Thursday, September 24, 2009
Ten Equations That Changed the World
In 1971, the government of Nicaragua issued a series of stamps entitled "Ten Equations That Changed the Face of the World". Several years ago my friend the legendary Saul-Paul Sirag gave me a set of these stamps for my birthday and I recently ran across them in my files while looking for something else. One might quibble with the inclusion of a few of these equations (I would have replaced the DeBroglie relation with Schrödinger's Equation, for instance and Einstein's General Relativity Equation could easily have nudged out Napier's Law) but by and large the designers of these stamps have covered all the bases.
#1. Each of these stamps honors some famous scientist but history has remained silent concerning the identity of the person who invented 1 + 1 = 2.
#2. Pythagorus's Theorem relating the lengths of the sides of a right triangle.
#3. Archimedes's Law describing the action of the lever--quantifies how a little force can lift a heavy object.
#4. Napier's Law for constructing logarithms, an important calculation tool whose utility was diminished only by the invention of modern computers.
#5. Newton's Law of universal gravitation--the same force that pulls the apple pulls the moon.
#6. Maxwell's Equations uniting electricity and magnetism and predicting radio waves.
#7. Boltzmann's Law of thermodynamic--sets limits on the efficiency of steam engines and other devices that use heat as a motive power.
#8. Tsilikovski's Law for accelerating rockets to high velocities.
#9. Einstein's justly famous E equals mc squared.
#10. DeBroglie's relation for the wavelength of a particle of matter--one of the foundation equations of quantum theory.
More information on these stamps and others that honor achievements in science can be found at the University of Buffalo library site.