July 31, 2018

Summer Science II

Summer Science I: Gordie Howe off the Ice

Night of the Concave Earth

Our first full day, Monday, July 5, 1965, set the pattern for most days of the five weeks that followed, Monday through Saturday. After breakfast, we would start with a mathematics session lasting about an hour and a quarter, with pure mathematics (with Dr. Harry F. Davis of the University of Waterloo) as the focus in the first two weeks and applied mathematics (with engineering professor William H. Bowes of Carleton University) over the next three weeks. The second morning period was devoted to a different subject each week, starting with physics.

Classroom block and assembly hall.

Afternoons were spent on lab work and other activities, sometimes with guest lecturers. After dinner, we would gather in the assembly hall to view science films or hear an invited speaker.

But even before we had our first math session, we took a test to measure our knowledge of and attitude to science. We heard from on-site program director Dr. John Anderson that last year's group had achieved remarkably high scores; we found out later that, on average, we did even better. We were supposed to take the test again at the end of the program to see how our attitudes and knowledge had changed, but there really was very little room for improvement!

Much of the first week in physics was spent on the historical and philosophical underpinnings of modern science (with an emphasis on the development of the scientific method). Dr. George J. Thiessen, head of the acoustics section in the applied physics division of the National Research Council in Ottawa, presented much of the material and led the discussions.

Several of us were particularly intrigued by Dr. Thiessen's description of how Greek mathematician and astronomer Eratosthenes of Cyrene measured Earth's diameter more than 2,000 years ago. We were to replicate (roughly) his experiment on the next sunny afternoon, taking measurements of the sun's angle simultaneously at two different locations.

That afternoon, the six of us in my dorm came up with our own scheme, one that would, we hoped, provide a more precise estimate than a sun-based method. We proposed using light from the North Star (Polaris) as the reference. We persuaded Dr. Anderson (and his wife) to drive us and the equipment about 30 miles north of Lakefield that night to do the experiment.

My diagram of the setup for providing an estimate of Earth's diameter, as included in a letter home.

The adventure did not go smoothly. Traveling in the dark, we had trouble finding a suitable spot to make the observations, and when we finally did stop, it was hard to find a location that was level enough. Nonetheless, we persisted and made the necessary measurements, carefully noting the time at which they were done. Luckily, the clouds that had threatened to obscure the view stayed away at the crucial moments.

Intrepid adventurers Mike Waters, Gordon Brown, Ivars Peterson, Ian Graham, and Peter Kowalczyk with the apparatus for making night observations to measure Earth's diameter.

Then we returned to Lakefield to make the second set of observations. By then, it was after midnight. The results were startling. Our measurements showed that the world was concave, more like the inside of a bowl than the outside of a sphere!

When a sunny afternoon finally arrived, the whole group performed the experiment as originally conceived, with observations made simultaneously at two different locations. I was with the team that traveled about 30 miles northward.

Hugh Laurence helping level the apparatus, with Dorothy Miller (holding camera), Kim Cameron, Bunty Bains, Pat Cogan, and Diane Douglas looking on at the remote location.

Dr, George J. Thiessen checking to make sure everything is ready.

Hugh Laurence and Dorothy Miller making a measurement.

The results were less startling this time. The Earth proved to be round, but our observations suggested a diameter of 14,000 miles, nearly double the true value of 7,900 miles.

On Friday, Dr. Anderson passed on several Heathkit projects for us to work on in our spare time. One group quickly assembled a volt-ohm meter for lab use, and another built an intercom and set it up between two of the dorm rooms.

I joined the group interested in constructing a radio (Heathkit EK2-A). This particular kit came with a detailed manual, which also taught the basics of electricity, vacuum-tube electronics, and radio. I had always enjoyed the building kits (Meccano sets, in particular) that I had at home, and working on the radio was a nice extension.

Bill Falkner, Barb Heller, and Gordon Langford pondering the intricacies of assembling the first stage of a Heathkit radio.

We completed the first stage of the radio project in about a week. To our amazement, given the number of mistakes that we made along the way, the radio (a relatively simple crystal radio with earphones) actually worked. At one point, I even had to go into town to buy replacements for some parts that we had lost or destroyed. Dr. Anderson promised to order the kit for building the more advanced version of the radio (EK2-B).

July 30, 2018

Summer Science I

Gordie Howe off the Ice

The telegram arrived on April 30, 1965. I had never before received a telegram, and it brought exciting news.

My application to participate in the Royal Canadian Institute's Summer Science Program had been accepted, and I became one of 35 high-school participants from across Canada in this six-week program focusing on mathematics and science.

There were three students from Toronto. I was about to complete Grade 11 at Harbord Collegiate. Ian Graham was in Grade 12 at Lawrence Park Collegiate, and Larry Kazdan was at Forest Hill Collegiate.

We three met for the first time in June, when we were invited to appear on a local afternoon talk show, accompanied by Dr. Charlotte M. Sullivan, a biologist at the University of Toronto. She drove us to the CFTO-TV studio extolling the virtues of her vintage Citroen, a type of car that none of us had experienced before.

Our interview went well, but I was even more thrilled with the chance to meet National Hockey League star Gordie Howe, who was a guest on an earlier segment of the show, and to obtain an autographed photo. And we got to sample desserts left over from a cooking episode.

The first five weeks of the program took place at the Lakefield Preparatory School (originally "The Grove Preparatory School for Boys" and renamed Lakefield College School in 1966), just outside of Lakefield, Ontario.

Entrance and roadway leading up to Lakefield Preparatory School, about a mile from the center of the small town of Lakefield, Ontario.

Ian and I came by bus from Toronto to Peterborough, just 17 miles from Lakefield, and were among the first of our group to arrive. We were sharing the campus with boys who were attending summer school, and we could take advantage of the school's classrooms, dorms, dining facilities (with waitress service), tennis courts, baseball fields, riverside beach and dock, and more.

Sleeping quarters.

We stayed in a campus dorm, with six people to a room. Our accommodations were very basic--a small, hard bed with a skimpy pillow and a thin mattress on a wood frame. We each had a small closet and a storage drawer under the bed.

Dining hall.

The dining hall was new and the food service friendly and accommodating. The food itself, however, usually left a lot to be desired, and we would joke and speculate about (and  try to analyse) mystery meat and other menu delights. As time went on, I found myself spending pocket money on snacks (mainly fruit) from town.

Another major expense was laundry. We had to do our own laundry via periodic trips to the laundromat and to cleaners in town for items like shirts. To save money, we often combined loads, but I eventually ended up with blue underwear. My other main expense was film for my camera.

Situated on the shore of the Otonabee River, the school offered opportunities for swimming and boating.

From the first Saturday night, the common room became our main social center, where we could enjoy playing cards, shooting pool, talking, and more talking, particularly in the evenings before lights out. Singing was also part of the fun. Hugh Laurence had brought his 12-string guitar and a large repertoire of folk songs and other ditties and was always ready to lead a singalong. Over the course of our five-week stay, we celebrated at least eight birthdays.

A cabin in the woods served as our common room.

By Sunday, July 4, everyone had arrived. As we talked and got to know each other during our common room sessions, we quickly realized that many of us had come with the sense that we would be out of place, completely left out among scientific and mathematical geniuses. The reality was quite different. Although everyone shared a strong interest in and some experience with science and we all had excellent grades at school, we had a wide range of interests and talents, a strong sense of curiosity, and a penchant for fun (with a touch of mischief).

Participants in the Royal Canadian Institute's Summer Science Program, 1965

Alan A. Adamson, Manotick, Ontario
John Atchison, Haileybury, Ontario
Bunty J. Bains, Victoria, British Columbia
Gordon Brown, Kingston, Ontario
Kim S. Cameron, Todd's Island, Nova Scotia
Susan Cochrane, Lancaster, New Brunswick
Patricia Cogan, Montreal, Quebec
David Cuthiell, Edmonton, Alberta
Diane Douglas, Fort Smith, Northwest Territories
William P. Falkner, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Ian R. Graham, Toronto, Ontario
Barbara Heller, Vancouver, British Columbia
Laurence Kazdan, Toronto, Ontario
Arthur Kidd, Windsor, Ontario
Fred Kosmolak, Neepawa, Manitoba
Peter Kowalczyk, Ladner, British Columbia
Gordon Langford, Fort William, Ontario
Hugh G. Laurence, Whitby, Ontario
Leontine A. Stewart, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Geraldine Logie, Calgary, Alberta
Brian C. Margetson, Frankford, Ontario
Elizabeth A. Meeds, Nipawin, Saskatchewan
Dorothy Miller, Markham, Ontario
Robert D. Nell, Francis, Saskatchewan
Desmond Norris, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
John A. Norton, Pakenham, Ontario
Ivars Peterson, Toronto, Ontario
Douglas Pritchard, Lively, Ontario
Richard A. Seary, St. John's, Newfoundland
Patricia Sheridan, North Bay, Ontario
Gino Tancon, Ocean Falls, British Columbia
Patricia Thorpe, Edmundston, New Brunswick
Dennis H. Waddington, Utterson, Ontario
Michael R. K. Waters, Owen Sound, Ontario
Margaret L. Wood, Drayton, Ontario

July 29, 2018

Victorious Astronomy

Johannes Kepler used this diagram, featuring a "Victorious Astronomy," to demonstrate his two laws of planetary motion. He could thus explain mathematically why the planets changed their velocities as they moved closer to or farther from the sun.

The diagram appears on this page in Kepler's 1609 book Astronomia Nova.

Reproduced from the collections of the Library of Congress.

July 28, 2018

July 27, 2018

Moebius Maze

Moebius maze (Dave Phillips). On display at the Joint Mathematics Meetings, New Orleans. Louisiana, 2007.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 26, 2018

New York Atlas

Atlas by Lee Lawrie. Rockefeller Center, New York City, New York, 2011.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 25, 2018

Floor Structure

Floor Structure Black by Sol LeWitt. East Building, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2017.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 24, 2018

Lamp Cluster

Ottawa, Ontario, 1974.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 23, 2018

July 22, 2018

Ode to Space

Ode to Space by Virgil Cantini. University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2010.

Photos by I. Peterson

July 21, 2018

July 20, 2018

Hawthorne Bridge

Hawthorne Bridge, Portland, Oregon, 2009.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 19, 2018

Prague Spires

Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1985.

  Photo by I. Peterson

July 18, 2018

Sensation Disks

Sensation: Interior View (detail) by Nancy Cohen. Quark Park, Princeton, New Jersey, 2006.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 17, 2018

Rock Islands

Perce Rock, Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, 1974.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 16, 2018

Meter Boxes

Meter Boxes by Donald JuddVirginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, 2017.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 15, 2018

July 14, 2018

Stone Deco

Berkeley City Club, Berkeley, California, 2017.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 13, 2018

Vertical Forms

Vertical Forms by Dan Namingha. Santa Fe Botanical Garden, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2017.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 12, 2018

July 11, 2018

July 10, 2018

White Butterfly

Bronxville, New York, 2009.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 9, 2018

July 8, 2018


East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee, 2008.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 7, 2018

Toronto Skyline

Toronto, 1981.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 6, 2018

Garden Gate

Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, Australia, 1979.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 5, 2018

July 4, 2018

Independence Day 2018

National Memorial Arch, Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania, 1979.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 3, 2018

Cathedral Symmetry

Wells Cathedral, Somerset, England, 1975.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 2, 2018

Swimming Dock

Ontario, 1974.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 1, 2018