Changing of the Guard
We spent the sixth and final week of the 1965 Summer Science Program in Ottawa, staying in dorms at Carleton University and splitting up into groups to pursue particular interests. My choice was physics, and this involved research in acoustics at the National Research Council of Canada.
The physics group outdoors at the National Research Council of Canada's complex in Ottawa: Dave Cuthiell, Rick Seary, Kim Cameron, Dr. Edgar A.G. Shaw, Ivars Peterson, Gordon Brown, and Ian Graham.
Dave Cuthiell, Ian Graham, and I developed and performed an acoustics experiment in which we looked at how the shape of an earlobe or ear canal affects the sounds that we hear. We first placed a tiny, sensitive microphone inside the ear and measured the range of frequencies that the microphone could detect. We then modified the ear's shape by adding a lump of plasticine and performed the frequency measurements again.
Dave Cuthiell in the anechoic chamber at the acoustics lab at the National Research Council of Canada, awaiting a test of how the shape of an ear lobe and canal can affect the sounds someone hears.
Each of us had a turn in the anechoic chamber, which had special insulation to eliminate echoes and other sounds that could interfere with the measurements. And the results were striking. In all our tests, the ear's shape had a strong effect on the sounds detected, enhancing some frequencies and diminishing others. We were quite pleased with what we had discovered.
Ian Graham monitoring an experiment in the acoustics research control room at the National Research Council of Canada.
National Research Council of Canada publicity photo of Dave Cuthiell, Ian Graham, and Ivars Peterson at a display during our tour of the facilities.
The physics group at a display at the National Research Council of Canada: Dave Cuthiell, Ivars Peterson, Kim Cameron, Dr. Edgar A.G. Shaw, Ian Graham, Gordon Brown, Rick Seary.
Computer programming at Carleton University's computer center was one of the activity options offered for the final week of the Summer Science Program in Ottawa. The computer was an IBM 1620 and the language FORTRAN. Prof. William H. Bowes is on the right.
Ottawa newspapers reported on our group's activities. This newspaper photo in the Ottawa Journal featured Geri Logie and Art Kidd handling hamsters while visiting with psychology professor W. E. Walther in his lab at Carleton University.
Here's how one newspaper article portrayed us:
"In their blue jeans and sneakers, they're indistinguishable from any other crowd of teenagers.
You couldn't guess just by looking at these 35 boys and girls the effect they've had on some very important people.
They have jolted a National Research Council scientist by conducting an experiment whose results made a shambles of standard textbooks' theories. . . ."
My dorm room at Carleton University: Note the completed (and functioning) Heathkit shortwave radio on the desk and mineral samples on the top shelf.
Participants in the 1965 Summer Science Program. Front row (left to right): Art Kidd, Bunty Bains, Margaret Wood, Lee Stewart, Dorothy Miller, Pat Sheridan, Pat Thorpe, Rick Seary, Bob Nell, Brian Margetson. Second row: Hugh Laurence, Pat Cogan, Elizabeth Meeds, Geri Logie, Gino Tancon, Susan Cochrane, Peter Kowalczyk, Dennis Waddington, Doug Pritchard, Desmond Norris, Larry Kazdan. Third row: Mike Waters, Barbara Heller, John Atchison, Gordon Langford, Gordon Brown, Alan Adamson, Ivars Peterson. Back row: Kim Cameron, Bill Falkner, Dave Cuthiell, Dr. John Anderson, Ted Kosmolak, Ian Graham, John Norton. Absent: Diane Douglas.
The week in Ottawa (and the entire program) ended much too soon for us, as we realized as we wrote our reports and attended the closing banquet on the final Friday. By Saturday morning, most of us were already on our way home.
I went on to major in physics and chemistry at the University of Toronto, then taught in Ontario high schools for eight years (chemistry, science, and physics at Kingston Collegiate and physics and mathematics at Trinity College School in Port Hope). I was very pleased to have one of my own students participate in the 1976 Summer Science Program, shortly before the program ended.
On Saturday afternoons and Sundays during the five weeks of the 1965 Summer Science Program in Lakefield, we were usually free to pursue our own interests, whether they included shopping trips or movies in Peterborough, outings on the river (or around it or in it), or simply catching up on sleep, writing letters, and doing laundry.
In the cramped quarters of our dorm, Ian Graham and I catch up on correspondence or, in my case, painstakingly take the next step in constructing a Heathkit shortwave radio.
In the heavily used common room, Mike Waters and Bill Falkner ponder the angles for a critical pool shot.
Hugh Laurence (on guitar) leading a session of campfire singing.
One special treat was a trip to Peterborough to hear the touring National Youth Orchestra of Canada. I had a particular reason for going. The principal violist, Wendy Pinkus, was from my high school, and I got a chance to meet her after the concert. My music teacher, John McDougall, was also there, spending the summer assisting the conductor, but I didn't get to see him.
Many of the program participants were talented musicians, quite capable as singers or on the piano, guitar, or bagpipes. Several took part in the Lakefield school's end-of-summer-session "Variety Night '65," which featured performers from among the summer school boys, faculty, and waitresses and other staff. "Many of the acts were funny, and some were quite good," I wrote in a letter home.
John (Call Me 'Windy') Atchison plays the bagpipes as one of Dr. Anderson's daughters dances the "Highland Fling" in the Lakefield school's variety show.
Hugh (12-String) Laurence accompanies Susan (The Original Red-Hot Scientist) Cochrane in a set of folk songs.
Sundays allowed time for outings to Peterborough, with as many as six people crowding into a taxi for the 17-mile trip from Lakefield. I made the trek twice, once in search of a missing part for the radio I was helping to build. I also made a point of viewing the famous hydraulic lift lock on the Trent Canal in Peterborough.
Peterborough Lift Lock.
Sunday afternoons allowed enough time between lunch and dinner for walks to lock 27 on the Trent Canal at Young's Point (a 10-mile round trip) and for a circumnavigation, up to Young's Point, then across to the other side of the Otonabee River, and down to the lock just below Lakefield (lock 26), and back to home base (a 12-mile trip).
Lock 27 on the Trent-Severn Waterway at Young's Point, Ontario.
Gordon Langford and Mike Waters on a Sunday afternoon jaunt, upriver to the Lock 27 on the Trent-Severn Waterway, then back on the other side of the river to the lower lock below Lakefield.
My first experience with canoeing occurred on a Sunday late in our stay in Lakefield. Ian Graham and I were in one canoe and Dave Cuthiell and Peter Kowalcyzk in the other. Neither Ian nor I had ever paddled a canoe before, and we made an amusing pair as we struggled to steer the canoe and make it move forward. We persisted and eventually made it to the lock just downriver from Lakefield.
The Otonabee River just upriver from Lakefield, Ontario.
We stopped for ice cream in Lakefield, then headed back upriver to the school, this time facing stiff currents and an impending rainstorm. We had switched partners, so paddling was a bit easier for me. But we were thoroughly soaked in the rain. Moreover, Ian's canoe capsized twice, once in the wake of a speeding motorboat and again when we were racing to the dock.
Soggy adventurers after a canoe outing: Dave Cuthiell, Peter Kowalczyk, and Ian Graham.
There were other moments of levity. Given that quite a few of us had studied Latin in school, we came up with a "table Latin" dictionary for our meals, from soup (Blandus liquidus frigidus) to grapefruit (Fructus squirtus) to steak (Immasticatus).
And there were pranks. One morning, the wake-up bell rang, and I dutifully arose, showered, dressed, and went in search of the morning newspaper, delivered daily to the common room. It wasn't there yet. Puzzled, I proceeded, with a few others, to the dining hall for breakfast, only to find that the staff was just arriving for the day. The true morning bell went off shortly afterward.
One consolation was that whoever had set off the bell had to have been up even earlier than we were awakened.
The five weeks of the 1965 Summer Science Program that we spent in Lakefield sped by in a whirl of activities. "The time has passed very quickly," I wrote in one of my letters home. Indeed, I expressed a similar sentiment in just about every letter I wrote (along with my recurrent plea for a little extra pocket money).
We covered a remarkably broad range of topics in our classes, from optical illusions (including why the full moon appears larger on the horizon than overhead) in the psychology segment to freeway hop (when regularly spaced road bumps can send a car into the air) in engineering to the role of insects in spreading viral plant diseases in biology.
At the same time, in trying to provide a broad but quick overview of a subject, some of the instructors unfortunately seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on classification schemes and definitions of technical terms. It was a lot to take in on the run. It also wasn't uncommon for some of us to doze through an afternoon lecture or an evening film, no matter how fascinating the topic. At least there were no exams.
And there were unexpected byways. One morning during the pure math sequence, Elizabeth Meeds brought in an astronomy paper with some weird ideas about the speed of light, written by someone in her small town in Saskatchewan. We all had a good laugh as Dr. Davis read portions of the paper to us, but this led to a wide-ranging discussion of scientific hoaxes, mistaken proofs, and riddles and number puzzles. We saved our introduction to analytic geometry and affine transformations for the next day.
It turned out that, when Dr. Davis was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of his duties had been to answer letters the university received proposing crank theories, alleged proofs of angle trisections, and other oddities. He described some of the more memorable letters to us. Dr. Davis was also an expert chess player, and one evening, after our usual film program, he gave us tips for playing chess, especially openings.
Brian Margetson with Professor William H. Bowes, after an applied mathematics session.
The applied mathematics classes introduced me to a novel way of extracting square roots, using Newton's method, and some of the basic notions of computation, from binary numbers and Boolean logic to computer programming. We also spent time plotting curves and determining slopes to develop the basic ideas of calculus. Most classes in both pure math and applied math ended with some sort of "homework" assignment.
Dr.Paul M. Laughton of Carleton University overseeing the chemistry lab.
I was almost totally at sea in chemistry, despite my experience with a chemistry set at home (including some unfortunate experiments involving sulfur). The lab work, such as performing titrations, doing dilutions, and using a spectrophotometer, was completely new to me, as were such notions as reaction mechanisms, thermodynamics, and quantum mechanics, introduced in the lectures. Nonetheless, chemistry week was still interesting and fun--and quite startling at times as we learned about alternative models of the atom.
Dr, John Anderson, Mike Waters, and Desmond Norris checking out equipment in a biology lab session.
We focused on experimental biology during our fifth week at Lakefield. One of the experiments, however, had started a few weeks earlier. Several of us set traps for chipmunks and field mice in the nearby woods for an experiment to measure how light affects animal activity. Chipmunks are typically active during the day, and mice during the night. We kept the animals in cages with activity wheels and controlled when the cages were lit, tracking how much and when an activity wheel was in use.
Our initial trapping efforts provided just one chipmunk and a young deer mouse. I even lost the deer mouse a day later when it escaped as I was trying to transfer it from one cage to another. But, suspecting that the mouse may not have traveled far, I set a trap in the classroom building, baiting it with an extra-special treat--a dab of peanut butter obtained from the kitchen. The ploy worked, and we recovered the mouse.
We eventually obtained several more animals for our tests, but, in the end, the results proved inconclusive. I really did much better with the math and physics portions of the program.
Summer Science Program Faculty and Guest Lecturers, 1965
Pure Mathematics (two weeks)
Dr. Harry F. Davis, Associate Professor of Mathematics, University of Waterloo
Applied Mathematics (three weeks)
Prof. William H. Bowes, Professor of Engineering, Carleton University
Week of July 5, 1965
Physics: Dr. George J. Thiessen, Head, Acoustics Section, Division of Applied Physics, National Research Council, Ottawa
Dr. T. Harry Leith, Associate Professor, Division of Natural Sciences, York University: "The History and Philosophical Development of Major Ideas in the Physical Sciences"
Dr. Nathan Stolow, Director, National Conservation and Research Laboratory, National Gallery, Ottawa: "Conservation of Works of Art: Meeting Place of Science and Art"
Week of July 12, 1965
Psychology: Dr. Richard H. Walters, Head, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo
Geology: Dr. David M. Baird, Head, Department of Geology, University of Ottawa
Dr. Robert J. Uffen, Professor of Geophysics and Principal, University College of Arts and Science, University of Western Ontario: "On Relation of Geophysical Explorations to Canada's Mineral Wealth"
Mr/ Edward Futterer, Technical Assistant to the President, Kerr-Addison Mines Ltd., Toronto: "Mining and Metallurgy"
Week of July 19, 1965
Engineering Sciences: Dr. John Ruptash, Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Carleton University
Dr. Donald A. MacRae, Associate Head, Department of Astronomy, University of Toronto and Assistant Director, David Dunlap Observatory: "The Space Around the Earth"
Week of July 26, 1965
Chemistry: Dr. Paul M. Laughton, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Carleton University
Prof. Frank A. Forward, Director, Canadian Scientific Secretariat, Privy Council Office, Ottawa: "Practical Applications of Inorganic Chemistry"
Dr. Peter J. Dyne, Chemistry and Metallurgy Division, Atomic Energy of Canada, Chalk river, Ontario: "Science in the U.S.S.R."
Dr. James M. Neelin, Research Offucer, Division of Biosciences, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa: Biochemistry of Macromolecules"
Week of August 2, 1965
Experimental Biology: Dr. James A. Tait, Assistant Professor of Biology, York University, and Dr. John M. Anderson, Associate Professor of Biology, Carleton University
Dr. William S. Friend, Associate Professor of Zoology, University of Toronto: "The Origin of Life"
Dr. Roy H.E. Bradley, Research Officer, Research Station, Canada Department of Agriculture, Fredericton, New Brunswick: "Insect Vectors of Viruses"
Dr. Charlotte M. Sullivan, Associate Professor of Zoology, University of Toronto: "The Scope of Modern Biology and its Import on Current Human Affairs"
The third week (week of July 19, 1965) of the Summer Science Program was devoted to the engineering sciences, and it was also the start of our classes in applied mathematics. Early on, we were introduced to a recent model of the imposing Monroe electric desk calculator, and we learned how to add, subtract, and multiply on these mechanical wonders. Several of the calculators were available for our use, and, excited by the opportunity, I eagerly wrote to my parents and brother asking if there were any calculations that they wanted me to do for them.
Dr. John Ruptash, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Carleton University, brought along another innovative teaching tool (very new to those of us who were much more used to watching teachers tangle with film projectors and reels): a small projector that used cartridges containing film loops, each one running about four minutes. I sat through more than two dozen film loops, all devoted to various aspects of fluid dynamics, just to get to use the device.
The highlight of the week was a two-day field trip to visit the Imperial Oil research center, Canada's largest petroleum research complex, in Sarnia, Ontario. In preparation, we had two sessions with experts from Imperial Oil. One concerned the basics of petroleum extraction and refining, and the other was on linear programming and optimization, which I found intriguing (and almost understood).
Packing was a bit tricky because we could dress informally on the first day for the 200-mile bus ride, but needed suits or dresses for the second day, when we would be visiting the research center and enjoying a company-sponsored luncheon at the Sarnia Golf and Country Club.
Our initial destination was a Holiday Inn in London, Ontario, where a sign welcomed the group. We were a bit annoyed, however, that the sign referred only to our sponsor and not to the program itself.
Welcome sign at the Holiday Inn in London, Ontario, in honor of our group's stay.
After three weeks of dorm living and generally mediocre food, staying at the Holiday Inn was a real treat: large, comfortable beds with only two to a room, TV sets and radios in every room, air conditioning, an outdoor swimming pool, and plentiful, tasty food for both that night's dinner and the next morning's breakfast.
Enjoying the outdoor swimming pool at the Holiday Inn in London, Ontario.
Friday morning, appropriately attired, we traveled to Sarnia and Imperial Oil's research department.
At the entrance to one of Imperial Oil's research buildings.
After a long (somewhat tedious) morning session learning more about the company and its operations, we toured the complex, viewing labs where new types of products were developed, petrochemical analysis centers, and various pilot plants for developing and testing new machinery. The tour was interesting but, partly because I had not yet studied chemistry in school, I had trouble understanding explanations of how mass spectrometers and other equipment functioned.
We were not allowed to take photos within the complex, but company photographers followed us around, taking snapshots for later use with press releases about our visit. The company plan was to send material to newspapers in the home towns of each of the program participants in the hope of garnering some publicity. Of course, for those of us from Toronto and other large cities, there was little chance of getting coverage in our "local" newspapers.
After a sumptuous lunch (at least, it seemed so to most of us), we were turned over to the engineering department to learn more about the refinery itself.
Headquarters for Imperial Oil's engineering division in Sarnia, Ontario.
The afternoon's lectures and tours seemed to go on forever. Many of us were tired (some had stayed up past midnight the night before, and others had been up by 5:30 a.m. for a morning swim). And we were quietly digesting a hefty, rich meal. Inevitably, there was tendency to doze off, whether in the meeting room or on the bus winding past the many components of Imperial Oil's refinery. We visited an impressive control room for the entire refinery, various testing and quality-control labs, and even the shipping department, where, to our surprise, we saw branded products for companies that we would have considered Imperial Oil (Esso) competitors.
Finally, returning to our own bus, we drove through Sarnia's "Chemical Valley" along the shores of the St. Clair River, where numerous companies had refineries and plants.
Refineries and storage tanks along Sarnia's "Chemical Valley."
This was our chance to take pictures of refinery infrastructure and other features of the chemical landscape, including Imperial Oil's own operation, something we couldn't do while we were on the grounds.
View from a bus window of a refinery's towers, as our bus traveled alongside the St. Clair River.
Then it was back to the Holiday Inn in London, Ontario, though just for dinner (another delight that included shrimp, scallops, and salmon). And the long trek back to Lakefield, where we arrived just before midnight, exhausted. Luckily, our Saturday morning classes had been cancelled, and we could sleep in.
I was up at 8:30 a.m., nonetheless, but not early enough for breakfast. I learned that only six members of our group had made it in time.
In the meantime, the second installment of the Heathkit radio kit (EK2-B) had arrived, and several of us continued with the project. This meant dismantling much of the first stage and deciphering increasingly complex instructions for building what was to become an elaborate shortwave radio.
So, it wasn't surprising that field trips played a major role in the half-week that we spent studying geology (week of July 12, 1965). Our jovial leader was Dr. David M. Baird of the University of Ottawa.
Fossil hunting at the abandoned Lakefield quarry, once operated by the Canada Cement Company.
On our Saturday field trip, we initially traveled along hilly, often unpaved roads, experiencing firsthand the drumlins and other glacial features of the terrain. We stopped at a newly opened gravel pit to observe the layers of glacial silt and sand deposits exposed along the pit's sides.
The bus took us to the town of Marmora and the nearby Marmoraton Mine, a huge open-pit mine for extracting iron ore (mainly magnetite). The mine was hundreds of feet deep, partly because the top 100 feet of limestone had to be removed to even begin getting at the ore.
Our bus carried us more than 500 feet down to the lowest level of the Marmoraton Mine, a source of iron ore.
We heard a description of how the mine operates, then were free to scramble up heaps of rock in the middle of the mine to look for mineral samples. We were not allowed to venture near the exposed faces, however, because of the dangers posed by cascading loose rock.
Exploring a rock heap at the Marmoraton Mine.
I came away with several nice rock samples, including one bearing a cluster of garnets and calcite crystals.
After the mine visit, we stopped for a roadside picnic lunch. Inevitably, perhaps inspired by a session on social psychology earlier in the week, many of us started an impromptu experiment of waving at passing vehicles to see if drivers or passengers would wave back.
Blurry photo (sorry) of the picnicking group waving to passing vehicles.
Our next major stop was a nepheline syenite quarry, source of a mineral used in the manufacture of glass and ceramics. Nepheline syenite is a feldspar-like rock that looks a bit like granite, but lacks the quartz typically found in granite.
Collecting samples of nepheline and other minerals.
I found the entire sequence of geology lectures and field visits fascinating. In his guest lecture earlier in the week, Dr. Robert Uffen of the University of Western Ontario had introduced us to the startling idea that Earth's magnetic field may have fluctuated in the past, at times reversing or disappearing entirely--with potentially dire consequences.
In his lectures, Dr, Baird often emphasized critical analysis. One of our exercises was to watch the well-regarded National Film Board of Canada movie "Universe" to see if we could detect any inconsistencies or problems. Are the clocks right? Is it actually sunrise or sunset in the morning scene? How were the closeups of comet tails done? How accurate are the closeup images of the planets? And more.
Another session involved taking a close look at sand and what it reveals about an area's geological history. Of course, that meant an afternoon trek down to the beach to examine the sand on the shore and ripple patterns in the shallows.
Welcome to an occasional series devoted to "cool stuff" that I encounter while browsing the world of mathematics and computer science. I'll peek at new developments in math and its applications, and I'll revisit old puzzles, famous problems, and historic events—anything mathematical that happens to catch my eye. I hope you'll find something of value in these brief, informal forays into the world of math.
Ivars Peterson is a freelance writer and editor. He was Director of Publications at the Mathematical Association of America from 2007 to 2014. As an award-winning mathematics writer, he previously worked at Science News for more than 25 years and served as editor of Science News Online and Science News for Kids. His books include The Mathematical Tourist, Islands of Truth, Newton's Clock, and Fragments of Infinity: A Kaleidoscope of Math and Art.