Suggested reading: An ancient geometry problem falls to new mathematical techniques

by Steve Nadis

Around 450 BCE, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae had some time to think. The Greek mathematician was in prison for claiming the sun was not a god, but rather an incandescent rock as big as the Peloponnese peninsula. A philosopher who believed that “reason rules the world,” he used his incarceration to grapple with a now-famous math problem known as squaring the circle: Using a compass and a straightedge, can you produce a square of equal area to a given circle?

Surprisingly, mathematicians are still working on this question. And they’re making headway. A paper posted online last week by Andras Máthé and Oleg Pikhurko of the University of Warwick and Jonathan Noel of the University of Victoria is the latest to join in this ancient tradition. The authors show how a circle can be squared by cutting it into pieces that can be visualized and possibly drawn. It’s a result that builds on a rich history. … (continue at Quanta magazine)

Published by Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

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