Imaginary Numbers

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Quick: What is an imaginary number?

Oh, sure, you could cheat and use Wikipedia, or--even better--Simple Wikipedia. But do you recall the definition of an imaginary number from your Algebra class (or, at least, Calvin and Hobbes)?

An imaginary number is the square root of a negative number (which, since a negative number times a negative number is always positive, is impossible). But imaginary numbers are very helpful when you're solving for an equation and you find you need to get the square root of both sides of an equation and one of them happens to be negative:

Solve for x:
x2 = -72

If you're still reading, I guess you either find math fascinating--as I do--or you trust me to get to some kind of point worth suffering through the horror of math. Or, you've been skimming and not really paying attention.

If you're no longer reading, I'm glad you at least stopped by. <smile>

I must admit that I still get a little woozy and sick to my stomach when someone asks me how many purple beads are in the pile if 3/4 of them are red, 25% of the rest are black, 14 are white, and x orange beads were given to Bobby last Saturday when Susie took 1/18 of the total for a lemonade stand where she sells a glass of juice from concentrate for $4.13, and ice is another 7% if you want it on Thursdays.

Cherish has a very interesting post on our aversion to math which is often linked to school teachers.
[Edit: Sorry, I forgot to add my "mild profanity" disclaimer.]

I'm not sure if my dad helped give me an interest in math by insisting that he show why 34-17=17; I certainly didn't appreciate it at the time because I just wanted the answer. But his patient--and infuriating--demonstrations of how math really makes sense have helped me.

I hope I can do the same for my children with a few less tears.

Hmm... I guess today was a Math Monday.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

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