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Hither & Yon

The Numbers Quartet


Inspired in part by the Alphabet Quartet series, four powerful authors have come together here to examine a dozen important concepts in mathematics through short short fiction pieces. Mathematics may not be science but in many ways it is the language that science is spoken in. The stories proceed in chronological order with the oldest developed concept going first.

by Stephen Gaskell
Pi: a transcendental number equal to the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter that has an approx. value of 3.14159--symbol π, earliest known textual approximation dates from the Egyptian Rhind Papyrus c. 1900 BC.
Published on Jan 4, 2012
by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Golden ratio: In mathematics and the arts, two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one. The Greeks usually attributed discovery of this concept to Pythagoras or his followers. Approx. value 1.61803398874989--symbol φ, first known written definition dates from Euclid's Elements c. 300 BC.
Published on Jan 11, 2012
by Nancy Fulda
Zero: the arithmetical symbol denoting the absence of all magnitude or quantity--symbol 0, first conceived and manipulated as an actual number in India c. 458 AD.
Published on Jan 18, 2012
by Nancy Fulda
i: the imaginary quantity equal to the square root of minus one--symbol i, first quantified through the work of Rafael Bombelli in 1572 AD.
Published on Jan 25, 2012
by Aliette de Bodard
Exponential: the transcendental number that is the base of Napierian or natural logarithms, approximately equal to 2.71828. The number also has applications in probability theory--symbol e, first referenced in work by John Napier in 1618 AD.
Published on Feb 1, 2012
by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Standard gravity: the standard acceleration due to free fall is the nominal acceleration of an object in a vacuum near the surface of the Earth. Approximate value of 9.81 ms-2--symbol g, derived from the law of universal gravitation stated in Sir Isaac Newton's Principia, first published in 1687 AD.
Published on Feb 8, 2012
by Stephen Gaskell
Elementary charge: the electric charge carried by a single proton, or equivalently, the absolute value of the electric charge carried by a single electron, that has an approx. value of 1.602 x 10-19 Coulombs--symbol e, first unified into a coherent concept through experiments performed by Dr. Michael Faraday in 1839 AD
Published on Feb 15, 2012
by Benjamin Rosenbaum
j: in quaternion theory, a meta-imaginary number, orthogonal to both the real number line (1, 2, 3...) and the imaginary number line (i, 2i, 3i...)--symbol j, formalized by Sir William Rowan Hamilton in 1843 AD.
Published on Feb 22, 2012
by Aliette de Bodard
Boltzmann's constant: a constant that plays a fundamental role in defining the entropy of a system, particularly in the characterization of systems for which the lack of information is maximal. Valued at 1.3806488 10-23J K-1--symbol k, first referenced in work linking entropy to probability by Ludwig Boltzmann in 1877 AD.
It was the same way in life as in the story: the fisherman plying his trade on the river rapids; the princess trapped in her tower, waiting for the sound of his flute, waiting to be taken away from the palace. Except that Thien was the princess, the captive one--if the city of Hue could be a tower, and guiding tourists through the ruins of the Citadel be compared to reading books and embroidering silk cloth for ceremonies.
Published on Feb 29, 2012
by Stephen Gaskell
Planck's constant: a constant that gives the unvarying ratio of the energy of a quantum of radiation to its frequency, and a cornerstone of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. Approx. value of 6.62 x 10-34 Js--symbol h, discovered by Planck in 1899 AD.
Published on Mar 7, 2012
by Aliette de Bodard
speed of light: a physical constant denoting the speed of light in a vacuum, important in many areas of physics, and valued at 299,792,458 meters per second. It is the maximum speed at which all energy, matter, and information in the universe can travel--symbol c, postulated in Einstein's special theory of relativity in 1905 AD.
Published on Mar 14, 2012
by Nancy Fulda
Infinity: unlimited extent of time, space, or quantity. The quality of being infinite--symbol ∞.
Published on Mar 21, 2012
 
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