This blog was inspired by the beautiful 2016 movie *Hidden Figures* (based on the book of the same name by M. L. Shetterley) which tell the drammatic story of three talented black women scientist that worked as “human computers” for NASA in the 1961 for the Mercury project.

In one of the clue scene, the main character, the mathematician Katherine Goble (interpreted by Taraji P. Henson), had a brilliant intuition how to numerically solve the complex problem to find the transfer trajectory for the rientry into the Earth atmosphere of the Friendship 7 capsule with the astronaut John Glenn onboard. In the scene, she was standing together with other engineers and the director of the Langley Research Center (a fictional character interpreted by Kevin Coster) in front of the huge blackboard looking to graph and equations when she say that the solution might be in the “old math” and she run to take a old book from a bookshelf with the description of the Euler method. The scene is shown and nicely described also in the youtube video lesson by Prof. Alan Garfinkel of the UCLA. A detailed description of the numerical solution based on the original derivation of K. Globe can be found in the Wolfram blog website.

Katherine Globe was using for these complex calculation her brilliant brain with the support of a mechanical calculator (the Friden STW-10, in the movie this machine is visible in different scenes). In a scene of the movie, she revealed that her normal computing performace was of 10000 calculations per day and probably for calculations, she was not referring to single arithmetic operations! They were impressive capabilities that gave an significative contribution to the beginning of the American space program but not sufficients to sustain the demanding of time-consuming complex mathematics necessary to land the man on the Moon and the other fantastic NASA achievments.

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