Introduction to Coordinate Geometry

The Cartesian plane is one of the greatest inventions in mathematics.  Had Rene Descartes not invented the rectangular coordinate system, calculus would not have progressed immensely as we are using it in our time.

The Number Line

The coordinate system was derived from the correspondence between the real numbers and the points on number line.  Each point on the number  line corresponds to a real number and each real number corresponds to a point on the number line. The number line represents the ‘entirety’ of the real numbers.  By convention, the number line is a horizontal line where the negative numbers are placed on the left of 0, and  the positive numbers on the right. » Read more

A Brief History of Mathematics

BBC radio invited Professor Marcus du Sautoy to discuss about history of mathematics in the mini-series titled “A Brief History of Mathematics” and podcasts of the series are available for download.

The series contains 10 episodes of 15-minute talks about well-known mathematicians, their lives, and their contributions that changed the world.

Click here to download podcasts from BBC website or here to download podcasts from Itunes.

H/T: Great Maths Teaching Ideas

The man who conned a mathematician

Mathematicians are definitely among the most logical and analytical of persons. But sometimes, passion can blind anyone, even them. This was what happened to Michael Chasles (1793-1880), an accomplished French mathematician during his time. Chasles was a professor of Mathematics and Ecole Polytechnique and a winner of the Copey Medal of the Royal Society of London. A chair of geometry was also established for him at Sorbonne University in 1846.

One day Chasles met a Denis Vrain-Lucas, con man extraordinaire. Lucas knowing the former’s patriotism and passion for mathematical history, he convinced Chasles that he was in possession of letters from Blaise Pascal to Isaac Newton implying that gravity was discovered by the former. If proven true, a French would have discovered gravity and not an English.  Chasles paid Lucas and asked for more letters. From 1861 to 1870, Lucas had forged 27,000 letters which Chasles paid for a staggering amount of 140 000 francs!

Lucas’ career ended when the supposed letter of Pascal to Newton was shown to the French Academy of Science.  It was discovered that Pascal’s handwriting in that letter was very different from his writing in the academy’s archives.  Lucas was proven guilty and was sentenced for two years imprisonment, but Chasles credibility was tarnished.

Had Chasles read all the letters, he would have realized that all the historical letters from different continents including the letters of Alexander the Great to Aristotle, Cleopatra to Julius Caesar, Mary Magdalene to Lazarus — yes, he forged all of it — were all written in French!

Source: Mathematical Scandals

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