Friday 21 October 2022

#24 Magnitude ... from old Math Terms notes

 Magnitude The Roman goddess Maia (she who is great) from whom we get the name for the month of May, is also the root of magnitude, and many other words that relate to greatness or size. The greatest value in a set, the Maximum is drawn from the same root. The root actually runs back to origins in Sanskrit and has relations in words like omega, maharajah, and Almagest, which was the title of Ptolemy's great work (about 150 AD) which chronicled the knowledge of the time about geography and astronomy. Current English words related to the same root include magnificent, magnanimous, maestro, mayor, magistrate, matador, and master

In Mother Tounge Bill Bryson says that the words maximum and minimum were first used in English by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), but Jeff Miller's web site credits the first use in 1743 to W. Emerson in " Doctrine of Fluxions"

I found an interesting note for all those calculus and analysis students who have laboured over problems of maxima and minima in Heinrich Dorrie's 100 Great Problems of Elementary Mathematics (which I highly recommend).

At what point of the Earth's surface does a vertically suspended rod appear longest? (I.e. at what point is the visual angle at a maximum?). This problem was posed in 1471 by the mathematician Johannes Muller, called Regiomontanus.... The problem, which in itself is not difficult, nevertheless deserves special attention as the first extreme problem encountered in the history of mathematics since the days of antiquity.
The problem appears still in textbooks related to the viewing angle of a picture, or the best position to attempt a field goal. I've even co-authored a version of it myself. Eli Maor points out that there is no evidence to show that Regiomontonous knew the solution.

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