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Topic: [ncsm-members] Teen solves Newton's 300-year-old riddle
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,035
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Teen solves Newton's 300-year-old riddle
Posted: May 27, 2012 8:08 PM
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From The Ottawa Citizen, Sunday, May 27, 2012. See
http://www.canada.com/technology/Teen+solves+Newton+year+riddle/6685617/story.html
. Our thanks to Victor Steinbok for bringing this piece to our
attention.
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Teen solves Newton's 300-year-old riddle

Credits feat to schoolboy naivete

By Bojan Pancevski

An Indian-born teenager has won a research award for solving a
mathematical problem first posed by Sir Isaac Newton more than 300
years ago that has baffled mathematicians ever since.

The solution devised by Shouryya Ray, 16, makes it possible to
calculate exactly the path of a projectile under gravity and subject
to air resistance.

Shouryya, who lives in Dresden, eastern Germany, came up with the
solutions to this and a second mathematical riddle while working on a
school project.

He is being hailed as a genius in the German press, but attributes
his achievement to "curiosity and schoolboy naivety."

"When it was explained to us that the problems had no solutions, I
thought to myself: well, there's no harm in trying," he said.

The problems he resolved are from the field of dynamics. The first,
dealing with the movement of projectiles through the air, was posed
by Newton in the 17th century. The second, which relates to the
collision of a body with a wall, was posed in the 19th century.

Only partial solutions had been discovered up to now, requiring
simplified assumptions or calculations by computer. Shouryya's
elegant solutions could contribute to greater precision in fields
such as ballistics.

Shouryya's family moved to Germany when he was 12 after his father
Subhashis Ray, an engineer, got a job at a technical college.
Shouryya spoke no German when he arrived but has mastered the
language and is due to take the German equivalent of A-levels this
week, two years ahead of his peers.

"Ray's accomplishment is impressive and we are particularly proud of
his background as it highlights the achievements of migrants across
language and cultural barriers," said the Youth Research Foundation,
which gave him the award.

A keen cricketer, Shouryya cites his father as his inspiration and
says he instilled a "hunger for mathematics" after teaching him
calculus at the age of six.

Subhashis Ray said he was no longer able to keep up with his son's
mathematical prowess, however. "He never discussed his project with
me before it was finished and the mathematics he used are far beyond
my reach," he said.

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--
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244
E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu



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