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Wheels and Thunderbolts: Second-Order Indeterminate Equations in Medieval Indian Mathematics

by

Kim Plofker
Union College

April 3, 2012
4 pm
Bailey Hall 207

Refreshments will be served in Bailey Hall 204 at 3:45


Abstract:

Finding solutions for a single equation in two unknowns (for example, values of $x$ and $y$ that satisfy $x^2 - y^2 = 1)$ is part of the mathematical field known as indeterminate analysis, where there are many possible solutions to a given problem. This was a popular subject in classical mathematics, later re-visited and expanded starting in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. In the meantime, though, mathematicians in medieval India took up these problems and developed a number of ingenious solution strategies for them. We'll explore how these problems and solutions evolved and what they tell us about the mathematical thinking of their day.


For additional information, send e-mail to math@union.edu or call (518) 388-6246.
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