- Title Pages
- Dedication
- Introduction
- Definitions
- Note on the Illustrations
- Part 1 Numerals: Significant Manuscripts and Initiators
- Chapter 1 Curious Beginnings
- Chapter 2 Certain Ancient Number Systems
- Chapter 3 Silk and Royal Roads
- Chapter 4 The Indian Gift
- Chapter 5 Arrival in Europe
- Chapter 6 The Arab Gift
- Chapter 7 <i>Liber Abbaci</i>
- Chapter 8 Refuting Origins
- Part 2 Algebra
- Chapter 9 Sans Symbols
- Chapter 10 Diophantus’s <i>Arithmetica</i>
- Chapter 11 The Great Art
- Chapter 12 Symbol Infancy
- Chapter 13 The Timid Symbol
- Chapter 14 Hierarchies of Dignity
- Chapter 15 Vowels and Consonants
- Chapter 16 The Explosion
- Chapter 17 A Catalogue of Symbols
- Chapter 18 The Symbol Master
- Chapter 19 The Last of the Magicians
- Part 3 The Power of Symbols
- Chapter 20 Rendezvous in the Mind
- Chapter 21 The Good Symbol
- Chapter 22 Invisible Gorillas
- Chapter 23 Mental Pictures
- Chapter 24 Conclusion
- Appendix A Leibniz’s Notation
- Appendix B Newton’s Fluxion of <i>x<sup>n</sup></i>
- Appendix C Experiment
- Appendix D Visualizing Complex Numbers
- Appendix E Quaternions
- Acknowledgments
- Index

# The Explosion

# The Explosion

- Chapter:
- (p.150) Chapter 16 The Explosion
- Source:
- Enlightening Symbols
- Author(s):
### Joseph Mazur

- Publisher:
- Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on the Cartesian coordinate system and how it provides a link between geometry and algebra. In *Geometria*, René Descartes introduced a new idea for notation, a rule: beginning letters of the alphabet were to be reserved for fixed known quantities and letters from *p* onward were to represent variables or unknowns that could take on a succession of values. To this day, this division of the alphabet at *p* remains the loose standard rule. The chapter also considers the Pythagorean theorem as a way of finding the distance between any two points in space; how the algebraic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and extraction of a square root could actually be performed; and who came up with the idea of the vinculum.

*Keywords:*
algebra, Cartesian coordinate system, geometry, Geometria, René Descartes, notation, alphabet, Pythagorean theorem, operations, vinculum

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- Title Pages
- Dedication
- Introduction
- Definitions
- Note on the Illustrations
- Part 1 Numerals: Significant Manuscripts and Initiators
- Chapter 1 Curious Beginnings
- Chapter 2 Certain Ancient Number Systems
- Chapter 3 Silk and Royal Roads
- Chapter 4 The Indian Gift
- Chapter 5 Arrival in Europe
- Chapter 6 The Arab Gift
- Chapter 7 <i>Liber Abbaci</i>
- Chapter 8 Refuting Origins
- Part 2 Algebra
- Chapter 9 Sans Symbols
- Chapter 10 Diophantus’s <i>Arithmetica</i>
- Chapter 11 The Great Art
- Chapter 12 Symbol Infancy
- Chapter 13 The Timid Symbol
- Chapter 14 Hierarchies of Dignity
- Chapter 15 Vowels and Consonants
- Chapter 16 The Explosion
- Chapter 17 A Catalogue of Symbols
- Chapter 18 The Symbol Master
- Chapter 19 The Last of the Magicians
- Part 3 The Power of Symbols
- Chapter 20 Rendezvous in the Mind
- Chapter 21 The Good Symbol
- Chapter 22 Invisible Gorillas
- Chapter 23 Mental Pictures
- Chapter 24 Conclusion
- Appendix A Leibniz’s Notation
- Appendix B Newton’s Fluxion of <i>x<sup>n</sup></i>
- Appendix C Experiment
- Appendix D Visualizing Complex Numbers
- Appendix E Quaternions
- Acknowledgments
- Index