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RE: SR Re: Blasphemy!

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  • Bill Robinson
    David: Your thought about it being someone else than Eves bears looking into. Neither my copy of the 1953 Edition, or my copy of the third Edition, has the
    Message 1 of 34 , May 31, 2002
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      David: Your thought about it being someone else than Eves bears looking
      into. Neither my copy of the 1953 Edition, or my copy of the third Edition,
      has the offending comments in it. Regards, Bill
      -----Original Message-----
      From: dbaeus [mailto:dmcfarla@...]
      Sent: Friday, May 31, 2002 9:15 AM
      To: sliderule@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: SR Re: Blasphemy!


      Airlines may provide food, but anyone who goes on one for that reason
      is apt to be disappointed. Likewise for anyone who turns to a
      mathematician for psychiatric diagnosis.

      Seriously, though, I wouldn't be too harsh on Professor Eves over
      this one misstatement, given all the good he has done over the
      decades.

      First, Howard Eves, if he is still alive, would be 91 years old. His
      80th birthday was honored with a conference in 1991, which resulted
      in a festschrift published by the Mathematical Association of America
      (In Eves' Circles, Joby Milo Anthony, editor).

      The blasphemous quotation is from the 6th (1990) edition of a book
      originally published in 1953, when slide rules were in full swing.
      This edition explicitly acknowledges extensive contributions by his
      son, Jamie Eves, as well as suggestions from numerous users of
      previous editions, so the offending quote may not have been entirely
      Eves' own doing. I do not have any earlier edition handy, so do not
      know when the quoted passage was added, or what was said about the
      comparative merits of slide rules and calculators in earlier
      editions. But I am sure the quoted item would NOT have been in the
      1953 or 1964 editions.

      At a time when many mathematicians ranged from indifferent to hostile
      toward any sort of computation -- with the result that the then newly
      organizing field of Computer Science often found a home in
      Engineering rather than in Mathematics -- Eves treated computation as
      an important stimulus toward mathematical advances, thus important
      for understanding the history of mathematics.

      Eves also corrected the widespread error of thinking that the
      logarithms Napier himself invented are the "base e" or "Natural"
      logarithms. On pages 308-311 he shows that 1/e, rather than e
      itself, is the base of the logarithms Napier calculated -- but
      furthermore Napier himself was not using the concept of a "base" the
      way we do.

      The quoted item does, however, suggest a question about this group:

      HOW MANY OF US DO, IN FACT, REGULARLY USE OUR SLIDE RULES FOR
      COMPUTATIONS?

      My impression is that the group has a lot more discussion about how
      to clean, polish, and display slide rules (for example) than about how
      to perform any particular calculations on them. I, for one, have
      slide rules both at home and in my office, but seldom use one of them
      for a serious calculation. Even when an auto hitting an electric
      pole shut down my computer recently, I took a break and did something
      else, rather than continuing my calculations on a slide rule. The
      slide rule calculation I do most often is 2x3=6, in demonstrations
      for people unfamiliar with slide rules. Partly it is a matter of
      slide rules not being suited for such tasks as finding eigenvalues of
      a matrix or, for that matter, adding up a column of numbers (Yes, I
      do have a Pickett with the X and Y scales). But even on slide rule
      types of calculations I am likely to use a hand calculator or
      computer. In this regard, slide rules are not the only things I
      neglect: How often do any of us turn to our abaci, or sectors, or
      nomographs, or books of mathematical tables, as aids in our everyday
      calculations? Probably not even as often as we turn to our slide
      rules. That's my guess. Has there been a group survey about how
      often members actually use their slide rules for work-related
      calculations?

      So, I, at least, wouldn't get too worked up over that quoted line
      from Eves. I do agree with Joe's overall evaluation of the book --
      that apart from this one item, it is excellent. --David


      --- In sliderule@y..., "josephpasquale" <pasquale@u...> wrote:
      > I may have made a mistake the other day in recommending the book
      "An Introduction to the History of Mathematics" by Howard Eves, a
      professor at U. Maine. I had not read the following until now (p.
      313): "for years the logarithmic slide rule, hanging from the belt in
      a handsome leather case, was the badge of recognition of the
      engineering students of a university campus. Today, however, with
      the advent of the amazing and increasingly inexpensive little pocket
      calculators, NO ONE IN HIS RIGHT MIND WOULD USE ... A SLIDE RULE FOR
      CALCULATION PURPOSES."

      > Perhaps we should write a letter of indignation to Prof. Eves.

      > -Joe

      > PS: Outside of this, the book is excellent.


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    • Duane Croft
      I know, that is one big problem with slide rules (at least the ones in my collection). None of them handle that infinitesimal multiplication very well.
      Message 34 of 34 , Jun 10, 2002
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        I know, that is one big problem with slide rules (at least the ones in my
        collection). None of them handle that infinitesimal multiplication very well.
        <<grin>> Actually the only thing we even need to use a slide rule for at all is
        figuring out values for max/mins, roots, point of inflection, ect. It's nice to have
        these in a decimal format if you're going to graph them.

        Now, the Pickett N525 is a real nice statistics slide rule.... I wonder if anyone
        ever made a calculus slide rule?

        Duane

        Insall wrote:
        >
        > On 1 June 2002, Dunane Croft wrote:
        > ``Also use one while teaching my daughter. We're working on differential
        > calculus - graphing functions. The only "calculator" she uses has a middle
        > part that slides and
        > doesn't take any batteries (aside from the bioelectric one discussed in
        > previous threads <<grin>>). Of course the only way to get her to use it is
        > to let her see me doing the same problems myself, using the same
        > techniques... <<another grin>>''
        >
        > Gee. I'm trying to figure out which scale has the infinitesimal delta x on
        > it. <<:-)>>
        >
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