August marks one of the biggest days in Singapore – National Day! This year, it’s the first National Day Parade celebrations back at Padang since 2019. Get ready to watch the fireworks and also learn other fun math facts about the month of August. Spark Math by Spark Education is continuing our series, “This Month in Math History: August.” From Singapore gaining independence to an adventure in a balloon, here’s how math helped affect history in August!
9 August 1965: Singapore’s National Day
National Day is celebrated annually on 9 August to commemorate the day Singapore attained independence from Malaysia in 1965. Having evolved from a third world nation to a first world nation, Singapore has gone through a transformation through the years, and this could not be achieved without the help of math. In the beginning, Singapore focused on economic growth. The government worked with Albert Winsemius, an economic advisor from Netherlands to develop economic strategies for the country. Math is an integral part of economics and provides the tools for economists to analyse and create economic projections. It is through detailed planning and establishing effective economic policies that helped the country grew to what it is today.
One striking sight you commonly see, which has also become a part of the national identity, is the Housing Development Board (HDB) flats. To solve the housing problem in pre-independence Singapore, the Housing Development Board was set up to provide affordable apartments for the people. Nowadays, HDB flats can go as high as 50 storeys, with roof gardens and walls that are good for sound-proofing. These achievements could not be done without the help of math to engineer and design the buildings!
6 August 1881: The Scientist Who Discovered Penicillin (and saved countless lives) is Born
Alexander Fleming was born on 6 August. He helped create one of the most powerful discoveries of all time, the antibiotic known as penicillin. This accidental discovery happened when some mold grew on a staphylococcus culture, destroying it. Using his skills as a medical professional and problem solver, Fleming worked to find the best way to use penicillin, and other antibiotics, to help people fight infections. This medical discovery became his new passion.
The discovery not only helped people fight infections like bronchitis, but it helped make surgery more survivable. Between Dr. Fleming’s discovery in 1928 and 1952, over 150,000 lives were saved, and this was just in the U.S. alone. This critical discovery helped save lives during some of the toughest times, the Great Depression and WW2.
With this discovery, scientists used other molds to create stronger and longer-lasting antibiotics. Creating new medications is done through a ton of experimentation and data analysis. Some of the biggest discoveries and inventions still rely on simple math to keep track of their successes, helping future researchers use that data to help more people. We all owe Alexander Fleming for taking an accident and turning it into a life-saving discovery.
24 August 79 A.D.: The Eruption of Vesuvius by the Numbers
Over 2000 years ago in Naples, Italy, one of the most powerful volcanoes unexpectedly erupted. The forces were so powerful they covered the local town of Pompei with tons of debris and ash, perfectly preserving it in a tomb of lava. This town wasn’t discovered until the 1800s. Here are some facts about this volcano that’s still active today.
- Mount Vesuvius is connected to another volcano, Monte Somma.
- Before the eruption, there wasn’t a name for Volcano, it was named after the Roman god Vulcan.
- The eruption was 100,000 times stronger than the first atomic bombs.
- As of April 2023, the height is 4,203 feet (1,281 meters). That size changes after every eruption.
- The volcano is still active and hasn’t erupted since 1944.
17 August 1978: A Trip from New Mexico to France in a Balloon
On 17 August 1978, history was made when Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman completed the first trip across the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon. The three men rode in a helium balloon named Double Eagle II from New Mexico to 60 miles outside of France. While this feat had already been accomplished via plane, these adventurers used only science and math to make it such a long distance in 137 hours. This trip took years of engineering, math skills, trials, and failures to happen.
Even though hot air and helium balloons existed before airplanes, they weren’t able to be as easily controlled as airplanes. This means that the first time a balloon crossed the Atlantic Ocean was over 50 years after the first plane flight, and it was a lot harder and more dangerous.
August sees many exciting moments in history. From building the foundations of a country to having an adventure with friends, math helped to create and explain some of the greatest moments in history.
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