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**only essential to fundamental physics, but also to fundamental
**

mathematics.

We will start with to simple equations:

(1)

3a-2a=a

and

(2)

a=b+c

Now, by inserting (2) into (1), we get:

(3)

3a-2a=3(b+c)-2(b+c)

After multiplication, eq. (3) yields:

(4)

3a-2a=3b+3c-2b-2c

Now let us clarify the structure of eq. (4) by shifting all terms

including the number 3 on the left side, and all terms including

the number 2 on the right side:

(5)

3 a - 3 b - 3c = 2 a - 2 b - 2 c

2 .e..15 i. 4 ..2*2*(5/2) + (5/2)^2 = 3^2 .2*3*(5/2) + (5/2)^2 i.10 = 9 . (5) may be written even more clearly by the use of brackets: (6) 3(a-b-c)=2(a-b-c) Now it is very easy to see.e.e. (2 .10 + (25/4) = 9 . 4 .e.5/2)^2 = (3 .Eq.e.e. -6 = -6 i.. that indeed 3=2 We know that.15 + (25/4) i.5/2)^2 i...5/2 = 3 .5/2 i.. 2 = 3 2=3 sol': 1st: multiply both side by 4 2*4 = 3*4 8 = 12 2nd: subtract both side by 10 8-10 = 12-10 -2 = 2 . 2^2 .

3rd: square both side (-2)^2 = (2)^2 4=4 therefore. In elementary algebra. as illustrations of a concept of mathematical fallacy. There is a striking quality of the mathematical fallacy: as typically presented. Beyond pedagogy. is attributed to Euclid. usually by design. The latter applies normally to a form of argument that is not a genuine rule of logic. the errors. where a root is incorrectly extracted or. more generally. where the problematic mathematical step is typically a correct rule applied with a tacit wrong assumption. 2 is equals to 3. . the reason validity fails may be a division by zero that is hidden by algebraic notation. For example. Although the proofs are flawed.. The traditional way of presenting a mathematical fallacy is to give an invalid step of deduction mixed in with valid steps. it leads not only to an absurd result. Pseudaria. Well-known fallacies also exist in elementary Euclidean geometry and calculus. and sometimes collected..[3] Mathematical fallacies exist in many branches of mathematics. certain kinds of mistaken proof are often exhibited.. so that the meaning of fallacy is here slightly different from the logical fallacy. there is some concealment in the presentation of the proof. or designed to show that certain steps are conditional. usually take the form of spurious proofs of obvious contradictions. for pedagogic reasons.[1] Therefore these fallacies. where different values of a multiple valued function are equated. There is a distinction between a simple mistake and a mathematical fallacy in a proof: a mistake in a proof leads to an invalid proof just in the same way. typical examples may involve a step where division by zero is performed. the resolution of a fallacy can lead to deeper insights into a subject (such as the introduction of Pasch's axiom of Euclidean geometry[2] and the five color theorem of graph theory). but does so in a crafty or clever way. and should not be applied in the cases that are the exceptions to the rules.. an ancient lost book of false proofs. are comparatively subtle. but in the bestknown examples of mathematical fallacies. Mathematical fallacy In mathematics.

Subtract 4.Howlers Examples exist of mathematically correct results derived by incorrect lines of reasoning. Division by zero The division-by-zero fallacy has many variants. Bogus proofs. Consider for instance the calculation: Although the conclusion is correct. Let a and b be equal non-zero quantities 2. Factor both sides 5. Divide out 6. Outside the field of mathematics the term "howler" has various meanings. is mathematically invalid and is commonly known as a howler. Such an argument. Multiply by a 3. but can be modified to prove that any number equals any other number. 1. however true the conclusion. Observing that . or derivations constructed to produce a correct result in spite of incorrect logic or operations were termed howlers by Maxwell. invalid cancellation in the middle step. All numbers equal all other numbers The following example uses division by zero to "prove" that 2 = 1. calculations. there is a fallacious. generally less specific.

7. Divide by the non-zero b Q. but there are two possible square roots of a positive number. but there is no guarantee that the square root function given by this principal value of the square of a number will be equal to the original number. One value can be chosen by convention as the principal value. Calculus Calculus as the mathematical study of infinitesimal change and limits can lead to mathematical fallacies if the properties of integrals and differentials are ignored. in the case of the square root the non-negative value is the principal value. the argument is invalid. For instance.D. the square root of the square of −2 is 2. Multivalued functions Many functions do not have a unique inverse. . The error really comes to light when we introduce arbitrary integration limits a and b. The fallacy is in line 5: the progression from line 4 to line 5 involves division by a − b.E. The square root is multivalued. Letting and . Since division by zero is undefined. Combine like terms on the left 8.g. For instance squaring a number gives a unique value. a naive use of integration by parts can be used to give a false proof that 0 = 1. e. which is zero since a equals b. The problem is that antiderivatives are only defined up to a constant and shifting them by 1 or indeed any number is allowed. we may write: after which the antiderivatives may be cancelled yielding 0 = 1.

by taking a square root. which is not the case here. sometimes it is concealed more effectively in notation. consider the equation which holds as a consequence of the Pythagorean theorem.Since the difference between two values of a constant function vanishes. Power and root Fallacies involving disregarding the rules of elementary arithmetic through an incorrect manipulation of the radical. so that But evaluating this when x = π implies or . For instance. Although the fallacy is easily detected here. the same definite integral appears on both sides of the equation. For complex numbers the failure of power and logarithm identities has led to many fallacies. Then. Positive and negative roots Invalid proofs utilizing powers and roots are often of the following kind: The fallacy is that the rule is generally valid only if both x and y are positive (when dealing with real numbers).

In particular. the square root that allowed the second equation to be deduced from the first is valid only when cos x is positive. both sides produce the same set of values. If this property is not recognized. The error in each of these examples fundamentally lies in the fact that any equation of the form has two solutions. When treated as multivalued functions. the second equation is rendered invalid. when x is set to π. the result is not uniquely defined (see Failure of power and logarithm identities). then errors such as the following can result: The error here is that the rule of multiplying exponents as when going to the third line does not apply unmodified with complex exponents.which is incorrect. In the above fallacy. even if when putting both sides to the power i only the principal value is chosen. Geometry Many mathematical fallacies in geometry arise from using in an additive equality involving oriented quantities (such adding vectors along a given line or adding . being {e2πn | n ∈ ℤ}. and it is essential to check which of these solutions is relevant to the problem at hand. provided a ≠ 0. Complex exponents When a number is raised to a complex power.

one can show that all triangles are equilateral. Draw line OR perpendicular to AB. Draw lines OB and OC 6. § 1). . RB = QC.D. so as to produce an absurd conclusion. Such a fallacy is easy to expose by drawing a precise picture of the situation.oriented angles in the plane) a valid identity. which bisects BC at a point D 3. where relative positions of points or lines are chosen in a way that is actually impossible under the hypotheses of the argument. purports to show that every triangle is isosceles. from (Maxwell 1959. line OQ perpendicular to AC 5. Thus. This fallacy has been attributed to Lewis Carroll. By RHS. prove that AB = AC: 1. By RHS. but nonobviously so. Draw a line bisecting ∠A 2. Chapter II.[12] △ROB ≅ △QOC 8. This quantity is then incorporated into the equation with the wrong orientation. As a corollary. AR = AQ. In order to avoid such fallacies. a correct geometric argument using addition or subtraction of distances or angles should always prove that quantities are being incorporated with their correct orientation. Given a triangle △ABC. in which some relative positions will be different form those in the provided diagram. Let these two lines meet at a point O. AO=AO (COMMON SIDE).E. by showing that AB = BC and AC = BC in the same way. Draw the perpendicular bisector of segment BC. and AB = AR + RB = AQ + QC = AC Q. △RAO ≅ △QAO (∠ORA = ∠OQA = 90. Fallacy of the isosceles triangle The fallacy of the isosceles triangle. ∠RAO = ∠QAO) 7. meaning that two sides of the triangle are congruent. This wrong orientation is usually suggested implicitly by supplying an imprecise diagram of the situation. but which fixes only the absolute value of (one of) these quantities. 4.

it can be shown that. if AB is longer than AC. . (Any diagram drawn with sufficiently accurate instruments will verify the above two facts. AB is still AR + RB. In fact.The error in the proof is the assumption in the diagram that the point O is inside the triangle. and thus the lengths are not necessarily the same. O always lies at the circumcircle of the △ABC (except for isosceles and equilateral triangles where AO and OD coincides .) Because of this. while Q will lie outside of AC (and vice versa). but AC is actually AQ − QC. Furthermore. then R will lie within AB.

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