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The Cult of Pythagoras: Math and Myths
In this follow-up to his popular Science Secrets, Alberto A. Martínez discusses various popular myths from the history of mathematics: that Pythagoras proved the hypotenuse theorem, that Archimedes figured out how to test the purity of a gold crown while he was in a bathtub, that the Golden Ratio is in nature and ancient architecture, that the young Galois created group th ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by University of Pittsburgh Press
(first published January 1st 2012)
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Another reason I must change my opinion from one that Math is a property of the Universe and is discovered to one that Math is invented. The author belabors some points and the title is a bait and switch as the book is more about how math is built by consensus and evolves in interpretation. I did learn that almost everything everyone says about Pythagoras is made up. Also, I was disappointed to find out that claims about the golden ratio are also incredibly overblown. Some ideas have lots of cha ...more
As a middle school and high school math teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it corrected much of the false information I have been passing onto my students over the years. I was a little sad that it wasn't more accessible to those that aren't as mathematically minded.
Everyone knows that Pythagoras was an early Greek mathematician, that he proved the Pythagorean theorem, and that he was one of the first to glimpse our modern conception of the world-- that the universe can be described by numbers. Everyone “knows” this, but is there actually any historical basis to these claims? What do we really know about Pythagoras and what he did, and how much of what is taught about him in math classes is actually myth? Apparently quite a bit, according to Alberto Martine ...more
The history of mathematics sandwiched in between questions of the historical reality of Pythagoras made for great reading and intriguing examination of the myths I confess I passed on to my students in 26 years of teaching. Everything I ever thought I knew about mathematical history was called into question, from Gauss's precious abilities to add strings of numbers to the extent to which mathematics is found in nature are examined and re-examined. Is mathematics invented or discovered? I guess i ...more