20 January 2011

Invention of Calculus - Historical Inventions and Ideas Series, Idea 8

First, let's give a brief description of Zeno's paradox. Zeno was an ancient Greek and said that if a man were to walk 1 meter, he would first have to walk half a meter. But to do that, he would first have to walk 0.25m. Before he can walk any distance, he needs to walk half that distance first. This means that walking 1 meter requires completing an infinite amount of tasks first, which is impossible according to Zeno.

As demonstrated by the paradox, nobody, not even the ancient Greeks, understood the continuous properties of space and time, giving rise to paradoxes such as Zeno's paradox. That paradox wasn't resolved until the discovery of calculus. While calculus eluded the Greeks, bright minds during the Renaissance were able to discover it, most likely due to better mathematical notation and more importantly, the ability to communicate by using the printing press and by writing letters.

Calculus, discovered independently by Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, allowed mathematics to accurately describe space and time. This led eventually to the laws of motion.

The field of physics quickly expanded with this new found knowledge, leading to practical applications. This led to the Industrial Revolution, and when electricity was understood better, the Digital Age.


Loading Comment Box..