Renowned author & mathematician visits Southampton


September 27, 2014

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Mike Sterling shows his musical instrument, the 'Bernoulli', to Eli and Dalia Maor

On the Museum tour, Mike Sterling explained how the Stokes Bay lighthouse was moved  by helicopter from the Bruce Peninsula

The Maors immediately understood the concept of ballast stones that were retrieved from the shipwreck, the General Hunter

Most mathematical and musical heroes for Mike Sterling of Southampton are lost in the annals of history, except  for one, Eli Maor.

Maor is a historian of mathematics, the author of several books on the subject and is an in-demand lecturer and speaker.  Born in Israel, with a PhD from the Israel Institute of Technology, he teaches the history of mathematics at Loyola University of Chicago and was the editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica article on trigonometry, as well as being a contributor to the esteemed publication.

His thesis for his PhD, based on using mathematics to solve musical acoustic problems, reflected his intense interest in the relationship between science and arts, particularly, music.

Maor's article, 'What is There so Mathematical about Music' received the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics award for being the best article on teaching the applications of mathematics.

He and his wife, Dalia, who is an Engineer, also have a fascination with astronomy and have traveled the world chasing eclipses, as members of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Mike Sterling first learned of Eli Maor some 10 years ago upon reading his book, 'e-the Story of a Number'.  After several attempts to contact Maor, it wasn't until this year, 2014, that he succeeded. Sterling had been working on a musical instrument based on mathematics and sent an outline of his work to Maor who immediately became intrigued.

"I receive many messages through my printing firm, Princeton University Press," said Maor, "but Mike's message and what he was doing definitely drew my attention."

So intrigued was Maor, that he and his wife drove from Chicago, where they live, to Southampton to meet Sterling and see first-hand his mathematical musical invention. 

Eli Maor autographs his many books that Mike Sterling owns

Mike Sterling & Eli Maor discuss the mathematical intricacies of another potential instrument that Sterling is creating called "The Bernoulli Involute"

Sterling hosted the couple in the 'Sterling Room' of the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre (named after him for his many volunteer contributions to the Museum).  There, Sterling had his unique 'Bernoulli' instrument set up for the Maors, in addition to mathematical graphics set to music that he has designed.

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The Maor(s) listen to how Sterling and friends constructed a double-Helix, named 'Renewal', from a ship's anchor chain and that now stands at the Bruce County Museum

Sterling explains to the couple how he crafted the replica cannons on the deck of the Museum's H.M.S. General Hunter British war ship

The Maor's stayed at Southampton's historic Chantry Breezes Bed & Breakfast

Both the Maors are inquisitive about their surroundings and, although only spending one day in Southampton, they took advantage of their time in the community to tour the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre, the Bruce Power Visitors' Centre, the boardwalk on the beach and the Saugeen First Nation Amphitheatre dry-stone wall project.

"We will definitely be returning to Southampton when we have a chance," said Eli Maor.  "It is a beautiful place with so many interesting features.  The Museum is amazing and we would like to spend an entire day there."

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