Matemáticas

Carbon dating of an ancient Indian document, the Bakhshali manuscript, has recently placed the first written occurrence of the number zero in the third or fourth century A.D., about 500 years earlier than previously believed. While the news has no practical bearing on the infrastructure of zeros (and ones) underlying our high-tech civilization, it does remind us how indebted we are for this invention. But to whom is this debt owed? And how should it be repaid?

Chauvinistic politicians might loudly trumpet India’s role (as they have, more controversially, in the case of the Pythagorean theorem), but the history of zero remains unsettled enough to still be the subject of continuing quests.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hace poco estaba en un avión y practicaba KenKen, un acertijo matemático, cuando otro pasajero me preguntó por qué me molestaba en hacerlo. Le dije que era por la belleza.

Está bien. Admito que es un juego tonto: debes lograr que los números dentro de la cuadrícula obedezcan ciertos límites matemáticos y, cuando lo hacen, todas las piezas quedan juntas y eso te deja un sentimiento de armonía y orden.

Aún así, la pregunta me hizo cuestionarme sobre qué del pensamiento matemático es lo que resulta tan elegante y estéticamente atractivo. ¿Acaso es la lógica interna? ¿La mezcla única de simplicidad y poder expositivo?…  Seguir leyendo »

I was doing KenKen, a math puzzle, on a plane recently when a fellow passenger asked why I bothered. I said I did it for the beauty.

O.K., I’ll admit it’s a silly game: You have to make the numbers within the grid obey certain mathematical constraints, and when they do, all the pieces fit nicely together and you get this rush of harmony and order.

Still, it makes me wonder what it is about mathematical thinking that is so elegant and aesthetically appealing. Is it the internal logic? The unique mix of simplicity and explanatory power? Or perhaps just its pure intellectual beauty?…  Seguir leyendo »