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A Practical Use For Logarithms, Part 2: How We Multiplied Large Numbers 40 Years Ago, And How Integral Transforms Use The Same Basic Idea | QE…

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A Practical Use For Logarithms, Part 2: How We Multiplied Large Numbers 40 Years Ago, And
How Integral Transforms Use The Same Basic Idea
Posted on April 22, 2011

(Click here for Part 1.)
A common argument for the use of technology is that it frees students from doing boring, tedious calculations,
and they can focus attention on more interesting and stimulating conceptual matters. This is wrong. Mastering
“tedious” calculations frequently goes hand-in-hand with a deep connection with important mathematical ideas.
And that is what mathematics is all about, is it not?
The desire to free students from boring technical matters is a false dichotomy: Mastering technique and deep
conceptual understanding go hand-in-hand, and there is absolutely no reason why one can’t work on both in
tandem. This is what music students do: To learn to play a musical instrument, one must spend a certain amount
of time every day on theory and technique, and a certain amount of time every day practicing pieces of music,
developing musicality, and so on. Trying to take a short-cut by not doing scales every day is deadly for a music
student; can’t we see that the same kind of short-cut is deadly for a mathematics student, too?
A case in point is some of the algorithms we used to learn 40-odd years ago that have now been relegated to the
slag heap. For instance, when I was in high-school (could it have been elementary school?) I learned an algorithm
for extracting the square root of a number; nowadays, this is never taught, because we can quickly determine the
result to many decimal places with hand-calculators, which were not available to students or teachers back then.
Another example is the use of trigonometric tables. But the example I want to talk about in this post is the use of
logarithm and anti-logarithm tables to facilitate the multiplication, division, and exponentiation of numbers,
particularly large numbers.
So take yourself back, back, back, … back to a time when little me and my little classmates had no hand
calculators. Let me show you the technique we learned to multiply large numbers, and then we’ll make a
connection to higher mathematics.
The technique depends on a property of logarithms:

Suppose little 1973 me had the task of multiplying 18793.26 by 54778.18. Using the multiplication algorithm
would take a bit of time, but it’s feasible. But here is the time-saving technique we were taught: Let A = 18793.26
and let B = 54778.18. Now look up the logarithm of each of the numbers from a table. (Back then we would have
relied on tables in the back of our textbooks, but the only book on my shelf that has such tables is my 1971 copy of
the CRC Standard Mathematical Tables, 19th edition. The upcoming 2011 edition is here.)
Reading from the table for figures close to A:
Now if we linearly interpolate between these two figures, for greater accuracy, we obtain the approximation…


 and then transfer the result back into the initial realm to obtain the solution to the original problem. Join 77 other followers Enter your email address so the approximation using logarithms is correct to four significant figures. and then use an inverse transform to convert the resulting algebraic expression back into the realm of the original problem. where it is easier to solve a related problem. we use the property of logarithms mentioned earlier to estimate the logarithm of AB: The process of adding logarithms is very easy. we convert to exponential form: Using a table of “anti-logarithms. Next. for greater accuracy. we get the approximation that  Follow Follow “QED Insight” Using a hand calculator. we obtain the approximation Next.e. solve the algebraic equation (which is easier than solving the differential equation directly). Besides the value in taking a little trip down memory lane (which is always useful for students.5/21/2015 A Practical Use For Logarithms. Sign me up The only way to really appreciate how much work is saved using logarithms is to actually multiply A and B by Build a website with WordPress. a table of powers of 10). This is a valuable problem-solving idea. the resultGet is every new post delivered to your Inbox. and this is the point of the method. Now we have to convert the result back into the realm of the initial problem. And How Integral Transforms Use The Same Basic Idea | QE… Reading from the table for figures close to B:     and     Now if we linearly interpolate between these two figures. The idea is to convert a differential equation into an algebraic equation. we read that:    and    Interpolating again. Another example of this idea is the use of Laplace transforms in solving certain differential equations. there is a more general lesson that one can take from this little calculation technique. https://qedinsight. IDEA: If you are having difficulty solving a mathematics problem. We’ve taken a relatively complicated problem (multiplying two numbers that have many digits) and converted it to a much easier problem (adding two numbers that have many digits)… 2/7 .com hand. to inform them about how things were done in the past).wordpress.” as they were called back then (i. see if it is possible to transfer the problem into a different realm. Part 2: How We Multiplied Large Numbers 40 Years Ago.

wordpress. and more generally in quantum mechanics one often switches from configuration-space representations to momentum-space representations. Fourier transform. Back to the technique described in this post. My blog also discusses education. and to raise a number to another number.5/21/2015 A Practical Use For Logarithms. it’s very useful to have the logarithm example of this post in your back pocket before you encounter Laplace transforms. Try it for yourself and see if you can get this to work! About these ads Share this:  Facebook  Twitter  Reddit  Email  Like Be the first to like this. signal processing. logarithm tables. having taught mathematics and physics since the mid 1980s. Integral transform. The same idea can also be used to divide numbers with many digits. then switches back to the real line to evaluate the real integral. medical imaging. Part 2: How We Multiplied Large Numbers 40 Years Ago. and love teaching and writing about them. Part 2: How We Multiplied Large Numbers 40 Years Ago. (The crystallographers speak of “space” and “reciprocal space. Laplace transform. and it helps you to get the hang of the Laplace transform method. and online tutoring.” and also reciprocal basis. and reciprocal lattice. I have also been a textbook writer/editor since then. And How Integral Transforms Use The Same Basic Idea Sudharsan Ragavan says: August View all posts by Santo D'Agostino → This entry was posted in Mathematics and tagged anti-logarithms. The same ideas are used in analyzing crystal structure using X-ray diffraction. crystallography. 17 Responses to A Practical Use For Logarithms. I love math and physics. one just uses the appropriate properties of logarithms. Integral transforms are also used in the computer software that converts raw data from medical imaging devices to the lovely images that doctors then peruse. logarithms.wordpress. 2012 at 11:42 am https://qedinsight. There are lots of other integral transforms (Fourier transforms are just one type). it helps you to understand the big picture in which Laplace transforms are writ. Currently I am working independently on a number of writing and education projects.… 3/7 . Derivatives Of Exponential And Logarithmic Functions In "Calculus" How Much Mathematics Should a Student Memorize? Part 2. once you realize they are both instances of the same basic idea. https://qedinsight. Related How Much Mathematics Should A Student Memorize? Part 6. Bookmark the permalink. Integral Calculus In "Calculus" How Much Mathematics Should A Student Memorize? Part 5. and in signal processing one frequently switches back and forth from the time domain to the frequency domain. evaluates a related contour integral using the techniques of complex analysis. etc. And How Integral Transforms Use The Same Basic Idea | QE… Pedagogically.qedinfinity. The Multiplication Table In "Education" About Santo D'Agostino I am a former university prof. X-ray diffraction. environment. can be found at my other site Further resources. There are lots of other instances of the same basic idea.) One also encounters the same idea in a technique for solving troublesome real improper integrals: One switches to the complex domain.

I worked out a few problems using the log and anti log tables(never heard of it) and I agree with you on doing tedious calculations to appreciate the power of logarithms. perhaps a sneak peek into your childhood for us. Part 2: How We Multiplied Large Numbers 40 Years Ago. 2012 at 2:06 pm… 4/7 . Instills interest in oneself before moving into the real working maths. 2012 at 9:34 pm   1  1  Rate This Good question. Only in India students are not taught the practicality and I learnt the real applications only when I was 24 years old. 2012 at 1:47 pm   1  0  Rate This log (explanation) (good) = good Reply Mark says: August 31. Mathew.I took a course in Linear Algebra this summer and I found multiplying matrices of length 5 X 5 or 7 x 7 to find the jordan canonical form too laborious and asked myself the question of whether I’ll use this again but it has certainly enhanced my appreciation of using maple/matlab. 2012 at 9:32 pm   2  0  Rate This Thanks for the kind words! All the best wishes! Reply mathew says: September 4. 2012 at 11:08 am   1   0   Rate This Very informative post professor. But when am I going to use it in Life?’ Keep it up Sir. And How Integral Transforms Use The Same Basic Idea | QE…   1  0  Rate This Immensely informative.wordpress. I didn’t learn about matrices until my senior year in high school. Wish this should be taught first/made understood by the students before they are actually made to work out. 2014 at 6:44 pm   0  0  Rate This Nice work Reply Yunus says: October 26. Reply Yunus says: October 26. Reply Santo D'Agostino says: September 11.5/21/2015 A Practical Use For Logarithms.Is there anything interesting from your childhood that involves matrices that we are not used to today? Reply Santo D'Agostino says: September 11. Good Job. and I can’t recall any topics learned then that are not learned nowadays. Till then I frown at maths stating ‘Math n all its calculations are okkay.

com/talks/conrad_wolfram_teaching_kids_real_math_with_computers Close Embed this talk <iframe src="https://embed‑ ssl.5/21/2015 A Practical Use For Logarithms. I guess you learn something about logarithms and linear interpolation in the process. Part 2: How We Multiplied Large Numbers 40 Years Copy embed code or you can customize at TED.ted.ted. This practical example of logarithms went a long way in furthering my understanding.wordpress. Conrad Wolfram has another take on where computers fit in to teaching math: Play video Conrad Wolfram Teaching kids real math with computers Download Share Embed Close Video Low-res Standard-res High-res Subtitles English Download video Audio Audio downloads are not yet available Close Share this talk Direct link https://www. You don’t find log tables anymore because it’s outdated technology. And How Integral Transforms Use The Same Basic Idea | QE…   0   0   Rate This Good Regardless. thank you for this illustration. 2012 at 12:06 am   0   0   Rate This Seems to me that having logarithm tables isn’t much different than having a calculator. https://qedinsight. You start out by stating the importance of performing tedious calculations (like doing scales on the piano) and then go right in to using lookup tables to perform a… 5/7 . Reply Matt says: November 12.

I should have typed 10^0. Thanks for the link. I’ve made this correction now. 2014 at 2:56 am   0   0   Rate This Great post. And How Integral Transforms Use The Same Basic Idea | QE… Reply Santo D'Agostino says: November 15. the younger students switched to calculator by 1980 … P. Really well explained and informative! Greetings from Finland! Reply Justin says: February 8.01261 instead of 10^0. which is interesting. Reply Santo D'Agostino says: May 19.5/21/2015 A Practical Use For Logarithms.wordpress. by the time I graduated as engineer. Matt! I’m also glad to have viewed the Wolfram talk. 2014 at 10:45 pm   0  0  Rate This Great post! Thanks for taking the time to write this. Reply Markus says: January 16. Prof. 2012 at 12:25 am   0   0   Rate This Glad you enjoyed the post.013. then ‘advanced’ to ‘Slide Rule’ in undergrad years. Thanks again! https://qedinsight. should be 10^0. Part 2: How We Multiplied Large Numbers 40 Years… 6/7 . The first thing I thought of was how similar this idea was to the integral transform techniques so it’s great to see you mention them. Thanks! I also used the log table in high school for 2 years (1971). Spotted small typo errors at the Anti-log section. Thanks also for pointing out that there is a typographical error.1261. I’ve double-checked and the error appears one display earlier than the one you mentioned.12 and 10^0. 2014 at 12:17 pm   0  0  Rate This Wow! I wish I had stumbled upon this blog while I was in college dong Laplace transformations.13 You typed 0.012 and 0. even though I disagree with it in some aspects.S. 2014 at 8:17 am   0   0   Rate This Thanks for your kind comments. Reply tomcircle says: May 19.

Reply QED Insight The Twenty Ten Theme.Y = log X + log Y) http://tomcircle. This is -(-) = + Metaphorically mathematics. Reply tomcircle says: May 2014 at 2:56 am   0   0   Rate This Reblogged this on Singapore Maths Tuition. Thanks. https://qedinsight. Part 2: How We Multiplied Large Numbers 40 Years Ago.wordpress.wordpress. tomcircle says: May 19. Like (log X. Basically it is the same spirit of solving a problem in one area by using a method in another area of math. And How Integral Transforms Use The Same Basic Idea | QE… Reply tomcircle says: May 19.  Create a free website or blog at WordPress. 2014 at 3:02 am   0  0  Rate This Would like to share the similar idea of “RMI” (Relationship-Mapping-Inverse) technique developed by a Chinese prof. 2014 at 8:28 am   0   0   Rate This Great! my ‘error’ pointed to your ‘error’ made a correct one. Your introduction was most useful to me pointing out how logarithms apply to aspects of our everyday life and most of us (well me) are unaware of their applicability.5/21/2015 A Practical Use For Logarithms. 2014 at 6:48 pm   0   0   Rate This I thoroughly enjoyed this Reply Mark says: August… 7/7 .