haiku, humor, math, politics

Bhaskara for President!

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Fooey.  He has hardly any name recognition, was not born a US citizen, and has been dead for centuries.  Being more reality-oriented than those who nominated Donald Trump for the job, I cannot seriously promote Bhaskara.  What a pity.

Who’s Bhaskara?  We will get to that question shortly.  First, consider whatever gadget U are using to read this post.  It depends on many things, discovered over many years by many people who (unlike many pols) preferred building up to tearing down.  With many steps omitted (and “depends on” abbreviated to ), a few of those dependencies go like this:

Your Gadget quantum physics coordinate systems Pythagoras’ Theorem

Back in high school, Pythagoras’ Theorem may have seemed like a little fact about right triangles that may have been mildly interesting but did not deserve the effort of slogging thru the book’s tedious proof.  I could read the proof line by line, observe that it was valid, and be glad that I never needed to retrieve it for a test.  Hardly anybody could remember it for more than a few minutes.

Pythagoras’ Theorem turned out to be essential to blogging (and much else), so it would be nice to have a proof that mere mortals could remember, appreciate, and be inspired by.  Enter Bhaskara, 1114-1185.

Bhaskara replaced the usual picture (of 3 squares glued to the sides of 1 triangle) with a picture of 4 copies of the same triangle, arranged to form a big square with a little square inside it:

4 · ( ½ · a · b) + c²
The proof is sometimes displayed more tersely, with just the figure.  I prefer to write out a little algebra (while not belaboring why the angles do add up the way the figure suggests).  Tho he did not have modern notation, Bhaskara did have an elegant way to provide more detail for the mathematically fastidious.  He displayed another figure that also puts the 4 copies of the triangle inside a big square with sides a+b.  In the other figure, the area not covered by copies of the triangle amounts to a²+b² because it consists of 2 small squares.  But the not-covered area amounts to c² in the figure displayed above, so we can conclude that

  a²+b²= c²

w/o bothering with algebra and how to compute areas of right triangles.  We just need to bother with drawing both figures.  Wanna try your hand at drawing the other figure?

Googling reveals some variation in what is attributed to Bhaskara. The 1-figure proof I displayed appears in several places (sometimes attributed to Bhaskara and sometimes w/o attribution).  A similar 1-figure proof is commonly attributed to Bhaskara, with a big square of length c.  The 2-figure version that avoids algebra is attributed to Bhaskara in Math in 100 Key Breakthroughs, a nicely illustrated book by Richard Elwes.  Historical accuracy is not crucial at the moment, so I went with the best story w/o worrying about who got it right.

OK, I admit that having written a proof of mind-blowing elegance does not really qualify Bhaskara to be POTUS.  Too bad that many people think mind-blowing arrogance can hack it.

Clicking on the “politics” category or tag in this post will display all my uses of acidic humor to cope with the current state of US politics.  But acids are corrosive.  Sometimes, I forego acid and contemplate some of the enduring (so far) glories of modern Western civilization, one of which is that it is not entirely Western.  In particular, we got some elegant math from India and some elegant poetry forms from Japan.

One Way to Stay Sane in 2016

Cherish all that is
true and good and beautiful
(like Bhaskara’s proof).

5 thoughts on “Bhaskara for President!

  1. Well the Proof and your candidate and the whole explanation was lost on me. However I am earmarking this to try and read when I’m not in the late night boozy weepies but I sure can identify with your closing statement and will take it to heart. Although I’m crazy without the election circus….just plain ole fashioned crazy. ~~dru~~

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I certainly agree with the point about looking at the great achievements of our species rather than its politicians for inspiration. I was watching a documentary the other day that mentioned a probe called Euclid that will launch in 2020 to measure the acceleration of the universe to help scientists understand more about dark matter and dark energy. I wondered why if we humans could do something as amazing as this, we couldn’t come up with better politics too. (It also struck me that if Donald Trump becomes president, we may not make it to 2020.)

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m not smart enough to have figured the other figure on my own. With a little help from Google, I drew this:


    This is interesting on lot’s of levels. I started out as a Physics major in college and realized about halfway into DiffE that I couldn’t hack the math. But I’ve always been fascinated by science (and math) and I am able to grasp the conceptual ideas. This was the impetus for me to explore and read about Bhaskara, which of course wound up being several very interesting tangential rabbit holes…

    Interesting on another level because I always thought your “avatar” (or whatever that thing is called) was just a WordPress default option. Should have known better.

    Yea, too bad I can’t write-in Bhaskara on my ballot…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, what U drew is the other figure I hinted about. Thanks for pursuing this and for the pointer to Dropbox.

      I used Paint on a Win XP machine long ago to get what became my avatar/icon/whatever, with color coding rather than letters in an attempt to make it prettier. From Win 7 onward, Paint is much improved in several ways. I have still not gotten around to seeing whether I can do something like Bhaskara’s other figure in that style more easily nowadays. So I decided to just drop a hint in the hope that some people would enjoy doing some drawing by hand. Seeing your neat diagram was a pleasant and humbling surprise.

      Liked by 1 person

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