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A STEM Festival Event in the Planetarium: Nov. 10 at the TP/SS Campus

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Category: MC Events

Published: Nov 6 2017 12:00AM

On Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 at 7 p.m. in the planetarium at Montgomery College in Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus:

An astrolabe is a very ancient astronomical computer for solving problems relating to time and the position of the sun and stars in the sky. Protons and neutrons (composite particles), electrons, quarks, and neutrinos (elementary particles) and some subatomic particles are fermions which have a half-integer spin. The mathematical geometry projection and algebra are the same. Come see the connections among these topics and how the planetarium can be used as a large astrolabe.
We also have a 500 year old Persian astrolabe made in the city of Tuse that now belongs to the College thanks to the generosity of Andrew Wheeler.

The astrolabe was the most important astronomical calculating device before the invention of digital computers and was the most important astronomical observational device before the invention of the telescope. The first work of science education written in a language that may be called English (middle English, actually) was Geoffrey Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe. Chaucer, who today is known principally for writing the Canterbury tales, wrote the Treatise on the Astrolabe for his ten year old son Lewis in 1387.

This is some of what Chaucer had to say about the astrolabe:

"Little Lewis my son, I have perceived by certain evidences your ability to learn sciences concerning numbers and proportions. I have also considered your anxious and special request to learn the Treatise of the Astrolabe. Then forasmuch as a philosopher has said, `he wrappeth him in his friend, who accedes to the rightful prayers of his friend,' therefore have I given you an astrolabe for our horizon, constructed for the latitude of Oxford. And with this little treatise, I propose to teach you some conclusions pertaining to the same instrument. I say some conclusions, for three reasons. The first is this: you can be sure that all the conclusions that have been found, or possibly might be found in so noble an instrument as an astrolabe, are not known perfectly to any mortal man in this region, as I suppose."

Come to the planetarium and learn about the wondrous device on which Chaucer heaped such praise. Astrolabes will be passed out to experiment with during the show. A 500 year old Persian astrolabe will also be shown. The projection mathematics is identical to the mathematics of fermionic matter, spin 1/2 particles. A good piece of mathematics often has multiple uses. This too will be explained.

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