Friday, January 25, 2008


To continue with Lucia’s valiant effort, I wanted to point out some other mathematical horrors from the novel. The simplification of math, trivializing it to the concepts of arithmetic and creating an entire society based on these basic mathematical principles is insulting and demeaning. Math goes beyond arithmetic, and this type of society is more so descriptive of one created by accountants.

I would like to now quote a line that was particularly ridiculous from a mathematical point of view: “the equation was very complex, with transcendental values.” Pg. 34 Firstly, I think it is important to note that a transcendental value is simply a number that is not a solution to any non-zero polynomial with rational coefficients. There are a few types of transcendental numbers that are known, amongst them the most popular (e and pi). However, almost all real numbers are transcendental – almost all is an actual mathematical term, by the way. Now that we have a better understanding of what a transcendental number is, we can actually look at an extremely complicated equation!

e ^ (i*pi) + 1 = 0. Not only does it have transcendental numbers, it even has an imaginary number, or as the book so elegantly puts it, the irrational number “i”. I know this doesn’t seem very complicated… it’s not.

I don’t want to get too intense, but I have one more point to make about the sentence. The word complex is also ill posed… it is an actual mathematical term and a complex equation with transcendental values is not necessarily complicated. I’m not sure what the author meant by the word complex. But Lucia has already taken care of the poor use of English in describing the math.


Ian B said...

I agree with both of you. But what do you make of these mistakes? Error in translation? Error due to historical differences? J. Jones says that the author had no formal mathematical training, so it seems likely that he was just making errors.

Lucia said...

Thank you for presenting such a rational argument. Sometimes I feel as though the intersection between me and anyone else in this world who appreciates math is the empty set. But now I know that our union is something that would make DeMorgan smile. I also know, now more than ever, that there is an isomorphism from my thoughts to yours.

Miguel said...

haha, how appropriate for you and Lucia to be pointing out the Mathematical mistakes. Though I can't blame you, they were pretty obvious. At the same time, when the book was written, and for a good amount of time following, there were few people who actually understood the ideas discussed in the book, and even fewer of those who probably would have read the book. Many of the mathematicians would have been locking themselves in the attic for 7 years to figure out theorems. But nonetheless, good catches.

Ian B said...

the second comment here was,by far, the DORKIEST thing I have read all day. Perhaps even all week.

Lucia said...

Ian B - I am glad to be at the top of your "dork" list. Too bad I am not a guy; then all the girls in this class would find me sexy.