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The Mathematics Portal

Mathematics is the study of representing and reasoning about abstract objects (such as numbers, points, spaces, sets, structures, and games). Mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, and the social sciences. Used for calculation, it is considered the most important subject. Applied mathematics, the branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields, inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries and sometimes leads to the development of entirely new mathematical disciplines, such as statistics and game theory. Mathematicians also engage in pure mathematics, or mathematics for its own sake, without having any application in mind. There is no clear line separating pure and applied mathematics, and practical applications for what began as pure mathematics are often discovered. (Full article...)

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Title page of Sir Henry Billingsley's first English version of Euclid's Elements, 1570 (560x900).jpg
The frontispiece of Sir Henry Billingsley's first English version of Euclid's Elements, 1570
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Euclid's Elements (Greek: Στοιχεῖα) is a mathematical and geometric treatise, consisting of 13 books, written by the Hellenistic mathematician Euclid in Egypt during the early 3rd century BC. It comprises a collection of definitions, postulates (axioms), propositions (theorems) and proofs thereof. Euclid's books are in the fields of Euclidean geometry, as well as the ancient Greek version of number theory. The Elements is one of the oldest extant axiomatic deductive treatments of geometry, and has proven instrumental in the development of logic and modern science.

It is considered one of the most successful textbooks ever written: the Elements was one of the very first books to go to press, and is second only to the Bible in number of editions published (well over 1000). For centuries, when the quadrivium was included in the curriculum of all university students, knowledge of at least part of Euclid's Elements was required of all students. Not until the 20th century did it cease to be considered something all educated people had read. It is still (though rarely) used as a basic introduction to geometry today. (Full article...)

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animation of the act of "unrolling" a circle's circumference, illustrating the ratio pi (π)
Credit: John Reid
Pi, represented by the Greek letter π, is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter in Euclidean space (i.e., on a flat plane); it is also the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius. (These facts are reflected in the familiar formulas from geometry, C = π d and A = π r2.) In this animation, the circle has a diameter of 1 unit, giving it a circumference of π. The rolling shows that the distance a point on the circle moves linearly in one complete revolution is equal to π. Pi is an irrational number and so cannot be expressed as the ratio of two integers; as a result, the decimal expansion of π is nonterminating and nonrepeating. To 50 decimal places, π  3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510, a value of sufficient precision to allow the calculation of the volume of a sphere the size of the orbit of Neptune around the Sun (assuming an exact value for this radius) to within 1 cubic angstrom. According to the Lindemann–Weierstrass theorem, first proved in 1882, π is also a transcendental (or non-algebraic) number, meaning it is not the root of any non-zero polynomial with rational coefficients. (This implies that it cannot be expressed using any closed-form algebraic expression—and also that solving the ancient problem of squaring the circle using a compass and straightedge construction is impossible). Perhaps the simplest non-algebraic closed-form expression for π is 4 arctan 1, based on the inverse tangent function (a transcendental function). There are also many infinite series and some infinite products that converge to π or to a simple function of it, like 2/π; one of these is the infinite series representation of the inverse-tangent expression just mentioned. Such iterative approaches to approximating π first appeared in 15th-century India and were later rediscovered (perhaps not independently) in 17th- and 18th-century Europe (along with several continued fractions representations). Although these methods often suffer from an impractically slow convergence rate, one modern infinite series that converges to 1/π very quickly is given by the Chudnovsky algorithm, first published in 1989; each term of this series gives an astonishing 14 additional decimal places of accuracy. In addition to geometry and trigonometry, π appears in many other areas of mathematics, including number theory, calculus, and probability.

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