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A Maths Odyssey

A MATHS ODYSSEY

This fascinating publication is a picture book about the sometimes perplexing mathematical odyssey from straight lines to hyperbolic space, from Euclid's axioms to Boolean algebra. An excellent prize book for graduates.

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Zeno’s paradox

The finish line is 2 metres away. The runner must first reach half the distance to the finish line (1m) but when there must cover half of the remaining distance (1/2 m). Having done that the runner must cover half of the new remainder (1/4m), then 1/8m, then 1/16m etc.

Will the runner ever reach the finish line?

The run consists of an infinite number of finite distances, which Zeno concluded must take an infinite time, which is to say that it is never completed!

However, we know in reality that the runner will reach the finish line. How can we show that an infinite process ends?

Let D be the distance covered.

D               = 1 + ½ + ¼ + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 …

½ D           = ½ + ¼ + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 …

D – ½ D     = 1 + (½ + ¼ + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 …) – (½ + ¼ + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 …)

D – ½ D     = 1

½ D           = 1

D               = 2

 

This is only one of Zeno's paradoxes.