I don’t know what you were doing when you were in 10th grade, but I was probably sitting in trigonometry staring at the clock until class was over.
Joseph Rosenfeld, a 10th grader from Virginia, has a much better attention span than that.
In fact, his attention to detail and passion for math led him to find an error in the Mathematica: A World of Numbers…and Beyond exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science.
Let me repeat that: the Boston Museum of Science. That’s a museum that’s been known since the 1950s as one of the most thorough science museums in the country.
The “Mathematica” exhibit opened in 1981, which means that nobody saw this error for almost 35 years!
Rosenfeld noticed that the exhibit’s equation for the Golden Ratio had multiple minus signs where there should have been plus signs, so he left a note at the front desk.
He did not leave any contact information with the note, but reports indicate that his family called the museum afterwards, prompting them to send Rosenfeld a letter admitting that he was correct.
The letter, written by Alana Parkes, the exhibit content developer at the Boston Museum of Science said, “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.”
Parkes also included an explanation of how difficult it is to change any of the exhibits, even if there is an error. She wrote, “Decisions about everything in the exhibition requires both Curatorial and Content Development consent (and most things can’t be changed at all).”
However, the museum said that, in this case they could fix the error that Rosenfeld found.
To thank him for his dedication to the sciences and for his contribution to the museum, they have invited Rosenfeld back to see the exhibit “The Science Behind Pixar.” So, it looks like Rosenfeld will be heading back to Boston very soon!