one minute of the the arc of the Earth’s circle. His measurement ideas that he had, including a unit of length based upon a pendulum swing of one beat per second, were all later elaborated on by French scientists, bringing us closer to the current Metric system.

metric system

During the French Revolution these ideas were carried one step further by Talleyrand (the Bishop of Autun). The revolution encouraged many changes and reforms, amongst them the need to reform the way that things were measured and weighed. Talleyrand’s political indulgence and guidance allowed the French Academy to begin research into a new French system for measures and weights. One of the ideas carried forward used the length based on a decimal fraction of the distance between the North Pole and the equator, the move towards decimalization was underway. Continue reading

Mersenne Primes Under the Microscope

What are Mersenne Primes?

The recent discovery of the largest known prime number which is 17 million digits highlighted the importance of Mersenne primes.  This newest prime number and the thirteen largest primes are all Mersenne primes. But what are Mersenne primes really and why are they important in finding the largest prime numbers?

If a prime number can be expressed in the form 2^n - 1, n an integer, then it is said to be a Mersenne prime. The name came from Marin Mersenne who studied them, a French monk and well-known mathematician in the 17th century.

mersenneprimes

Many early mathematicians saw and conjectured that if n is a prime number, 2^n - 1 is prime.  For instance, in the figure above, for n = 2, 3, 5, 7 which are prime numbers, their corresponding 2^n - 1 values are also prime numbers. However, this is not true in general since 2^{11} - 1 = 2047 = (23)(89) is not prime.  Continue reading

The Actual Fermat-Pascal Correspondence

If you are a lover of the history of mathematics, then I am sure that you will be fermat-pascal correspondenceinterested to read the translation of the actual Fermat-Pascal correspondence. In the letters the two mathematicians discussed solutions to gambling problems. These discussions eventually led to understanding of the modern concepts of probability.

Blaise Pascal was a known mathematician, physicist, philospher and inventor in his time. He was also famous for inventing the pascal’s calculator, the first mechanical calculator that could perform automatic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Pierre Fermat, on the other hand, was an amateur mathematician (he was a lawyer by profession) who made significant contributions in number theory, analytic geometry,  and probability. One of his famous conjectures was the Fermat’s Last Theorem

7 Extraordinary Mathematicians You Should Know About

There are numerous mathematicians who have made significant contributions in the field of mathematics. We cannot argue the mathematical greatness of Euclid, Newton, Gauss, Euler, and others who have set the foundation to the many branches of mathematics. In this post, we learn about 7 extraordinary mathematicians who are quite less known — less known in the sense that they are probably familiar to those who study mathematics and related fields.

1. Evariste Galois (1811-1832, France)
Evariste Galois was probably the most unfortunate mathematician who ever lived. He lived during the political turmoil in France. He failed the entrance examinations at Ecole Polytechnique twice because he could not explain his answers, was jailed for six months, and died in a duel at the age of 21.

Evariste Galois

Galois was  ahead of his time. In his teens, he was able to determine necessary and sufficient conditions for algebraic solutions of polynomials to exist. He barely attended college, but most of his contemporaries could not understand his work. He submitted research papers that were either lost or “incomprehensible.”  It was only 14 years after his death that the mathematics community was able to recognize the value of his work.

Despite his short life and his numerous misfortunes, his works gave a firm foundation to group theory. Continue reading

The 10 Misfortunes of Evariste Galois

If you think you’re unfortunate, you should read the biography of Evariste Galois, a mathematical genius who was one of the founders of group theory. He lived during a political turmoil in France, and his life was filled with bad luck and disappointments.

Evariste Galois

Below are the 10 most notable misfortunes of Galois’ life. Continue reading

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