Tuesday, October 16, 2018, is the one hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary of the discovery of quaternions, one of the most difficult discoveries ever in the history of mathematical physics. The discovery was made — in a sudden moment of inspiration following 11 years of studious toil — by Sir William Rowan Hamilton as he was crossing Brougham Bridge, in Ireland, with his wife. On the spot, or so it is said, he carved his famous equations on the bridge.
Some years later, Hamilton recalled:
They started into life, or light, full grown, on the 16th of October, 1843, as I was walking with Lady Hamilton to Dublin, and came up to Brougham Bridge. That is to say, I then and there felt the galvanic circuit of thought closed, and the sparks which fell from it were the fundamental equations between I, J, K; exactly such as I have used them ever since. I pulled out, on the spot, a notebook, which still exists, and made an entry….
Although Hamilton’s original inscription does not survive, the plaque shown above hangs on the bridge to this day in commemoration both of Hamilton’s discovery and of his sudden inspiration. The plaque reads:
Here as he walked by
on the 16th of October 1843
Sir William Rowan Hamilton
in a flash of genius discovered
the fundamental formula
for quaternion multiplication
i2 = j2 = k2 = i j k = -1
& cut it on a stone of this bridge
Here’s to Hamilton, to quaternions, to bridges, and to inspiration!
The 2018 MDSGC Student Research Symposium, held Saturday, July 28, showcased presentations by more than 40 student interns and researchers working at sites across Maryland. Topics ranged from rocket payloads to black holes to detecting bio-signatures in desert rocks. Institutions represented included Capitol Technology University, Goddard Space Flight Center, Hagerstown Community College, Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, the United States Naval Academy, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of Maryland College Park, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The full program can be found here.
MDSGC congratulates all participants on a productive summer and looks forward to more of their successes in the future!
All participants and attendees are invited to submit feedback on the symposium here.
Attention, STEM educators, students, and space enthusiasts! Did you know NASA has a weekly service providing information about student and educator opportunities — workshops, scholarships, internships, and more — as well as inspirations for the latest and greatest ideas for science education? If you’re not already registered, head over to the NASA signup page now!
MDSGC proudly supported presentations by several students at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), held January 8-12, 2018, in Washington, DC.
The poster topics included using the 2017 total solar eclipse to repeat Arthur Eddington’s 1919 test of General Relativity; using Towson University’s telescope to study the resolution of Olbers’ Paradox; and using the asteroid Psyche to test the Equivalence Principle. What the projects have in common is their connection to astronomical observations and fundamental physics, a strong emphasis on hands-on student research, and their supervisor: Towson University Professor James Overduin. The three posters presented at the AAS meeting represent collaborations among Towson faculty and students and several local high school students.
The solar eclipse poster generated considerable discussion that kept its authors Keri McClelland and Kelsey Glazer busy answering questions. Professor Overduin explained its popularity: “It seems that we are one of only two or three teams who have tried to do this (replicate Eddington’s test with the 2017 eclipse) and that only one other has been able to do more than us.”
MDSGC congratulates the Towson team on their accomplishments and wishes them success in their future projects! The three student posters are reproduced below.
The Baltimore MUREP Aerospace Academy (formerly SEMAA) held its yearly STEM Extravaganza on Saturday, September 9th, at Morgan State University.
MDSGC was represented by a contingent from Johns Hopkins, along with our partners from Space Telescope Science Institute. Thanks to all our young STEM enthusiasts and parents who stopped by to pay us a visit and learn about scientific ballooning! We hope to see you again soon at one of our upcoming Observatory Open Houses.
On August 21st, 2017, the Moon passed in front of the Sun as seen from much of North America, in an event that was hailed as a Great American Eclipse. (Another contender for that title will occur on April 8, 2024, in case you missed this one!) While a total eclipse was visible from within a narrow band stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, Maryland experienced a partial solar eclipse. In Maryland, approximately 80% of the solar surface was obstructed at the maximum, which occurred at approximately 2:43 pm local time. For any partial solar eclipse, please note: It is not safe to observe a partial solar eclipse without special equipment and/or eye protection — regular sunglasses are not okay!
The JHU Annual Physics Fair, sponsored in part by MDSGC, was held on Saturday, April 29, 2017. This event brought hundreds of visitors, primarily families with school age children, to JHU’s Physics and Astronomy Department for a day of physics and science fun, replete with hands-on demonstrations, craft activities, contests, tours, and live science shows from a Professor Extraordinaire!
MDSGC would like to congratulate our balloon lift prediction contest winners: “The Prince brothers” and Pavin. Both groups correctly estimated the lift of our 3-foot helium balloon within the margin of measurement error. Thanks to all our visitors and contestants, and we look forward to seeing you again at next year’s Fair.
For those attendees who just can’t get enough science fun, visit the department’s Physics Fair Links Roundup, a stockpile of related material heavy on hand-selected Youtube videos of crazy physics in action.
MDSGC’s Balloon Payload Program is gearing up for a busy year, with three launches so far this spring and more planned throughout the summer and fall. Launches happen early in the morning, usually from Clear Spring Elementary School in Clear Spring, MD. To see for yourself what all the fuss is about, contact Professor Mary Bowden for information about attending a launch!
Welcome to the new Maryland Space Grant Consortium website. We have reorganized our content to make your experience even better. Looking for programs? Find them in What We Do. Want to learn more about us? Take a look at the Who We Are section. Want to play a role? Head to the Get Involved area.
We are excited to have you interacting with our new face to the world, and please contact us with any feedback.