Five equations. Five great thinkers. Five unusual lives. From Newton’s universal gravitation to Einstein’s E=mc2, these five physics formulas describe insights that would transform human history. In each session, we’ll explore the form and consequences of our chosen equation, using everything from archival NASA footage to interactive simulations while also reading Michael Guillen’s Five Equations That Changed the World: The Power and Poetry of Mathematics (a very inexpensive used book and even less expensive Amazon Kindle e-book!). We’ll also look at some of the stories that Guillen left untold (such as those of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, the principal subject of Hidden Figures, and William Kamkwamba, the Malawian villager who taught himself to build an electric windmill). While we will occasionally apply basic algebra and geometry, the emphasis will be on cause-and-effect relationships and tangible phenomena. Everyone curious about the intersection of history, biography, mathematics, and science is encouraged to join us.
Joshua Roth is an astronomer and editor who teaches physics at Arlington High School and stargazing at Wright-Locke Farm.