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Teen Finds Error at Museum of Science That's Been There for 35 Years

By    |   Wednesday, 08 Jul 2015 08:09 AM

A 15-year-old found an error in a math equation at the Museum of Science in Boston last month, which had been incorrect for nearly 35 years.

Joseph Rosenfeld, a student at John Handley High School in Virginia, was visiting the “Mathematica: A World of Numbers . . . and Beyond” exhibit with his family when he noticed the equation for the Golden Ratio just did not add up. The exhibit showed minus signs where it should have had plus signs.

“At first, I wasn’t sure, I thought maybe I had it wrong, but I was excited,” Rosenfeld told Boston.com.

Rosenfeld double-checked his work and his parents left a note at the front desk telling the museum they had gotten their math wrong. The teen later received a letter from the museum telling him that they were trying to remedy their error.

“You are right that the formula for the Golden Ratio is incorrect. We will be changing the – sign to a + sign on the three places it appears if we can manage to do it without damaging the original,” Alana Parkes, content developer for the exhibit, wrote to the teenager, Boston.com reported.

“An unusual thing about 'Mathematica' is that the whole exhibition is considered an artifact . . . This means that decisions about everything in the exhibition requires both Curatorial and Content Development consent (and most things can’t be changed at all)," Parkes continued. "It also means that this mistake has been there for a very long time.”

However, the museum was able to fix the math error shortly after Rosenfeld pointed out the problem.

The museum also invited the young math whiz back to the museum to see the new “The Science Behind Pixar” exhibit, which Rosenfeld’s family hopes to visit in the next few weeks.

“I was just really excited that I found an error,” Rosenfeld, whose favorite subjects are math and science, told Boston.com. “That doesn’t happen every day.”

Charles and Ray Eames designed the exhibit they hoped would “provide an opportunity for everyone to enjoy the wonder of mathematics as well as the beauty of post-modern design,” in 1981. The architecture and furniture design experts had probably neglected to notice the error.

The boy says he hopes to one day return to Boston to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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A 15-year-old found an error in a math equation at the Museum of Science in Boston last month, which had been incorrect for nearly 35 years.
teen, finds, error, museum of science, math, boston
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2015-09-08
Wednesday, 08 Jul 2015 08:09 AM
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