Engineer Cracks 2000yo Problem Even Newton Couldnt Solve

A physics problem first laid out two thousand years ago by the Greek mathematician Diocles and that Isaac Newton could not solve has been cracked by a Mexican engineer.

The problem is to do with the way light is deflected when passing through a lens and was defined as the “Wasserman Wolf problem” following an article published in Royal Society Proceedings in 1949.

Rafael Gonzalez worked between eight and 14 hours a day to solve the mathematical puzzle, also known as the “Spheric Aberration” that had defeated physicists like Isaac Newton.

Credit: CEN/Nacional Tecnologico Monterrey
Formula Graphic

He said however that he had an unfair advantage in being able to use computers that were not available when the problem was first defined 2000 years ago, telling Central European News (CEN) that it had been “impossible to solve without the help of a computer” because the equations were so big.

The proud industrial engineer is currently working on his PhD in Nanotechnology and he explained to CEN that it is focused on “the analytical models of optical systems”. 

The brilliant researcher commented to CEN that because of “the extension of the equations it is not easy to consolidate results quickly.” 

Credit: CEN/Nacional Tecnologico Monterrey
Optical surfaces

Talking with CEN about the problem first defined by Diocles over two thousand years ago, he added: “The problem was like a swamp but I needed the solution and I started to work between 8 and 14 hours a day.” 

He told CEN that everything started when his colleague, Alejandro Chapparo, another Mexican scientist, invited him to study this deviation that he had been trying to solve for three years. 

The problem concerns that fact that when looking through a camera, a telescope, a binocular or a microscope, the images are blurred.

Credit: CEN/Nacional Tecnologico Monterrey
Scientist Rafael González

He told CEN: “Initially I answered ‘no’ when he asked me to work on the aberration, but then I decided to study it only out of curiosity, then I started working between 8 and 14 hours a day on it and one morning I was making a toast with Nutella and I thought to myself: that’s it, it’s right there.” 

According to an article published by Monterrey Institute of Technology on its web page, this is caused by the spherical aberration problem. The lenses and curved mirrors of these devices are generally made with spherical surfaces because this shape is easier to form than the non-spherical curved surfaces.

The rays of light that strike an off-centre spherical surface are refracted or reflected more or less than those that impact near the centre. This deviation reduces the quality of the images produced by the optical equipment.

Asked about the practical applications of his discovery, he told CEN: “By having a better resolution in a microscope whose price on the market is affordable, the medical community can open discussions on new unknown aspects or that were only available to laboratories with highly specialised equipment.” 

Photography experts or amateurs can also benefit from this new discovery as making high-quality photo and video cameras will be easier for manufacturers.

He also told CEN: “Technology consumers pay for the costs of making any kind of product that contains lenses or curved mirrors, from its design, manufacture, to commercialisation. Now high-quality equipment will be more affordable.”

Credit: CEN/Nacional Tecnologico Monterrey
Maths problem solved

He added: “By having a better quality in the image you can enjoy the details that make it unique, with these lenses the cameras with excellent performance can have an affordable price for anyone who is interested in the art of photography.”

According to Gonzalez, it is still too early to know how the market will take advantage of his discovery but he hopes to see the results very soon.


To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Jonathan MaciasSub-EditorJoseph Golder, Agency: Central European News


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