Sunday, March 18, 2007

Math formulas

Sure we've all heard of Einstein's e=mc2, but what about Euler's e(to the power of iπ)+1=0? Robert P Crease has an interesting piece on the beauty, and the dark side, of iconic math formulas. A few years ago he held a survey to see his readers' picks for their favorite equations. My favorite, 1+1=2, received a mere half dozen votes. Though not as sexy as other math formulas, it is the most powerful. Not only is our entire understanding of math predicated on this formula, no other idea or concept carries the same kind of universal certainty we attribute to this truth.

* a gallery of Sidney Harris' academic cartoons here


Blogger oceanwhale said...

According to the Crease's article, the 1 + 1 = 2 equation got in fact 5% of the votes. I would consider this to be a significant percentage given all the beautiful formulas and math icons known today. However, I disagree that it is universal. Here are a couple if examples when it doesn't hold true:

In a binary numerical system (used in virtually all computers) 1 + 1 = 0 (carry 1) [from]

By a consequence of the Banach-Tarski paradox, an orange can be chopped into a finite number of chunks, and these chunks can then be put together again to yield *two* oranges, each of which has the same size as the one that just went into pieces. [from]

Life is full of surprises... : ) [from The Million Dollar Hotel (2000): Wow, after I jumped it occurred to me life is perfect, life is the best, full of magic, beauty, opportunity... and television... and surprises, lots of surprises, yeah. And then there's the best stuff of course, better than anything anyone ever made up, 'cause it's real... ]

3/19/2007 1:15 PM  

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