Math

Are Math Equations Beautiful? Euler's Identity Makes Mathematicians Swoon

Relationship goals: Find someone who talks about you the way Richard Feynman talks about Euler's identity. In lectures, he called the equation "our jewel" and "the most remarkable formula in mathematics." The equation has not only been called the most beautiful equation in mathematics, but it has even been compared to a Shakespearean sonnet.

Shall I Compare e to a Summer's Day?

Drumroll, please. Here is Euler's identity: e + 1 = 0. Did that leave you breathless? Have you been swept off your feet? Are you sobbing tears of joy over its alluringly pure beauty? Okay, this may need an explanation. This equation has been renowned for its beauty for a few reasons. It comprises the five most important mathematical constants: 1 , 0 , pi (the number that defines a circle), e (the base of natural logarithms), and i (the most fundamental imaginary number).

Euler's identity also contains the three basic mathematical operations: addition, multiplication, and exponentiation. "Euler's identity is amazing because it is simple to look at and yet incredibly profound," Professor of Mathematics David Percy of the University of Salford in the UK told the BBC. "What appeals to me is that this equality connects some incredibly complicated and seemingly unrelated concepts in a surprisingly concise form." As for what the equation actually does, it basically describes two equivalent ways to move in a circle.

Do You Know This Man?

The equation's namesake is 18th-century Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler. He was one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time, according to the U.S. Naval Academy, with a resume that boasts 886 papers and books published. This guy was responsible for developing many concepts that span various fields of math — geometry, trigonometry, calculus, differential equations, number theory, and notational systems. The principles he came up with laid the foundation for modern mathematics as we know it. No big deal.

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Learn more about Euler in "A Most Elegant Equation: Euler’s Formula and the Beauty of Mathematics" by David Stipp. The audiobook is free with an Audible trial. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto March 24, 2017

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