The Square Root Murder
The question was quite simple:
How long a fence you need to divide
diagonally a one mile square plot
into two equal triangles?
This geometrical problem was posed
some 2500 years ago.
When Hippasus of Metapontum
heard it, he rolled up his shirt's sleeves
and soon he figured out the answer.
Using the Pythagorean Theorem,
he found that the length of the fence
corresponded to the square root of 2.
He could not calculate the exact length
which was somewhere between one
and two miles.
Thus, Hippasos discovered
an irrational number that defied being
expressed as the ratio of integers.
The Pythagoreans were shocked.
The discovery emerged
as a cardinal heresy
that shattered the foundations
of their mathematical mysticism,
the worship and devotion
to whole numbers and their ratios,
a world ruled by reason and harmony,
The Pythagorean Brotherhood
was a fanatical religious cult
and its members tried to conceal
the discovery of the irrational numbers.
According to ancient stories,
they were so outraged by the disclosure
of the square root of two
that during a boat trip
his fellow mathematicians
tossed Hippassos into the sea.