Friday, January 11, 2008

Get rational, be real

A long time ago I stumbled upon this little piece of art... It is not something special, but yet it made me laugh then and it still makes me laugh.

On a more serious note it is interesting that most constants both in math and in physics are not rational numbers. An exception is, for example, the speed of light, which while usually referred to be 300000 km/s but, is in fact exactly 299792458 m / s.
The reason for this is simple. Our number system is not natural - it is just the most easy to use system. It is possible I suppose to change it, but what for? It works well enough. The only problem is that as we discover new constants we may end up without symbols for them. After all there is only a finite number of symbols we can remember and use, so what if the number of such constants is greater? For a human being this will not be a problem - we can work only on a little part of the whole science, so we will not need to know all of the symbols. Eventually we will simply have double meanings for the some sign, according to where it is used. But it would be impossible to create a computer program, capable to use and display all of them.

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