Husband-and-wife mathematics education team Robert Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan reveal the wonder of one of geometrys simplest equations and discuss their new book, Hidden Harmonies: The Lives and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem.
a2 + b2 = c2. It sounds simple, doesnt it? Yet this familiar equation is a gateway into the riotous garden of mathematics, and sends us on a journey of exploration in the company of two inspired guides, authors and teachers Robert and Ellen Kaplan. They trace the life of the Pythagorean Theorem, from ancient Babylon to the present, visiting along the way Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, President James Garfield, and the Freemasons--not to mention the elusive Pythagoras himself, who almost certainly did not make the statement that bears his name.
How can a theorem have more than one proof? Why does this one have more than two hundred--or is it four thousand? The Pythagorean Theorem has even more applications than proofs: Ancient Egyptians used it for surveying property lines, and today astronomers call on it to measure the distance between stars. Its generalizations are stunning--the theorem works even with shapes on the sides that arent squares, and not just in two dimensions, but any number you like. And perhaps its most intriguing feature of all, this tidy equation opened the door to the world of irrational numbers, an untidy discovery that deeply troubled Pythagoras' disciples.
BIO: Robert Kaplan
Robert Kaplan has taught mathematics to people from six to sixty, at leading independent schools and most recently at Harvard University. He is the author of the best-selling The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero, which has been translated into 10 languages, and with his wife, Ellen Kaplan, he wrote The Art of the Infinite.
BIO: Ellen Kaplan
Ellen Kaplan has taught mathematics to people from six to sixty, at leading independent schools and most recently at Harvard University. She wrote with her husband, Robert Kaplan, they wrote The Art of the Infinite. Ellen Kaplan is also co-author of Chances Are: Adventures in Probability and Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human, co-written with her son Michael Kaplan.