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Happy Earth Day!


Happy Earth Day!  Today, April 22, Earth Day celebrations are occurring throughout the United States as well as around the world.  This year’s theme, Green Cities, focuses on sustainable communities.  Denis Hayes was the first coordinator of Earth Day, an environmental “teach-in” held on April 22, 1970.  In the first Earth Day participants from two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States “brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform.”  He founded the Earth Day Network in Washington, DC and expanded it to 192 countries.  Time Magazine named him “Hero of the planet” in 1999.  His mentor, former US Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, originated the idea 44 years ago, in 1970, to promote and support responsible protection of our environment, the Earth. Gaylord Nelson hired Denis Hayes, a student attending the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University to organize the first Earth Day. In 1995, Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his work.

The first to propose an international day to honor the Earth was peace activist John McConnell. His vision, formed at a UNESCO conference on the environment in 1969, included a celebration to be held on the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere: March 21, McConnell’s proposal led to a proclamation signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations in 1971, initiating an annual Earth Day on April 22nd.  McConnell later founded the Earth Society in 1976 with anthropologist Margaret Mead.


April 22 Is Earth Day: What it Means, (2014) from

Brosnan, Kathleen A.  Encyclopedia of American Environmental History Volume II.  New York: Facts on File, Inc.  An imprint of Infobase Publishing, 2011.  Engineering Library Folio GE 150 .E53 2011 V.2

Earth Day Extravaganza Sheds Its Humble Roots (April 22, 1990) from

Earth Day History:  The History of Earth Day (2014) from

Gorman, Hugh S. The Story of N:  A Social History of the Nitrogen Cycle and the Challenge of Sustainability.  N.J.  : Rutgers University Press, 2013.  Engineering Library TD196.N55 G67 2013.

Khale, Lynn R, and Eda Gurel-Atay, editors.  Communicating Sustainability for the Green Economy. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2014.  Engineering Library HC79. E5.C61236 2014.

Taback, H.J. Environmental Ethics and Sustainability: A Casebook for Environmental Professionals. Florida, Boca Raton: CRC Press 2014. Engineering Library GE42. T33 2014.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (2014) from

Who Invented Earth Day? ( 2014)  from






April 15th is Eraser Day!


April 15th is National Rubber Eraser Day!

When  celebrating the invention of the eraser, the names and stories of several European scientists intertwine: Frenchman Charles Marie de la Condamine, Portuguese Jean Hyacinthe de Magellan, and Englishmen Edward Nairne and Joseph Priestley are collectively responsible for its discovery and use.

Condamine was sent to South America in 1735 by the French Academy of Science to calculate the diameter of the Earth at the equator.  In his travels through Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil, he was fascinated by caoutchouc, a milky white elastic substance produced under the bark of a tropical tree.  He returned with samples in 1745.  By 1752, Jean Hyacinthe de Magellan, a Portuguese scientist who corresponded with internationally known scientists of his day, is thought to have been the person responsible for suggesting that caoutchouc be used as an eraser in the Proceedings of the French Academy.  Until that time, pieces of bread had been used to eliminate marks on paper. According to Inventors and Inventions, Sir John Priestly noted the erasing properties of vegetable gum:  “I have seen a substance excellently adapted to the purpose of wiping from paper the mark of black pencil lead.” By 1778, Priestley suggested that caoutchouc be called “rubber” for its properties. A decade later, by 1790, the word “eraser” was in use and referred to the object used to remove pencil marks.

In 1839, American Charles Goodyear developed and patented a process to keep the rubber material from rotting.  The process, vulcanization which is named after the Roman god of fire, cured and stabilized the rubber.  Today, erasers are made from synthetic rubber or vinyl.  The engineering and production process involved can be seen in a short You Tube video by the Staedtler Corporation or in the article Eraser:  Raw Materials and Manufacturing Process are described in detail at a site called:



Hyacinthe Magellan (2014) retrieved from

Innovateus, Edward Nairne (2006-2013) retrieved from

Online Etymology Dictionary (2001-2014) retrieved from

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, Charles Marie De La Condamine (1999)


Combination of Lead-pencil and eraser (US 19783A)


Xpress Class Wednesday April 16th at 2:30 – Keeping up with Your Research: Alerts and Notifications

April 16th – Keeping up with Your Research: Alerts and Notifications

Learn to set up alerts and notifications on some of your favorite databases and library resources so that you can keep up to date on the latest information in your area of research.  Taught by Kari Kozak (Head, Lichtenberger Engineering Library).


Xpress Class Wednesday April 9th Join us for Inside Pubmed

April 9th  – Inside PubMed

Introduction to PubMed.  This database contains over 19 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.  Taught by Shane Wallace (Health Sciences Clinical Education Librarian, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences)


Leonardo da Vinci the Engineer

Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions

Come see the exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci: The Engineer at the Lichtenberger Engineering Library.  The exhibit includes models of some of his engineering feats:  a catapult and a multiple sling designed as war machines to hurl stones, a paddleboat and a great kite.  Stop by and see pictures of his underwater breathing machine, a steam cannon, a gigantic crossbow and the Vitruvian man.

Included in the exhibit case are facsimiles from the University’s Special Collections of da Vinci’s original manuscripts printed from the collection of the Institute de France.  Twelve manuscripts written between 1492 and 1516 were brought back to Italy by Francesco Melzi, his favorite pupil, after da Vinci’s death.  These facsimiles feature over five thousand pages of drawings and notes in his characteristic “mirror-image” hand-writing, running from right. The sections on display in the case are those related to:  the military art, optics, geometry, the flight of birds and hydraulics.


One of Da Vinci’s famous drawings is of the Vitruvian Man, a drawing created in 1490, is accompanied by notes based on the work of the architect Vitruvius and Book III of his treatise De Architectura.  Vitruvius the architect described the human body with having ideal proportions.  The drawing, pen and ink on paper, depicts a male figure in a square within a circle.  The drawings sometimes referred to as the “Proportions of Man,” and named in honor of the architect Vitruvius, represent da Vinci’s blend of art and science.  Encyclopaedia Brittanica online states that da Vinci “believed the workings of the human body to be an analogy for the workings of the universe.”


Those of you interested in hydraulics may know about Enzo Macagno.  In 1960, Macagno became interested in studies of the history of fluid mechanics and the life of da Vinci.  Along with his colleague and late wife, Matilde, Macagno became an international expert on da Vinci, publishing numerous articles and IIHR monographs on the interpretation, analysis, and synthesis of da Vinci’s codices and manuscripts as they relate to fluid-flow and transport phenomena.  You will find more information in the exhibit case and two monographs from Special Collections on Macagno’s work.

This is just a sampling of what can be seen at the Lichtenberger Engineering Library’s Leonardo Da Vinci: The Engineer exhibit. Stop by to learn more!



Capra, Fritjof. The Science of Leonardo.  New York: Doubleday,2007. Engineering Library Q143.L5 C37 2007

da Vinci, Leonardo, 1452-1519.  Leonard da Vinci: scientist, inventor, Artist.  Ostfildern-Ruit [Germany]: Verlage Gerd Hatje, 1997. Engineering Library N6923.L33 A4 1997

Kemp, Martin.  Leonard Da Vinci Experience, Experiment and Design.  Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006. Art Oversize FOLIO N6923.L33 K449 2006.

Laurenza, Domenico.  Leonardo on Flight.  Baltimore: The John Hopkins University press,2004. Engineering Library TL540.L4 L38 2007.

Moon, Francis C.The Machines of Leonardo Da Vinci and Franz Reuleaux.  New York: Springer, 2007. Engineering Library TJ 230 .M66 2007.

Museo Nazionale Della Scienza E Della Technologia Leonardo Da Vinci.(2014).Retrieved from


Xpress Class Wednesday April 2nd–Endnote Basic

April 2nd – Endnote Basic (30 minutes) 

Introduction to an online citation management system that is free for everyone at the University of Iowa. This is replacing RefWorks which the University will no long be supporting as of December 2014.   Endnote helps you to manage all your references for a paper (or many papers) as well as create the incite citations and bibliographies in a wide variety of formatting styles.  Taught by Steve Ostrem (Reference and Instruction Librarian, Main Library) The web version of Endnote Basic will be taught not the full client version!


How Sweet It Is: Basketball Engineering

Engineering and basketball go together as we begin the Sweet 16 games in the NCAA tournament, but just how has engineering affected the game?


Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball.

Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball.

In 1891, at Springfield College, Massachusetts, Dr. James Naismith, a thirty-year old physical education instructor, was encouraged to create an indoor, winter “athletic distraction.” Using two vegetable baskets, a soccer ball, nine men per team, and a ladder to retrieve the ball from the basket, the game of basketball came into existence. He never entertained the notion of patenting his new game because it was for recreational fun. “Basketball is just a game to play. It doesn’t need a coach… you don’t coach basketball, you just play it.” Despite his comment, in 1900 he became the basketball coach for the Jayhawks at the University of Kansas.

Between 1892 and 1894, formal rules were devised, an inflated leather, albeit occasionally lopsided, ball was invented, and backboards were designed so fans could not reach over and deflect the shots. On January 18, 1896, the first “experimental” college basketball game was played between the University of Iowa and the new University of Chicago. The final score: Chicago 15, Iowa 12.


U.S. Patent 1,718,305 was granted to G.L. Pierce on June 25, 1929 for the "basketball."

U.S. Patent 1,718,305 was granted to G.L. Pierce on June 25, 1929 for the “basketball.”

The ball is considered the most important piece of equipment. The original basketball was patented in 1929 (see U.S. Patent 1,718,305). It was made of leather on the outside and butyl rubber on the inside. Zinc and cooper plates imprinted the label onto the ball. Wilson has developed the Solution which is the official basketball for the NCAA championships. The company’s patented composite-leather technology absorbs moisture for better ball handling.

In 1893, iron hoops and hammock-style enclosed baskets were introduced to the game. It was another decade before open-ended nets were used. In the 1930s a flurry of patents were filed suggesting that the game was becoming a viably commercial sport. The game continues to evolve with technology enhancements such as breakaway rims, vision replay, and performance shoes. If only Dr. Naismith could have foreseen the future of his fun “athletic distraction.”

The Wilson Sports Good Company is maker of the official basketball for the NCAA.  They hold a plethora of patents related to the basketball.   This includes United States Patent 4570931 which relates to the pebbled triangle design on the surface of the basketball.


The Physics of Basketball (Engineering Library QC26 .F66 2006)

Two Guys From Barnum, Iowa and How They Helped Save Basketball: A History of U.S. Patent 4,534,556 by Francis B. Francois (2008)

Basketball STEM Project

America’s Story from America’s Library

The Coach’s Clipboard

Top 5: Early Basketball Patents



Join us March 26th – Protein Database: 3-D Protein structures

Join us tomorrow Wednesday March 26th for a 15 minute class on using–Protein Database:  3-D Protein structures.  The class will be held at 2:30 in the Engineering Library (2001C SC)

Taught by Chris Childs (Health Sciences Education and Outreach Librarian, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences)


Come Celebrate Pi Day 3.14,1:59!


On March 14 at 1:59 pm we gather together to celebrate the most famous and mysterious of numbers.  That Pi is defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter seems simple enough but Pi turns out to be an “irrational number.”  Computer scientists have calculated billions of digits of pi, starting with 3.14159265358979323…, no recognizable pattern emerges in the digits.  Scientists could continue calculating the next digit all the way to infinity and still have no idea which digit might emerge next.  To these facts can be added that March 14 is also Einstein’s birthday.

Pi is a number that has fascinated scholars for 4,000 years.  The mathematical history of pi comes from around the world.  In 1900 B.C., the Babylonians calculated the area of the circle by taking 3 times the square of its radius.  One Babylonian tablet (ca 1900-1680 B.C.) indicates a value of 3.125 for pi, which is a close approximation. Around 1650 B.C., the Rhind Papyrus, a famous document of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, also calculated the area of a circle which gave the approximate value of 3.1605.



In 250 B.C., the Greek mathematician Archimedes calculated the circumference of a circle to its  diameter.  Archimedes  value , was not only more accurate; it was the first theoretical rather than measured calculations of pi.  Archimedes knew that he had not found the value of pi but only an approximation. He used a fairy simply geometrical approach for his calculations.  See how he did it by launching the interactive model on this site:



Zu Chongzhi (429-501 AD?) was a Chinese mathematician and astronomer, who was not familiar with Archimedes method. He calculated the value of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Unfortunately, his book has been lost so very little is known of his work.

In 1761, a Swiss mathematician Johann Heinrich Lambert (1782-1777) proved the irrationality of pi.  An irrational number is a number that cannot be made into a fraction where the decimal never ends or repeat sequences.

By 1882, F. Lindeman proved that pi was transcendental, that is, that pi is not the root of any algebraic equation with rational coefficients.  This discovery proved that you can’t “square the circle” which was a problem that vexed many mathematicians up to that time.  Another fascination for mathematicians throughout history was to calculate the digits of pi, but until computers, less than 1,000 digits had been calculated.  With the calculations of the computer, millions of digits have been calculated.


Adiran, Y. E. O.  The Pleasures of Pi, e and Other Interesting Numbers.  Singapore: World Scientific Pub., c2006.  Engineering Library QA95 .A2 2006

Alsina, Claudi.  Icons of Mathematics:  An Exploration of Twenty Key Images. Washington, D.C.:  Mathematical Association of America c2011.

Beckman, Petr.  The History of Pi. Boulder: Colorado: The Golem Press, 1977.  Main Math Collection QA484 .B4 1977

Chongzhi, Zu.  Encyclopedia Britannica.  Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2014.  Web, 10 March 2014.    Http:// / EBchecked/topic/1073884/Zu-Chongzhi.   Main Reference Collection AE5 .E363 2010

Exploratorium. (2014). Pi Day. Retrieved from

Gillings, R. Mathematics in the Time of the Pharaohs. Boston, MA: MIT Press, 89-103, 1972.  Main Math Collection QA27.E3 G52 

Gardner, Milo. “Rhind Papyrus.” From MathWorld–A Wolfram Web Resource, created by Eric W. Weisstein.

A facsimile of this papyrus can also be found at the
Main Oversize FOLIO PJ1681 R5 1927
Main Math Collection FOLIO PJ1681 R5 1927

Hobson, Ernest William.  Squaring the Circle and Other Monographs. New York: Chelsea, 1953.  Main Math Collection QA467 .H62 1953 

KHANACADEMY. (2014). A Song About A Circle Constant. Retrieved from

Libeskind, Shlomo.  Euclidean and Transformational Geometry: A Deductive Inquiry. Sudbury, Mass.:  Jones and Bartlett Publishers, c 2008. Engineering Library QA453 .L53 2008 

Mackenzie, D. “Fractions to Make an Egyptian Scribe Blanch.” Science 278, 224, 1997.

McCall, Martin W.  Classical Mechanics:  From Newton to Einstein: A Modern Introduction.  Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2010.  Engineering Library QC125.2 .M385 2011 

Robins, G. and Shute, C. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus: An Ancient Egyptian Text. New York: Dover, 1990. Main Math Collection QA30.3 .R63 1987 

Weingardt, Richard.  Circles in The Sky:  The Life and Times of George Ferris.  Reston, VA,: American Society of Civil Engineers, C.2009.  Engineering Library TA140.F455 W45 2009



Pi Day : Pie, Trivia & Fun … Oh, My!

pi_web imageJoin the Lichtenberger Engineering Library and the People in Engineering LLC for an exciting afternoon of free pie and Pi(e) trivia.

The fun begins at 1:59 pm on 3.14 in the Seamans Center Student Commons.

Show off your knowledge of Pi(e). Form a team of four and pre-register for a trivia game at

Pi Day is open to all students, faculty, and staff. Be there or……. be square!