PierreSimon
Laplace was
a mathematician
who firmly
believed
the world
was entirely
deterministic. Like
a man with
a hammer
to whom
everything
was a nail,
to Laplace
the universe
was nothing
but a giant
problem
in calculus.
Laplace's Mécanique
Céleste (Celestial
Mechanics),
essentially
translated
the geometrical
study of
mechanics
by Newton
to one
based on
calculus. Napoleon
asked Laplace
why there
was not
a single
mention
of God
in Laplace's
entire
five volume
explaining
how the
heavens
operated. (Newton,
a man of
science
who believed
in an omnipresent
God, had
even
posited
God's periodic
intervention
to keep
the universe
on track.)
Laplace
replied
to Napoleon
that he
had "no
need for
that particular
hypothesis".
Laplace
also used
calculus,
among other
things,
to explore
probability
theory.
Laplace
considered
probability
theory
to be simply "common
sense reduced
to calculus",
which he
systematized
in his "Essai
Philosophique
sur les
Probabilités" (Philosophical
Essay on
Probability,
1814).
Laplace's
contention
that the
universe
and all
it contained
were deterministic
machines
was thoroughly
overturned
by the
discoveries
of twentieth
century
physics.
About
the Image: Laplace
is portrayed with
what is
possibly
the most
celebrated
differential
equation
ever devised
 Laplace's
partial
differential equation,
commonly
referred
to as Laplace's
Equation,
shown here
in the
form of
a Laplacian
operator.
Laplace's
partial
differential
has been
successfully
used for
tasks as
diverse
as describing
the stability
of the
solar system,
the field
around
an electrical
charge,
and the
distribution
of heat
in a pot
of food
in the
oven.
Laplace's
image
has
been transformed
by a Laplacian
operator. The Laplacian of
an image
highlights
regions of rapid intensity change and is suitable
for edge
detection
(critical
in almost
all image
analysis
applications, and extending to areas such as robotic
vision).
Inscribed
over the
portrait of
Laplace
is the Laplacian
distribution curve.
The Laplacian
probability
density
function has
found digital
age applicability
in data
compression.
The
background to
Laplace's
portrait
is a graphic
derived
from a
solution
to Laplace's
equation.
