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Egyptian maths and triangles?

 
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isisinacrisis
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 12:07 pm    Post subject: Egyptian maths and triangles? Reply with quote

I saw a short little article in the newspaper today that reminded me of a question I posted here ages ago. It said that the Egyptians were the first to measure right angles by constructing a right angle triangle using a rope with 12 equally spaced knots and folding it into a triangle with 3, 4 and 5 knots per side. When i read this I thought 'huh? Wasn't that invented by the Greeks? ie Pythagoras, who based his theorem of squaring hypotenuses on the 3-4-5 triangle?' Or maybe this may be proof to the claims that Pythagoras studied in Egypt?

(I know I sound cynical but it seems some people tend to credit the Egyptians with inventing or discovering too many things that are still used nowadays and that usually linked to the Greeks or Mesepotamians or other cultures, just because 'they were the ancient Egyptians'. I could give some examples, but I might bore people if I do... I'm not denying that the Egyptians weren't clever, because I'm sure they were very intelligent and did amazing things, but sometimes people tend to over glamourise them without giving solid proof that the Egyptians actually did these things. Mind you, they did build the pyramids, so maybe they must have known a fair amount on triangles...)
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anneke
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Found this website:
http://www.jimloy.com/egypt/345.htm
It's this man's opinion, but he makes a good case that there is no evidence that egyptians used the rope construction you mentioned.

It is clear however that the egyptians new a fair share about triangles. There is evidence of that in the Rhind papyrus.

From what I have read the egyptians had a more experimental type of mathematics. They observed certain patterns and certainly used them. They did not have the systematic approach to math using theorems and proofs the way the subject is approached today. That started with the greeks. Pythagoras is given credit for the pythagorean theorem because he was the first to realize that the rule of "sum of the squares of the sides equals the square of the hypothenuse" holds in general, not just for the 3-4-5 triangle. The egyptians would have known about some special cases of the theorem, I don't think they knew about the theorem.

The egyptians may have known about the 5-12-13 triangle as well.

I would not be surprised if the egyptians knew about the 3-4-5 triangle (or perfect triangle). I think the Babylonians knew about it as well.
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isisinacrisis
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The newspaper that was written in isn't a seedy tabloid, but this article was actually a question in a puzzle-'how could the egyptians make a 'set square' with a 12 knotted rope?'
Mind you the Egyptians did have equal measurements like cubits-couldn't they have used some kind of ruler or measuring stick to equally space the knots?
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anneke
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have seen pictures of measuring sticks they found in tombs. They were important enought to take to the grave apparently.
Knots do move along a rope. Wouldn't it be easier to just mark the rope with ink? This would be more accurate I think.

Are there any tomb inscriptions that show the use of this rope?
Or any technical papyri that mention how they constructed buildings?

Unless we hear it from "the horses mouth" it will be hard to say how they did their constructions.

It seems that a solid model of a right angle would be much more useful in constructions than a rope. Any evidence of this?
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