## Posts Tagged 'Analysis'

### Bernard Bolzano, a Voice Crying in the Wilderness

Bernard Bolzano (1781-1848)

Bernard Bolzano, born in Prague in 1781, was a Bohemian mathematician with Italian origins. Bolzano made several profound advances in mathematics that were not well publicized. As a result, his mathematical work was overlooked, often for many decades after his death. For example, his construction of a function that is continuous on an interval but nowhere differentiable, did not become known. Thus, the credit still goes to Karl Weierstrass, who found such a function about 30 years later. Boyer and Merzbach described Bolzano as “a voice crying in the wilderness,” since so many of his results had to be rediscovered by other workers.

### Really, 0.999999… is equal to 1. Surreally, this is not so!

The value of the recurring decimal 0.999999 … is a popular topic of conversation amongst amateur mathematicians of various levels of knowledge and expertise. Some of the discussions on the web are of little value or interest, but the topic touches on several subtle and deep aspects of number theory.

[Image Wikimedia Commons]

### Grandi’s Series: A Second Look

In an earlier post, we discussed Grandi’s series, originally studied by the Italian monk Dom Guido Grandi around 1703. It is the series

$\displaystyle G = 1 - 1 + 1 - 1 + 1 - 1 + \dots$

This is a divergent series: the sequence of partial sums is ${\{ 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, \dots \}}$, which obviously does not converge, but alternates between ${0}$ and ${1}$.

### Grandi’s Series: Divergent but Summable

Is the Light On or Off?

Suppose a light is switched on for a half-minute, off for a quarter minute, on for one eighth of a minute and so on until precisely one minute has elapsed. Is the light on or off at the end of this (infinite) process? Representing the two states “on” and “off” by ${1}$ and ${0}$, the sequence of states over the first minute is ${\{ 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, \dots \}}$. But how do we ascertain the final state from this sequence? This question is sometimes known as Thomson’s Lamp Puzzle.

### Fourier’s Wonderful Idea – II

Solving PDEs by a Roundabout Route

Joseph Fourier (1768-1830)

Joseph Fourier, born just 250 years ago, introduced a wonderful idea that revolutionized science and mathematics: any function or signal can be broken down into simple periodic sine-waves. Radio waves, micro-waves, infra-red radiation, visible light, ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma rays are all forms of electromagnetic radiation, differing only in frequency  [TM136 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

### Fourier’s Wonderful Idea – I

Breaking Complex Objects into Simple Pieces

“In a memorable session of the French Academy on the
21st of December 1807, the mathematician and engineer
Joseph Fourier announced a thesis which inaugurated a
new chapter in the history of mathematics. The claim of
Fourier appeared to the older members of the Academy,
including the great analyst Lagrange, entirely incredible.”

Introduction

Joseph Fourier (1768-1830)

The above words open the Discourse on Fourier Series, written by Cornelius Lanczos. What greatly surprised and shocked Lagrange and the other academicians was the claim of Fourier that an arbitrary function, defined by an arbitrarily capricious graph, can always be resolved into a sum of pure sine and cosine functions. There was good reason to question Fourier’s theorem. Since sine functions are continuous and infinitely differentiable, it was assumed that any superposition of such functions would have the same properties. How could this assumption be reconciled with Fourier’s claim?

### Subtract 0 and divide by 1

We all know that division by zero is a prohibited operation, and that ratios that reduce to “zero divided by zero” are indeterminate. We probably also recall proving in elementary calculus class that

$\displaystyle \lim_{x\rightarrow 0} \frac{\sin x}{x} = 1$

This is an essential step in deriving an expression for the derivative of ${\sin x}$.