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Computer History Must Include People of Color

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Arvid
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Pending Review
Arvid   6/23/2017 7:21:18 PM
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Max The Magnificent
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Re: Symbolism?
Max The Magnificent   6/23/2017 12:13:32 PM
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@perl_geek: "...You would hear them if you were inside the ship, assuming the relative velocities were low enough not to vapourise it..."

Sure -- but the viewpoint in this movie was flying a kilometer or so alongside the huge ship.

Still and all, it was a great film that I would totally recommend.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Symbolism?
Max The Magnificent   6/23/2017 12:11:11 PM
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@Rick: "There must be a fun and lucratuve role in Hollywood for "engineering consultant" to such movies. Only those with slide rules need apply ;-)"

You would certainly think so. I remember that I used to see The Big Bang Theory on the TV guide but I never watched it because I thought it was just another physics program. It was only when I was reading an article in Time magazine that said they had a Physics Prof on the payroll to check all the equations on Sheldon's whiteboard that I discovered the program was a comedy LOL

I would love to have a job like this for movies -- just getting some of the basic stuff right would make a huge difference to the belivability of the movies. Ah well...

perl_geek
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Re: Symbolism?
perl_geek   6/23/2017 11:47:54 AM
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"you watch a spaceship plow through a metor storm ... and you hear the collisions LOL"

You would hear them if you were inside the ship, assuming the relative velocities were low enough not to vapourise it.

"There was a black guy who wanted to be an astronaut and knew he had no chance..."

I think it was mentioned in "The Right Stuff" that there was a black candidate in the astronaut program, but objectively, his performance fell below the cut-off.

Picking someone for a role in which failure in reasonably predictable circumstances can be lethal  is a considerable moral burden. Are you doing a marginal candidate any favours by relaxing standards? It's bad enough if individual survival is at risk; much worse if it could kill a whole crew.

If you are not familiar with the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, I recommend studying it. I have had the honour of meeting some of those gentlemen, and one conversation was especially interesting. When I asked how I felt about being put through a segregated program, he said it had been absolutely essential, and explained why.

Had they been put into an integrated program, biased instructors could have washed them out individually, and claimed that the universal failure rate was evidence of inferiority, (if anyone even noticed). If an entire class washed out, it would be obvious, and the failure would clearly be an instructors' problem.

As it was, they did a sufficiently good job that the bomber guys started asking for the "Little Friends" (fighter escort) with the red tails. That paved the way for later integration.

rick merritt
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Re: Symbolism?
rick merritt   6/23/2017 11:38:09 AM
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There must be a fun and lucratuve role in Hollywood for "engineering consultant" to such movies. Only those with slide rules need apply ;-)

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Symbolism?
Max The Magnificent   6/22/2017 4:56:16 PM
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@Elizabeth: "...I'm not suprised that the movie didn't get the math and engineering details right..."

As I noted in my recent My Future in Space column, in the movie Passengers, you watch a spaceship plow through a metor storm ... and you hear the collisions LOL

I've not seen the Figures movie, but I really want to.

Did you see the "Astronauts Wives" TV series a year or two ago? There was a black guy who wanted to be an astronaut and knew he had no chance -- I felt so bad for him because I knew this happened in the real world.

Thank God things have changed so much for the better, which is not to say that we don't still have a long way to go.

 

elizabethsimon
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Re: Symbolism?
elizabethsimon   6/22/2017 2:54:10 PM
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I read the book but have not yet seen the movie.

The book followed the group of black famale mathematicians from the inception of the group during WWII to the moon landing so it included much more background on the women involved. The focus of the book was on the perseverance of the women in the face of difficulties and discrimination rather than on the mathematics and engineering so I'm not suprised that the movie didn't get the math and engineering details right.

Your point about some of the problems solved in the movie being more in the engineering domain was actually true. One of the thigs pointed out in the book was the difficulty that these women had in making the transition into engineering despite their education and training which was comparable to many male engineers that they worked with.

perl_geek
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Symbolism?
perl_geek   6/22/2017 1:10:51 PM
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As a non-mathematician who thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I suspect that the writers symbolised rather than portrayed more than just the mathematics, (though I think I could see Euler's method being used on that sort of problem).

For example, what intermittent malfunction of a '57 Chevy would be fixed by first crawling under the front suspension, then whacking the battery, (possibly causing a short circuit in the process)? Ground corrosion?

Identifying the right cable to relocate in the rat's nest of a 7090's internals would probably have taken more than a cursory glance, too. Both problems more in the domain of an electrical engineer, (or at least electrician), than a mathematician. (I think she put the cards in the reader the right way, though ; face down, nine edge first. Any other greybeards around who could confirm that?)

Seriously, apart from being hugely entertaining, "Hidden Figures" helped bring an important part of history to public attention. If people or events are written out of history, for whatever political or ideological reasons, it distorts the information stream needed to make sensible decisions in future. That really annoys me. It's hard enough to think with good data. Duff gen makes us all stupid.

Kevin Neilson
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Euler
Kevin Neilson   6/19/2017 3:49:42 PM
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I'll stay out of the politics, but I just watched this movie and wondered about some of the math.  At one point Katherine suggests they use the "ancient" Euler's Method to solve some differential equations, and everybody seems to think it's a new idea, but wouldn't they have been using this long before?  I'm sure the writers took a lot of liberties.  I have a copy of "Das Marsprojekt" aka "The Mars Project" written by von Braun in the early 50s, and I think that's what he was using for numerical solutions of flight paths, at least for the early part of the flight.  As I recall, there weren't closed solutions for the parts of the flight with a lot of air friction.

It must have been a pain to work through all those iterations of Euler's Method.  I notice in the movie they use this beast of an adding machine, the Friden STW:  Friden


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