Saint Sava (saint_sava) wrote,
Saint Sava

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i and a half.

The imaginary number i is getting a lot of press in this corner of LiveJournal, so I thought I'd share a story I read concerning it.

Isaac Asimov, a marvelous raconteur in his own right, tells the story of one of his university philosophy professors in the midst of a rant, specifically about the arrogance of mathematicians, how they suppose to possess a knowledge superior to that of other fields. The cornerstone of his tirade was, of course, the square root of minus one, which he challenged anybody to visualize. Asimov, being the confrontationalist, stands up, and promptly becomes the target of the professor's righteous rage. Making a motion toward the blackboard, he asks the professor to hand him half a piece of chalk.
  The professor, acquiescing, broke an unused piece of chalk roughly in two and handed a piece to Asimov, who regarded it dramatically.
  Asimov said that he asked for half a piece of chalk.
  "I've given you half a piece of chalk, Isaac."
  "No, you've given me one piece of chalk. You certainly didn't give me two or three. And here you are, berating the mathematicians for speaking of numbers like i when you yourself don't even have a solid grasp on the concept of one-half..."

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