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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tau-ism: amputating Pi to Tau

Some of the best and beautiful mathematics has been created centuries ago. Open any 18th century mathematics book or journal ( or older if you can read Latin ), do the same with a book or journal of any science of your choice, or compare it to a newspaper of the same period if that's what you prefer. My point is that the vast body of mathematics produced by generations before us is still accessible and thus usable. This accessibility is a unique characteristic of the science of mathematics.

I am not at all for borrowing words from common language and redefining them in the context of mathematics. Words like ring, group or space got an entirely different meaning, words like programming, number or weight may even confuse mathematics students, the full initiation in the language takes years. Personally, I would rather have used a new word for the concept of group, i.e. symmetry transformations, ( at least something that includes symmetry ). Suppose we would implement that word -now-. Before we know it we would have changed the language of math completely. Making the past of mathematics inaccessible for future generations. Something nobody really wants.

Now, what if, we would redefine Pi?! Michael Hart ( wisely ) calls it an immodest proposal in his 'The Tau Manifesto'. Naturally, I thought it was a joke, some sort of parody, but he seems to be serious. Naturally, I am flabbergasted, appalled by such an idea. It is like amputating pi to tau ( See the video for a detailed explanation. )

Mathematics is beautiful, but not perfect. If our ancestors made choices we wouldn't have made today we have to live with them. The cost of change outweighs the benefits manifold. Science includes safekeeping the discoveries of the past.

The video below has been viewed almost 400,000 times in one month.

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