WINCHESTER, Va. — When rising Handley High School sophomore Joseph Rosenfeld visited the Museum of Science in Boston earlier this month, he saw something nobody had noticed before — an error in one of the museum's exhibits.
The exhibit, titled "Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond," contained three errors — a section featuring the Golden Ratio had the equation's plus signs written as minus signs.
The Golden Ratio is a special number in the math world equal to approximately 1.618. It appears often in areas such as geometry, art and architecture.
The exhibit was created in the 1960s and is a replica of one originally developed by the famed design team of Charles and Ray Eames.
"You are right that the formula for the Golden Ratio is incorrect. This mistake has been there for a very long time," Alana Parkes, the museum's exhibit content developer, wrote in a letter to Joseph after he reported the errors.
Joseph, 15, is the son of Scott and Shyama Rosenfeld. He said he enjoys going to museums and visits several per year — the one in Boston is his favorite, although the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., is a close second. He also likes the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum in Winchester, where he serves on the youth advisory committee.
"It's really cool to see all the exhibits and the science and math behind everything," he said.
Joseph excels at science and math and will be taking physics and AP calculus in the fall.
He was on a family trip to Boston earlier this month when he visited the Museum of Science and noticed the mistake in the exhibit. He looked up the equation on his phone to confirm that it was incorrect.
"I like to read the fine print," Joesph said of how he found the error.
He then reported the typo to the museum's front desk. The museum employees were surprised, he said.
"An unusual thing about Mathematica is that the whole exhibition is considered an artifact," Parkes wrote in her letter to Joseph. "This means that decisions about everything in the exhibition requires both Curatorial and Content Development consent (and most things can't be changed at all)... 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."
Joseph said whether or not the error is changed, it was "cool" to have found the mistake.
Former John Kerr Elementary School Principal Anita Jenkins, who serves on the board of directors at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, worked with Joseph at the school and now at the museum.
"The fact that Joseph found it did not surprise me," she said. "That would be something I could picture him doing. He studies things... I'm surprised that nobody else has caught that."
Information from: The Winchester Star, http://www.winchesterstar.com