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Calculus Proof of the Pythagorean Theorem

Calculus Proof of the Pythagorean Theorem

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Published by: Mark on Nov 25, 2009
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Ohio, Pythagoras, and the Elusive Calculus Proof 
Introduction
The rich history of the Pythagorean Theorem is traceable to at least 2000 BCE. Ohio hascontributed to that history since the mid 1800s. The Ohioan James A. Garfield (1831-1881) wasthe 20
th
president of the United States, whose first term was tragically cut short by an assassin’s bullet. While still serving in the U.S. Congress, Garfield fabricated one of the most simplistic proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem ever devised.
Figure 1
depicts his trapezoidal dissection proof, a stroke of genius that simply bisects the original diagram attributed to Pythagoras, therebyreducing the number of geometric pieces from five to three.
Figure 1: President Garfield’s Trapezoid
Elisha Loomis (1852-1940), was a Professor of Mathematics, active Mason, andcontemporary of President Garfield. Loomis taught at a number of Ohio colleges and highschools, finally retiring as mathematics department head for Cleveland West High School in1923. In 1927, Loomis published a still-actively-cited book entitled The Pythagorean Proposition,a compendium of over 250 proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem—increased to 365 proofs in later editions. The Pythagorean Proposition was reissued in 1940 and finally reprinted by the NationalCouncil of Teachers of Mathematics in 1968, 2
nd
printing 1972, as part of its “Classics inMathematics Education” Series.
 
15423132
1
 
Per the Pythagorean Proposition, Loomis is credited with the following statement;
there can beno proof of the Pythagorean Theorem using either the methods of trigonometry or calculus
. Thisstatement remains largely unchallenged even today, as it is still found with source citation on atleast two academic-style websites
1
. For example, Jim Loy says on his website,
 
“The book ThePythagorean Proposition, by Elisha Scott Loomis, is a fairly amazing book. It contains 256 proofsof the Pythagorean Theorem. It shows that you can devise an infinite number of algebraic proofs,like the first proof above. It shows that you can devise an infinite number of geometric proofs,like Euclid's proof. And it shows that there can be no proof using trigonometry, analyticgeometry, or calculus. The book is out of print, by the way.”That the Pythagorean Theorem is not provable using the methods of trigonometry isobvious since trigonometric relationships have their origin in a presupposed Pythagorean right-triangle condition. Hence, any proof by trigonometry would be a circular proof and logicallyinvalid. However, calculus is a different matter. Even though the Cartesian coordinate finds itsway into many calculus problems, this backdrop is not necessary in order for calculus to functionsince the primary purpose of a Cartesian coordinate system is to enhance our visualizationcapability with respect to functional and other algebraic relationships. In the same regard,calculus most definitely does not require a metric of distance—as defined by the DistanceFormula, another Pythagorean derivate—in order to function. There are many ways for one tometricize Euclidean n-space that will lead to the establishment of rigorous limit and continuitytheorems.
Table 1
lists the Pythagorean metric and two alternatives. Reference 3 presents acomplete and rigorous development of the differential calculus for one and two independentvariables using the rectangular metric depicted in
Table 1
.
1
See the Math Forum@ Drexel http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/6259.html , and the Jim Loy mathematics website,http://www.jimloy.com/geometry/pythag.htm
 .2
 
METRICDEFINITIONSET CONSTRUCTIONSHAPE
Pythagorean
2020
)()(
y y x x
+
ε 
<+
2020
)()(
y y x x
CircleTaxi Cab
||||
00
y y x x
+
ε 
<+
||||
00
y y x x
DiamondRectangular 
||
0
 x x
and
||
0
 y y
ε 
<
||
0
 x x
and
ε 
<
||
0
 y y
Square
Table 1: Three Euclidean Metrics
Lastly, the derivative concept—albeit enhanced via the geometric concept of slope introducedwith a touch of metrics—is actually a much broader notion than instantaneous “rise over run”. Sowhat mathematical principle may have prompted Elisha Loomis, our early 20
th
century Ohioan, todiscount the methods of calculus as a viable means for proving the Pythagorean Theorem? Onlythat calculus requires geometry as a substrate. The implicit and untrue assumption is that allreality-based geometry is Pythagorean. For a realty-based geometric counterexample, the reader is encouraged to examine Eugene Krause’s little book Taxicab Geometry: an Adventure in Non-Euclidean Geometry (Reference 4)
An All-Ohio Challenge
Whatever the original intent or implication, the Pythagorean Proposition has most definitelydiscouraged the quest for calculus-based proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem, for they are rarelyfound or even mentioned on the worldwide web. This perplexing and fundamental void inelementary mathematics quickly became a personal challenge to search for a new calculus-based proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. Calculus excels in its power to analyze changing processesincorporating one or more independent variables. Thus, one would think that there ought to besomething of value in Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz’s brainchild—hailed by many as thegreatest achievement of Western science and certainly equal to the Pythagorean brainchild—thatwould allow for an independent metrics-free investigation of the Pythagorean Proposition.3

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