Thursday, April 24, 2008


I'm working on a research paper type assignment for a class on the history of math. I wanted to look into the discovery of imaginary numbers. Discovery might not be the right word--invention? revelation? creation?

Anyway, it turns out there was a ridiculous amount of drama amongst the 16th century mathematicians looking for the cubic equation. How amusing/disillusioning--I thought mathematicians, being analytical and logical and intelligent and (back in the day) male, would not be prime candidates for secret-keeping, betrayal, public fights, insult-hurling, etc. But apparently not! Maybe Cardano and Tartaglia's silliness can be blamed on their being Italian.

Or, if we take the view of men v. women expressed in Candide, we could blame it on their being male and therefore impractical and idealistic and obsessed with honor. Hmm.

But anyway, the thing I am currently really interested in is Euler's formula, which yields the infamous "e to the pi times i equals 0." How do you wrap your mind around the idea of raising something to an imaginary or complex number? I need to look into this more.

What does it say about me that looking at this kind of math makes me so happy, huh?

I think it says I'm my father's daughter. :)

1 comment:

Mark Stoehr said...

Tycho Brahe lost a nose to a battle about arithmetic: