Freshman and Senior Seminars
CSE 87 and 192
Winter 2015

The Slide Rule

Professor Joe Pasquale


Before modern calculators and computers, the slide rule was the calculating tool of choice for engineers and scientists. Unlike its electronic successors, the slide rule is mind-powered, and mind-empowering. In this seminar, we revive the lost skill and art of slide rule operation, and explore some of the beautiful underlying mathematics and computational properties of this remarkably simple yet powerful instrument. Students will learn with advanced log-log slide rules, giving them the unique experience of using high-quality instruments that were used many decades ago, and are guaranteed that this know-how will impress their professors and future employers beyond belief.


Prerequisites: none (other than basic high school math). In addition to informative and enlightening, this should be a fun seminar, so your active participation is the main requirement.

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Topics

The initial meetings will focus on getting familiar with the slide rule: how it works, how to use all the scales, working on interesting problems that exercise the various scales, etc. We then go to historical and advanced mathematical topics. Here is a rough list (which will probably change).