Real Numbers

Topics: Real number, Irrational number, Mathematics Pages: 4 (1186 words) Published: April 13, 2011
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Real number

In mathematics, a real number is a value that represents a quantity along a continuum, such as 5 (an integer), 3/4 (a rational number that is not an integer), 8.6 (a rational number expressed in decimal representation), and π (3.1415926535..., an irrational number). As a subset of the real numbers, the integers, such as 5, express discrete rather than continuous quantities. Complex numbers include real numbers as a special case. Real numbers can be divided into rational numbers, such as 42 and −23/129, and irrational numbers, such as pi and the square root of two. A real number can be given by an infinite decimal representation, such as 2.4871773339..., where the digits continue indefinitely. The real numbers are sometimes thought of as points on an infinitely long line called the number line or real line. History

Vulgar fractions had been used by the Egyptians around 1000 BC; the Vedic "Sulba Sutras" ("The rules of chords") in, ca. 600 BC, include what may be the first 'use' of irrational numbers. The concept of irrationality was implicitly accepted by early Indian mathematicians since Manava (c. 750–690 BC), who were aware that the square roots of certain numbers such as 2 and 61 could not be exactly determined. Around 500 BC, the Greek mathematicians led by Pythagoras realized the need for irrational numbers, in particular the irrationality of the square root of 2. The Middle Ages saw the acceptance of zero, negative, integral and fractional numbers, first by Indian and Chinese mathematicians, and then by Arabic mathematicians, who were also the first to treat irrational numbers as algebraic objects, which was made possible by the development of algebra. Arabic mathematicians merged the concepts of "number" and "magnitude" into a more general idea of real numbers. The Egyptian mathematician Abū Kāmil Shujā ibn Aslam (c. 850–930) was the first to accept irrational numbers as solutions...