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"Go to lunch questions:" Hard questions posed by students or prof; correct answer earns a ticket to lunch at a nice place with the instructors at the end of the term.

  1. Q(PH): How did ancient Greek astronomers make their measurements? They needed to record the position of the star in the sky, and the time of the observation, in a way that a colleague in another city could check. So for example, they might have written, I saw Sirius at 30 degrees above the horizon, 42 degrees North of West, on Jan. 1 at midnight. But how did they measure time (at night), to know when midnight was? And how did they know where West was, in a universal way so that everyone would agree?

    A1 (Caridad Dominguez): In Ancient Greek times, a protractor or astrolabe could be used to be angled at the moon. Depending on where the moon is positioned in the sky, these devices can be used to tell time at night. Also, a kclepsydra, also known as a water clock, was used to measure time for the Greeks as hours were not consistent to be the same length day to day. These measurements were not very accurate, but they were useful to a certain extent. Also, the sun rises exactly in the East on the equinoxes because sun rays fall vertically on the Equator these two days of the year, separated 6 months apart which was necessary to more accurately determine where East and West lie to use an astrolabe. Finally, since the equator is considered to be zero degrees, astronomers used this as a starting point to chart maps and establish a universal latitude and longitude to then have more accurate angles which would result in better time keeping and thus be able to establish when it is midnight.

    A2 (Logan McNeer): The Greek astronomers used fixed points such as the north star to give them directions, then used the rising and setting of the sun from East to West as well (P. H. remark: this works, but only on the equinoxes, when there is an equal amount of night and day. Then the sun rises in the East and sets in the West). The Greeks used a measuring system called stadia, which was used around the time of Eratosthenes, when he calculated the circumference of the Earth. Plato invented the water clock as a way to measure time (P.H. remark: he invented a version of it to use as an alarm clock, but water clocks were used generally even earlier, see wikipedia ). There is also a device called the Antikythera, dated back to the late 2nd century BC. Typical of ancient Greek methods, it utilised a deep knowledge of constellations, the zodiac and the movements of the sun and moon to calculate the lengths of months.

  2. Who were the most prominent women physical scientists in the 16th-19th centuries? Don't include Lucia Galeazzi, whom we discussed in the course as having discovered the connection between electricity and biology, the effect now known as galvanism, after her husband (this is typical of a problem historians of science face, as women made many discoveries for which their husbands or brothers took credit at the time). Name at least 4 women from this period and discuss.

    A (Megan Kroft):

    • Emilie du Chatelet (1706) is known for her translation and commenting of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica. She wrote her philosophical magnum opus, Institutions de Physique, and critiqued John Locke. She emphasized the necessity of verification of knowledge through experiences against Locke's thinking in matter. She also predicted what is now known as infrared radiation and the nature of light.
    • Sophie Germain (1776) is known for her effort and works on mathematics. She wrote Essai sur la théie des nombres, number theory. She is regarded as an important role in the foundations of mathematics. E. Duboise regards her as a prime number, the Sophien, to bring significance to her work.
    • Lauren Bassi (1711) was an Italian physicist and achieved the roles of being the first women professor of physics in Europe and the only women appointed to an exclusive group of scholars by Pope Benedict XIV. She was an inspiration to women in the field of Science.
    • Maria Cunitz (1610) was a German astronomer who provided a solution to Kepler's problem, determining the position of a planet in its orbit as a function of time, in her writing Urania Propitia. She provided new calculational models and tables in her work. Maria was acclaimed the most learned women since Hypatia of Alexandria.

    A' (PH): One could also have mentioned Caroline Herschel, 1750- 1848, an astronomer who discovered several comets; Mary Fairfax Somerville 1780 -1872 carried out experiments on magnetism and the sun and was said to be the first women to present a paper at the Royal Society; or Nicole-Reine Lepaute, 1723-1788, who predicted the return of Halley's Comet.

  3. (PH: for short bios of influential women physical scientists, see this page )

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