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BlueWolf's Howl

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October 28, 2002

Got Math?

If you think you hate math, at least it isn't as dangerous as it used to be...

Do you remember Pythagoras? Yeah, the guy with the Pythagorean Theorem (A + B = C).... Well, he established a school of philosophy dedicated to the study of numbers.

The Pythagorean school followed a strict code of conduct and pursued studies of mathematics and philosophy as the basis for a moral life. Pythagoras gave two kinds of lectures: one restricted to members of his society, and the other designed for the wider community. Pythagoras discovered that a complete system of mathematics could be constructed, where geometric elements corresponded with numbers, and where integers and their ratios were all that was necessary to establish an entire system of logic and truth.

Then they discovered irrational numbers.

Irrational numbers are numbers that have an infinite, nonrepeating decimal part. If you use a right triangle with both sides equal to one unit, you get
1 + 1 = C
C would then be equal to the square root of 2. This is an irrational number.

This totally rocked their world and caused quite a commotion. The disturbing finding was divulged to the special members of Pythagoras' society and they were sworn to complete secrecy. Numbers had become their religion - and by number they meant whole numbers and their ratios. The square root of two, which could not be expressed as the ratio of two whole numbers, jeopardized their entire belief system.

Hippasus (you never hear about this guy) is believed to have committed the ultimate crime by divulging to the outside world the secret of the existence of irrational numbers. There are a number of legends that record the aftermath of this revelation. One legend has it that Hippasus was set afloat on a boat that was then sunk by members of the society. Other legends say that Pythagoras himself strangled or drowned the traitor.

You can kill the messenger, but you can never stop the truth from escaping.

Posted by BlueWolf on October 28, 2002 10:20 PM