Schools Mathematics Grand Challenge
Did You Know ?
Some people take numbers very seriously indeed!
The square root of 2 is an example of an
irrational number. This means that you cannot
express it as a ratio of two whole numbers or
a fraction. An equivalent way of saying this
is that there exist no whole numbers a and b
for which
a^2 = 2 x b^2.
Thus, it is impossible to find two whole numbers
where the square of one of the m is two times
the square of the other one.
In ancient Greece, there was a society known
as the Pythagoreans who were followers of the
philosopher Pythagoras. They believed that
everything could be related to mathematics,
and also had some strange practices and rules.
For instance, it was forbidden to walk over
a crossbar or to eat beans! The Pythagorean
school is credited with discovering the ratios
behind the musical scale that we still use today,
and also with discovering irrational numbers.
Legend has it that a member of the school
named Hippasus discovered that the square root
of two was irrational while on a boat. When he
told his fellow Pythagoreans about this, they
were not happy with his discovery as it went
against some of their fundamental beliefs, so it
is said that they threw poor Hippasus overboard!
For more information on Pythagoras and his school,
consult
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagoras.
