# histomath

i never liked history
but now i can tell you
the pythagorean theorem was known well before pythagoras
algebraic notation does not appear in the kitab al-jabr
but it has some really neat geometry in it
the vinculum appears commonly in three places
over the radicand even when it’s not needed
over repeated decimals
and as the fraction bar
but otherwise it mostly lost out to parentheses
the witch of agnesi is a mistranslation
and probably has a misogynistic component
as does the fact that einstein’s first wife
wasn’t credited on the work they cowrote
the power wasn’t originally the exponent
it was the result of what the exponent does
for a few years in the early 70s
little kids learned set theory
before they even learned to add
but if you blinked you missed that
there are 360 degrees in part because
there are 365 days in a year
and 360 is easier to work with
and the sine is about the angle the sun
makes in the sky
which is why it’s more important
than the cosine
only three cultures
at most
probably only two
ever bothered to come up with
an original symbol for zero
even though everyone has a concept
of nothingness
and what we call the factorial today
is a special case of what the person
who published on the subject
called factorial
which was not so useful otherwise
and legend says one of the greek mathematicians
was killed by a roman soldier
because he was too busy doing math to surrender
and a young french mathematician
died in a duel
and what we call an abacus is not a proper abacus
because the romans had an abacus
that didn’t really work as well
because the romans weren’t very good at math
over all
in fact
they were famously bad at mathematics
except for engineering
where they shined
so when we found a chinese device
that worked like an abacus
and had a name we couldn’t remember
suanpan
we called it an abacus instead
and pretended the roman thing was just a fluke
and speaking of the chinese
liu hui came up with a method for estimating pi
from polygons
similar to archimedes
although archimedes did beat him to it
and it took way too long for people
to attach logarithms to exponents
for us to act like it’s a completely obvious relationship
and i weep for the loss of the slide rule
even though i didn’t use one in school myself
and i still don’t really like history
but that’s okay

Clio Corvid

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