Etymology is funny sometimes. Sometimes it tells you a lot, sometimes nothing at all. For example, the word parabola comes from the ancient Greek word for “applied.” Hyperbola comes from ὑπερβολή or “excessive” and ellipse is derived from “a deficient.” From their words, you’d almost think the Greeks weren’t fond of conic sections.

Don’t let it fool you. They loved them.

A large part of ancient Greek contributions to mathematics are based on the simplicity of taking slices of a cone. Euclid apparently wrote four books on conics (which history somehow managed to lose).

And just as the ancient Greeks…

She was raised in a medical cult

Mary Everest was born in the tiny English village of Wickwar, Gloucestershire, in 1832. When she was five, an influenza outbreak swept Europe and her father became gravely ill. The family decided to pick up and move to Poissy, France, hoping to find a cure in the hands of the famous German doctor Samuel Hahnemann.

A lung x-ray, thresholded using a correlation between Euler number and pixel importance in diagnosis

Let’s start with the basics: what is an Euler number? You may have seen this formula before, perhaps in a discrete mathematics class:

Two simple proofs of the infinity of primes

Prime numbers are whole numbers that are only divisible by 1 and themselves. Students first learn about them in middle school, around the time when teachers are first introducing pesky equations with weird not-numbers like x and y. Remember these factor trees? All you need to know is division to construct one.

The leaves of the tree are prime. It turns out that any number can be factored into primes in a unique way, with primes being factored into one and themselves.

But this simple rule of division turns out to be the basis the most pure of the pure of mathematics. …

Sydney Birbrower

have a podcast about the history of math @mathhistorypod

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