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It is more important to have equations in your beauty..

[ by Charles Cameron — musings on PAM Dirac and Hedy Lamarr ]

PAM Dirac once famously said, “it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations that to have them fit experiment.” I was reminded of that quotation while musing over this DoubleQuote in the Wild celebrating the birthday yesterday of Hedy Lamarr — stunningly symmetrical movie star and frequency-hopping inventor:

Hedy Lamarr DQ Wild

To the left, the beauty herself, and to the right, the equations in the beauty — if one may take the liberty of saying that thoughts are “in” their thinker’s body — shown here in the form of the patent application Lamarr and composer George Antheil submitted fora “a system for the radio control of airborne torpedoes”.

I put that last phrase in quotes because that’s the way a New York Times piece described their joint invention. Me, I haven’t the foggiest about their inner workings, whereas the outer face of Hedy Lamarr I can see with utmost clarity.

3 Responses to “It is more important to have equations in your beauty..”

  1. Dave Schuler Says:

    Ms. Lamarr is one of two Hollywood actresses who are/were patent holders that I know of. The other is Julie Newmar. Both come from families full of engineers.

  2. larrydunbar Says:

    So, “how many” is important, but it is who/how many? 🙂

  3. Ornamental Peasant Says:

    The patent relied extensively on Antheil’s familiarity with and use of player pianos from his own ‘mechanical’ composition practice. It reads: “This invention relates broadly to secret communication systems involving the use of carrier waves of different frequencies, and is especially useful in the remote control of dirigible craft, such as torpedoes.
    An object of the invention is to provide a method of secret communication which is relatively simple and reliable in operation, but at the same time is difficult to discover or decipher.
    Briefly, our system as adapted for radio control of a. remote craft, employs a pair of synchronous records, one at the transmitting station and one at the receiving station, which change the tuning of the transmitting and receiving apparatus from time to time, so that without knowledge of the records an enemy would be unable to determine at what frequency a controlling impulse would be sent. Furthermore, we contemplate employing records of the type used for many years in player pianos, and which consist, of long rolls of paper having perforations variously positioned in a. plurality of longitudinal rows along the records. In a conventional player piano record there may be 88 rows of perforations, and in our system such a record would permit the use of 88 different carrier frequencies, from one to another of which both the transmitting and receiving station would be changed at intervals. Furthermore, records of the type described can be made of substantial length and may be driven slow or fast. This makes it possible for a. pair of records, one at the transmitting station and one at the receiving station, to run for a length of time ample for the remote control of a device such as a torpedo. …”

    A copy of text and images in the the patent is here: https://www.google.com/patents/US2292387

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