Teacher2Teacher Q&A #17366

Historic Calculations

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From: Steve Waltz <waltz.steve@hsmv.state.fl.us>
To: Teacher2Teacher Service
Date: Jul 21, 2006 at 12:13:13
Subject: Historic Calculations

Whether they do the experiment or not, I like the idea of having students repeat the calculation Eratostenes used to estimate the circumference of the Earth. The source I first used was http://www.sailtexas.com/belowconvergence3.html. It states that the angle measured about 7 1/4 degrees, but the estimate of 25,000 miles is the same as most other sources which define the angle as about 7.2 degrees. Using 7.25 would have produced an estimate (about 24,828 miles) closer to the true value (about 24,860). I'd like to recreate historic calculations as applications of various math techniques, such as calculations of the age of ancient rocks using radioactive decay ratios or perhaps an estimate of how long the air supply on Apollo 13 would last when the astronauts encountered their famous dilemma. Does anyone know of any collections of historic calculations or have any examples they would like to share?

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