Month: August 2016

Who are some of the great mathematicians?

We owe a great debt to scores of mathematicians who helped lay the foundation for our modern society with their discoveries. Here are some of the most important.

Shea Gunther

May 22, 2013, 6:20 p.m.

Maths

Photo: Tim Geers/flickr

Math. It’s one of those things that most people either love or hate. Those who fall on the hate side of things might still have nightmares of showing up for a high school math test unprepared, even years after graduation. Math is, by nature, an abstract subject, and it can be hard to wrap your head around it if you don’t have a good teacher to guide you.

But even if you don’t count yourself a fan of mathematics, it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t been a vital factor in our rapid evolution as a society. We reached the moon because of math. Math allowed us to tease out the secrets of DNA, create and transmit electricity over hundreds of miles to power our homes and offices, and gave rise to computers and all that they do for the world. Without math, we’d still be living in caves getting eaten by cave tigers.

Our history is rich with mathematicians who helped advance our collective understanding of math, but there are a few standouts whose brilliant work and intuitions pushed things in huge leaps and bounds. Their thoughts and discoveries continue to echo through the ages, reverberating today in our cellphones, satellites, hula hoops and automobiles. We picked five of the most brilliant mathematicians whose work continues to help shape our modern world, sometimes hundreds of years after their death. Enjoy!

Isaac Newton

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

We start our list with Sir Isaac Newton, considered by many to be the greatest scientist of all time. There aren’t many subjects that Newton didn’t have a huge impact in — he was one of the inventors of calculus, built the first reflecting telescope and helped establish the field of classical mechanics with his seminal work, “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.” He was the first to decompose white light into its component colors and gave us the three laws of motion, now known as Newton’s laws. (You might remember the first one from school: “Objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by an external force.”)

We would live in a very different world had Sir Isaac Newton not been born. Other scientists would probably have worked out most of his ideas eventually, but there is no telling how long it would have taken and how far behind we might have fallen from our current technological trajectory.

Carl Gauss

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Carl Gauss (1777 – 1855)

Isaac Newton is a hard act to follow, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Carl Gauss. If Newton is considered the greatest scientist of all time, Gauss could easily be called the greatest mathematician ever. Carl Friedrich Gauss was born to a poor family in Germany in 1777 and quickly showed himself to be a brilliant mathematician. He published “Arithmetical Investigations,” a foundational textbook that laid out the tenets of number theory (the study of whole numbers). Without number theory, you could kiss computers goodbye. Computers operate, on a the most basic level, using just two digits — 1 and 0, and many of the advancements that we’ve made in using computers to solve problems are solved using number theory. Gauss was prolific, and his work on number theory was just a small part of his contribution to math; you can find his influence throughout algebra, statistics, geometry, optics, astronomy and many other subjects that underlie our modern world.

John von Neumann

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

John von Neumann (1903-1957)

John von Neumann was born in Budapest a few years after the start of the 20th century, a well-timed birth for all of us, for he went on to design the architecture underlying nearly every single computer built on the planet today. Right now, whatever device or computer that you are reading this on, be it phone or computer, is cycling through a series of basic steps billions of times over each second; steps that allow it to do things like render Internet articles and play videos and music, steps that were first thought up by John von Neumann.

Von Neumann received his Ph.D in mathematics at the age of 22 while also earning a degree in chemical engineering to appease his father, who was keen on his son having a good marketable skill. Thankfully for all of us, he stuck with math. In 1930, he went to work at Princeton University with Albert Einstein at the Institute of Advanced Study. Before his death in 1957, von Neumann made important discoveries in set theory, geometry, quantum mechanics, game theory, statistics, computer science and was a vital member of the Manhattan Project.

Alan Turing

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Alan Turing (1912 – 1954)

Alan Turing a British mathematician who has been call the father of computer science. During World War II, Turing bent his brain to the problem of breaking Nazi crypto-code and was the one to finally unravel messages protected by the infamous Enigma machine. Being able to break Nazi codes gave the Allies an enormous advantage and was later credited by Winston Churchill as one of the main reasons the Allies won the war.

Besides helping to stop Nazi Germany from achieving world domination, Alan Turing was instrumental in the development of the modern day computer. His design for a so-called “Turing machine” remains central to how computers operate today. The “Turing test” is an exercise in artificial intelligence that tests how well an AI program operates; a program passes the Turing test if it can have a text chat conversation with a human and fool that person into thinking that it too is a person.

Alan Turing’s career and life ended tragically when he was arrested and prosecuted for being gay. He was found guilty and sentenced to undergo hormone treatment to reduce his libido, losing his security clearance as well. On June, 8, 1954, Alan Turing was found dead of apparent suicide by his cleaning lady.

Turing’s contributions to computer science can be summed up by the fact that his name now adorns the field’s top award. The Turing Award is to computer science what the Nobel Prize is to chemistry or the Fields Medal is to mathematics. In 2009, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for how his government treated Turing, but stopped short of issuing an official pardon.

Benoit Mandelbrot

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Benoit Mandelbrot (1924-2010)

Benoit Mandelbrot landed on this list thanks to his discovery of fractal geometry. Fractals, often-fantastical and complex shapes built on simple, self-replicable formulas, are fundamental to computer graphics and animation. Without fractals, it’s safe to say that we would be decades behind where we are now in the field of computer-generated images. Fractal formulas are also used to design cellphone antennas and computer chips, which takes advantage of the fractal’s natural ability to minimize wasted space.

Mandelbrot was born in Poland in 1924 and had to flee to France with his family in 1936 to avoid Nazi persecution. After studying in Paris, he moved to the U.S. where he found a home as an IBM Fellow. Working at IBM meant that he had access to cutting-edge technology, which allowed him to apply the number-crunching abilities of electrical computer to his projects and problems. In 1979, Mandelbrot discovered a set of numbers, now called the described by science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke as Mandelbrot set, that were “one of the most beautiful and astonishing discoveries in the entire history of mathematics.” (To learn more about the technical steps behind drawing the Mandelbrot set, click over to the infographic I made last year for a class that I’m taking.)

Benoit Mandelbrot died of pancreatic cancer in 2010.

NASA Needs Your Help

NASA Space Robotics Challenge Prepares Robots for the Journey to Mars

Robonaut 5
The Space Robotics Challenge offers a $1 million prize purse for teams that successfully program a virtual Robonaut 5 robot through a series of complex tasks in a simulated Mars habitat.
Credits: NASA

NASA, in partnership with Space Center Houston, the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center, and NineSigma, a global innovation consultant organization, has opened registration for a new competition — the Space Robotics Challenge. This event seeks to develop the capabilities of humanoid robots to help astronauts on the journey to Mars.

The Space Robotics Challenge is a $1 million prize competition designed to push the boundaries of robotic dexterity. Teams must program a virtual robot, modeled after NASA’s Robonaut 5 (R5) robot, to complete a series of tasks in a simulation that includes periods of latency to represent communications delay from Earth to Mars.

NASA is interested in enhancing robot capabilities to push the boundaries of what’s possible in human exploration and to improve lives on Earth. As missions grow longer and more complex, robots like R5 could be used as precursor explorers that precede crewed missions, as crew helpers in space or as caretakers of assets left behind. Sturdy R5 technology could also benefit life on Earth by operating in dangerous or extreme environments on our home planet.

“Precise and dexterous robotics, able to work with a communications delay, could be used in spaceflight and ground missions to Mars and elsewhere for hazardous and complicated tasks, which will be crucial to support our astronauts,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges. “NASA and our partners are confident the public will rise to this challenge, and are excited to see what innovative technologies will be produced.”

The competition will be held in a virtual environment. Each team’s R5 will be challenged with resolving the aftermath of a dust storm that has damaged a Martian habitat. This involves three objectives: aligning a communications dish, repairing a solar array, and fixing a habitat leak.

Registration for the Space Robotics Challenge begins today, with a qualifying round running from mid-September to mid-November. Finalists of that round will be announced in December and will engage in open practice from January to early June 2017. The final virtual competition will be held in June 2017, and winners will be announced at the end of June at Space Center Houston.

Software developed through this challenge will be transferable across other robotics systems, allowing the technology produced to be used both with older robotics models, such as the Robonaut 2, and any future models developed.

With the technology generated by this challenge, robots could participate in precursor missions to selected landing sites, arriving long before astronauts to set up habitats, life support systems, communications and solar apparatuses, and even begin preliminary scientific research.

NASA’s Centennial Challenges program is part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, and is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. STMD uses challenges to gather the best and brightest minds in academia, industry, government and the Nation to drive innovation and enable solutions in important technology focus areas. Innovators from diverse backgrounds, within and outside of the aerospace industry, are invited to be contributors to our Journey to Mars.

Space Center Houston is a part of the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation, a nonprofit science and space learning center.

NineSigma, based in Cleveland, Ohio, connects organizations with external innovation resources to accelerate innovation in private, public and social sectors.

For more information on the Space Robotics Challenge, visit:

http://nasa.gov/spacebot

Last Updated: Aug. 18, 2016
Editor: Loura Hall

NASA’s Controversial ARM Mission to be Debated at 2016 Mars Society Convention

Kids Talk Radio Science:  Bob Barboza will be presenting a session on the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures and participating on the educational panel.   The Mars Society event starts on September 22, 2016.

http://www.KidsTalkRadioScience.com

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NASA’s Controversial ARM Mission to be Debated at 2016 Mars Society Convention

Despite NASA’s recent decision to move forward with its proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), questions still remain about the project’s growing cost and support within Congress and by the next presidential administration, as well as its usefulness in developing experience and technology for a human mission to Mars.

ARM is intended to send a robotic spacecraft to a Near Earth Asteroid to collect a small boulder from the object and move it to cislunar space. Astronauts will then visit the captured boulder during a planned Orion mission in 2026 in order to test deep space operations in advance of a trip to the Red Planet.

In an effort to further educate the public about this project, the Mars Society has scheduled a high-level debate entitled “Do We Need the Asteroid Redirect Mission?” as part of its 19th Annual International Mars Society Convention, scheduled for Thursday, September 22nd at 7:30 pm at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Participating in the ARM debate will be:

Pro
+ Dr. Louis Friedman, Co-Founder & Executive Director Emeritus, The Planetary Society
+ Dr. Thomas Jones, Former NASA Astronaut, Author and Former Member, NASA Advisory Council
Con
+ Dr. Robert Zubrin, President & Founder, The Mars Society, and President, Pioneer Astronautics
+ Art Harman, Director, Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration, and Former Legislative Director, Office of Congressman Steve Stockman

Speaking that same evening at 7:00 pm immediately prior to the ARM debate will be Dr. Dan Mazanek, Mission Investigator of NASA’s ARM program, providing a full overview of the spacecraft’s current planning and status.

Join us for what will certainly be an interesting and timely debate! Full information about the 2016 Mars Society Convention is currently available online, including registration details, banquet dinner reservations and the complete program itinerary.

US High School Students Work As Interns At SpaceX

At Hawthorne-based SpaceX, high school students learn to reach for the stars

Hundreds of standout college engineering students launch their careers each year as SpaceX interns, working long hours beside some of the country’s best rocket engineers at the trailblazing Hawthorne commercial spaceflight company.

But only a few high school students get the same opportunity.

A handful of teens are chosen annually from Hawthorne’s three high schools to walk through the glass doors at 1 Rocket Road and join the visionary team at Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s headquarters.

They aren’t tasked with building rockets, of course. But they are assigned work that’s crucial to keeping the round-the-clock company running smoothly. They’re stationed in the heart of the operation, in the information-technology lab, where they troubleshoot computer problems and maintain employee work stations.

“We try to have close partnerships with Hawthorne high schools,” said community outreach manager Lilian Haney. “We treat it like our regular college intern program. The students have to submit resumes and cover letters.”

Teachers recommend their best science and engineering students from Da Vinci science, design and communications charter schools, Hawthorne Math & Science Academy and Hawthorne High School. SpaceX then chooses a few of those hopefuls each year.

Inside the giant gleaming white rocket-building warehouse, students learn about the real world from the perspective of a company focused on expanding human access to Mars and beyond.

“I find it amazing that humans can send stuff to space and how far we’ve come,” said Vincent Ornelas, a new graduate of Da Vinci Schools in Hawthorne who snagged one of the coveted spots this summer. The 19-year-old is about to start college classes at Loyola Marymount University studying mechanical engineering.

When he began his SpaceX internship, Ornelas said he’d built robots at school but they were just toys. Working among top-notch engineers taught him that, above all, success takes a lot of work.

“I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew they wanted to go to Mars but I learned there’s a lot to that. It’s a real situation here. It’s important.

“On the robotics team at school, we went from designing a robot to making a finished product in six weeks. I have a couple mentors who work here. There’s a lot of structure behind what’s done.”

There are three Da Vinci Schools students, including Ornelas, working as interns there now. Natasha Morse, the school’s director of real-world learning, said students covet the spots.

…………………………..

“Students are just always so excited to be in the environment of SpaceX,” Morse said. “They feel like an adult employee. It really motivates them for college.”

Rachael Tucker, manager of the company’s high school interns, said she looks for candidates who are great students and eager to learn.

“Most of them are in awe of the sheer volume of work. It can be a little overwhelming,” Tucker said. “But most are eager to go out and explore and learn what they can. This job really gets them out of their shells. You can’t be shy here.”

Interns participate in weekly classes about the company’s specialties — complex electrical hardware and software built from the ground up, computer science, mathematical modeling, rocket manufacturing, structural engineering and launch pad infrastructure.

The challenges are constant. Since the inaugural launch of the Falcon 9 in 2010, SpaceX has suffered crashes, an explosion, and aborted and delayed launches. But there were more successes than failures and, last year, the company became the first to bring a rocket back to Earth from orbit intact.

SpaceX continues to grow rapidly and is increasing the number of launches as it works toward creating a near-perfect reusable rocket. Reusability, company founder Elon Musk believes, is the key to expanding access to space.

Musk, who also founded Tesla Motors — which has a design studio next door to SpaceX in Hawthorne — and now owns SolarCity, among other ventures, regularly works at the SpaceX office’s open-air cubicles and engineering and testing labs.

Molly Mettler, 19, has been interning at SpaceX for two years, and hasn’t had a full conversation with the famous inventor-engineer-entrepreneur, but has heard him speak at lectures.

“He’s really smart,” she said, adding that Musk is one of the topics her friends usually ask about, along with what the rockets and work environment are like.

Mettler recently started college at UC Davis, where she hopes to mesh her love of engineering with animal science. Veterinary medicine often lags behind modern advances, she said, and there is room for engineering innovations in fields like prosthetics.

She started her internship after her sophomore year but has continued to return because she enjoys the work. The experience she got fixing computers also landed her a part-time job at college.

“It’s a very fast-paced company that’s always constantly moving forward and changing,” Mettler said. “In a sense, your work is never finished and the time pressure makes problems more difficult.”

Day to day, she gets to watch the rockets and Dragon capsules being built, piece by piece. And she can hobnob with the engineers to learn more about their cutting-edge creations. New spacecraft can be seen at all stages of development on the work floor, attended by teams of workers. A cafeteria that looks over the operations provides low-cost, healthy meals.

In the midst of work stations, launch operations and feeds from the International Space Station are constantly monitored on giant screens in a glassed-in command center.

“I was definitely more to myself when I started,” she said. “As a high-schooler working at SpaceX, you want to live up to and exceed expectations.”

Students at the Barboza Space Center are looking to collaborate with other high school students that are working in related space intern  programs.  We are using distance learning and hands on programs at the Columbia Memorial Space Center.   We will come your letters of intent and student resumes.

http://www.BarbozaSpaceCenter.com

Interns At Space X

At Hawthorne-based SpaceX, high school students learn to reach for the stars

Hundreds of standout college engineering students launch their careers each year as SpaceX interns, working long hours beside some of the country’s best rocket engineers at the trailblazing Hawthorne commercial spaceflight company.

But only a few high school students get the same opportunity.

A handful of teens are chosen annually from Hawthorne’s three high schools to walk through the glass doors at 1 Rocket Road and join the visionary team at Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s headquarters.

They aren’t tasked with building rockets, of course. But they are assigned work that’s crucial to keeping the round-the-clock company running smoothly. They’re stationed in the heart of the operation, in the information-technology lab, where they troubleshoot computer problems and maintain employee work stations.

“We try to have close partnerships with Hawthorne high schools,” said community outreach manager Lilian Haney. “We treat it like our regular college intern program. The students have to submit resumes and cover letters.”

Teachers recommend their best science and engineering students from Da Vinci science, design and communications charter schools, Hawthorne Math & Science Academy and Hawthorne High School. SpaceX then chooses a few of those hopefuls each year.

Inside the giant gleaming white rocket-building warehouse, students learn about the real world from the perspective of a company focused on expanding human access to Mars and beyond.

“I find it amazing that humans can send stuff to space and how far we’ve come,” said Vincent Ornelas, a new graduate of Da Vinci Schools in Hawthorne who snagged one of the coveted spots this summer. The 19-year-old is about to start college classes at Loyola Marymount University studying mechanical engineering.

When he began his SpaceX internship, Ornelas said he’d built robots at school but they were just toys. Working among top-notch engineers taught him that, above all, success takes a lot of work.

“I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew they wanted to go to Mars but I learned there’s a lot to that. It’s a real situation here. It’s important.

“On the robotics team at school, we went from designing a robot to making a finished product in six weeks. I have a couple mentors who work here. There’s a lot of structure behind what’s done.”

There are three Da Vinci Schools students, including Ornelas, working as interns there now. Natasha Morse, the school’s director of real-world learning, said students covet the spots.

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“Students are just always so excited to be in the environment of SpaceX,” Morse said. “They feel like an adult employee. It really motivates them for college.”

Rachael Tucker, manager of the company’s high school interns, said she looks for candidates who are great students and eager to learn.

“Most of them are in awe of the sheer volume of work. It can be a little overwhelming,” Tucker said. “But most are eager to go out and explore and learn what they can. This job really gets them out of their shells. You can’t be shy here.”

Interns participate in weekly classes about the company’s specialties — complex electrical hardware and software built from the ground up, computer science, mathematical modeling, rocket manufacturing, structural engineering and launch pad infrastructure.

The challenges are constant. Since the inaugural launch of the Falcon 9 in 2010, SpaceX has suffered crashes, an explosion, and aborted and delayed launches. But there were more successes than failures and, last year, the company became the first to bring a rocket back to Earth from orbit intact.

SpaceX continues to grow rapidly and is increasing the number of launches as it works toward creating a near-perfect reusable rocket. Reusability, company founder Elon Musk believes, is the key to expanding access to space.

Musk, who also founded Tesla Motors — which has a design studio next door to SpaceX in Hawthorne — and now owns SolarCity, among other ventures, regularly works at the SpaceX office’s open-air cubicles and engineering and testing labs.

Molly Mettler, 19, has been interning at SpaceX for two years, and hasn’t had a full conversation with the famous inventor-engineer-entrepreneur, but has heard him speak at lectures.

“He’s really smart,” she said, adding that Musk is one of the topics her friends usually ask about, along with what the rockets and work environment are like.

Mettler recently started college at UC Davis, where she hopes to mesh her love of engineering with animal science. Veterinary medicine often lags behind modern advances, she said, and there is room for engineering innovations in fields like prosthetics.

She started her internship after her sophomore year but has continued to return because she enjoys the work. The experience she got fixing computers also landed her a part-time job at college.

“It’s a very fast-paced company that’s always constantly moving forward and changing,” Mettler said. “In a sense, your work is never finished and the time pressure makes problems more difficult.”

Day to day, she gets to watch the rockets and Dragon capsules being built, piece by piece. And she can hobnob with the engineers to learn more about their cutting-edge creations. New spacecraft can be seen at all stages of development on the work floor, attended by teams of workers. A cafeteria that looks over the operations provides low-cost, healthy meals.

In the midst of work stations, launch operations and feeds from the International Space Station are constantly monitored on giant screens in a glassed-in command center.

“I was definitely more to myself when I started,” she said. “As a high-schooler working at SpaceX, you want to live up to and exceed expectations.”

Lockheed Martin will discuss Mars Base Camp

Bob Barboza is scheduled to present at the upcoming Mars Society Convention.  He will be talking about “The Occupy Mars Learning Adventures” STEAM++ programs and his special STEM Martian habitat projects with the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey, California. Lockheed Martin will discuss Mars Base Camp.
Lockheed Martin to Discuss Mars Base Camp & STEM Education at 2016 Mars Society Convention

Two senior representatives of Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s leading aerospace and global security companies, will participate in the 19th Annual International Mars Society Convention, scheduled for September 22-25, 2016 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

With the recent announcement of Lockheed Martin’s Mars Base Camp plan, which would transport astronauts from Earth to a Mars-orbiting science laboratory by 2028, Tim Cichan, Space Exploration Architect for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, will discuss the new mission proposal during a plenary talk on Friday, September 23rd at 10:30 am.

Mr. Cichan leads a multi-disciplinary team of engineers who work to help astronauts and robots visit the Moon, asteroids and Mars. Having joined Lockheed Martin in 2002, he has worked for both human spaceflight and commercial communication satellite teams on optimal trajectory design, mission analysis, subsystem development and systems engineering.

As a major supporter of STEM education, Lockheed Martin will also participate in the convention’s STEM Education & the Pathway to Mars panel discussion, set for Saturday, September 24th at 11:00 am. Representing the company will be Jennifer Mandel, Director of STEM Programs and the person responsible for Lockheed Martin’s Generation Beyond, an initiative to spark student interest in STEM and inspire the next generation of astronauts and engineers.

Previously, Ms. Mandel managed strategic communications for the transportation solutions line of business within Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services. She also served as director of marketing communications at Infotech Strategies, a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.

For more information about the 2016 Mars Society Convention, including registration details and full program itinerary, please visit our web site.

STEM Programs Afterschool

The Next Generation Science Standards: what do they mean for afterschool?

By Robert Abare

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) offer a powerful new vision for American science education for the 21st century. NGSS brings long-needed reforms to national and state K-12 science education standards, incorporating decades of new research on how students best learn science—by actively investigating topics and solving real-world problems, just like real scientists and engineers do!

So far, NGSS has been adopted by 16 states and the District of Columbia, as well as several individual schools and districts. If it hasn’t already, NGSS will soon be influencing how your students are expected to learn STEM. To help program providers understand how afterschool fits in to the NGSS, the Afterschool Alliance has developed a new guide, Getting Started with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Key components of our new NGSS guide

  • An explanation and history of how NGSS was developed and who the key collaborators were.
  • The underlying philosophy of the NGSS, which encourages kids to learn science by doing.
  • An overview of the standards themselves.
  • How afterschool providers can work with partner schools and use NGSS as a way to improve their practice.

Back in April, we hosted a webinar that digs into the research behind the standards, and offers a couple examples of how afterschool programs are thinking about NGSS. Watch the recording, and stay tuned for our next NGSS-related webinar in September.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy Getting Started with the Next Generation Science Standardsand share it with other educators who might find this resource useful!