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West Asian mathematics – history of math

By | 2017-09-16T12:05:41+00:00 September 16th, 2017|Science, West Asia|

Sumerian multiplication table (2700 BC) Once people in West Asia figured out how to write down numbers, about 3500 BC, they quickly began to want to use cuneiform to write down other mathematical ideas. The earliest example of this that we have is from about 2700 BC. It shows a multiplication table to help people figure out the area of a space by multiplying width [...]

Roman science – What did ancient Romans invent?

By | 2017-09-04T18:01:05+00:00 September 4th, 2017|Romans, Science|

Roman mold-blown glass (100s AD) What we call Roman science is a mixture of two different things. The first is the discoveries and inventions made by scientists working in parts of West Asia and Africa that the Romans had conquered. In these places, scientists had already been working for a long time. They [...]

Renaissance Science in Europe

By | 2017-08-07T21:36:38+00:00 August 7th, 2017|Modern Europe, Science|

Copernicus, a Renaissance astronomer Starting in the 1200s AD, as Europe got richer, great universities got started there. In the later Middle Ages, West Asia and India suffered from the Mongol invasions. West Asian people were too poor to send their children to the old university at Baghdad. In the 1300s, the Black Death killed so many people in Egypt that the old university at Cairo also didn't have [...]

Medieval math in Europe

By | 2017-08-04T13:22:07+00:00 August 4th, 2017|Math, Medieval|

Math was a very exciting subject to be working on during the Middle Ages in Europe. Little by little, math experts in Europe were learning from Islamic math experts about what we call Arabic numbers (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) (though the numbers came originally from India). Leaning Tower of Pisa (built while Fibonacci was a child) The first of these experts was Adelard [...]

Tangents – trigonometry – math

By | 2017-07-29T18:02:11+00:00 July 29th, 2017|Math|

This line is tangent to a circle. A tangent, like a sine or a cosine, is a mathematical way of thinking about a kind of movement that happens in nature. A tangent is really just a rephrasing of the same information we already had for calculating the sine function. One way to describe a tangent is that [...]

Sine waves – trigonometry – math

By | 2017-07-29T17:59:39+00:00 July 29th, 2017|Math|

Sine wave In order to save energy, many, many things in nature move in a kind of repeated pattern we call a sine wave: water waves, sound waves, light waves, electricity, radio waves, and microwaves, for instance. The waves move in one direction quickly, then slow down until they stop, and begin moving [...]

Trigonometry and triangles

By | 2017-07-29T17:52:34+00:00 July 29th, 2017|Math|

An infinite distance: stars in the sky Since the time of the Sumerians, about 3000 BC, scientists have studied the stars and the planets. They've tried to figure out the patterns in the movements of the planets. This was much harder because everybody thought that the stars and planets circled around the earth, and really they don't. About 140 BC, [...]

Cosine – Trigonometry – Math

By | 2017-07-29T17:48:21+00:00 July 29th, 2017|Math|

Right triangle and cosine A cosine, like a sine, is a mathematical way of thinking about a kind of movement that happens in nature. A cosine is really just a rephrasing of the same information we already had for calculating the sine function. One way to describe these changes is with the sine function. Choose [...]

al Tusi – Discoveries of Islamic astronomy

By | 2017-07-27T08:30:46+00:00 July 27th, 2017|Islam, Science|

Al Tusi in his observatory (ca. 1259 AD) Nasir al Tusi was born in Iran in 1201 AD, as the Seljuk Empire was falling apart. The Seljuks were Turkic people. But al Tusi, like most of the people living near him, was of Iranian descent. He spoke Persian at home. He was from a Shiite, Sufi family. Al Tusi's father died when he [...]

Invention of Zero – Indian Mathematics

By | 2017-07-22T06:32:34+00:00 July 22nd, 2017|India, Math|

Counting tokens from Mehrgarh in Late Stone Age India The first known use of numbers in India was in the late Stone Age, about 4000 BC. Around this time, people at Mehrgarh began using the counting tokens that people were already using in West Asia. Soon afterwards, people changed over to writing their numbers down, using pictographs. The Harappans in [...]