Can a bell split a church?


From 15 to 19 March 2004, the Netherlands will once again host the European Study Group Mathematics with Industry. During this 48th edition of the event, sixty mathematicians will tackle seven problems submitted by the public and industry, including whether the chiming of a bell can cause cracks in a church building.

During this Study Group, mathematicians will seek solutions to industrial problems. One of this year's questions concerns the cracks in the walls of the Oude Kerk in Delft. This church's enormous bell, the Bourdon, can now only be rung during funerals of members of the Dutch Royal Family. This is because the chimes of the bell are thought to be responsible for the cracks in the church building.

Mathematicians will calculate the origin of these cracks. For example, are they due to the sound vibrations or due to the movement of the heavy bell or is the problem instead caused by the tower not being straight?

Important factors to be considered include the height and width of the tower, the tower's angle of inclination and the weight of the bells. Architectural drawings from the municipality of Delft indicate that even during its construction, the weight of the tower was asymmetrically distributed. The rear side is heavier than the front, as more stone and concrete has been used there. Furthermore, the heaviest bell is hung on the rear side of the tower.

From fibres to options

As well as the splitting church, the mathematicians will study six other problems. These range from efforts to detect minute holes in hollow fibre membranes, to the best means of sampling for drawing up accountant's declarations, to determining the environmental effects of traffic. Last but not least, attention will be devoted to the stock exchange: How can the price of certain options be determined?

The Study Group Mathematics with Industry is a European initiative that has brought together mathematicians and companies for more than 30 years. For a period of one week, sixty mathematicians – from Ph.D. students to professors – will work together on industrial problems. Previous editions of the Study Group have considered problems as diverse as the diffusion of euros over the eurozone countries to managing the climate of the aquarium at the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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