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# Did the Babylonians invent trigonometry ?

Posted on Friday, 25 August, 2017 |  18 comments

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Image Credit: Martin Heemskerck
The Ancient Babylonians had known about Pythagoras' theorem over 1,000 years before he was even born.
The groundbreaking claim is based on a new analysis of a 3,700-year-old clay tablet known as 'Plimpton 322' which is inscribed with a demonstration of Babylonian mathematics.

According to researchers at the University of New South Wales, the tablet shows a form of trigonometry that wouldn't be developed by the Ancient Greeks for another ten centuries.
"Our research shows it's a trigonometric table so unfamiliar and advanced that in some respects it's superior to modern trigonometry," said mathematician Dr Daniel Mansfield.

"We've discovered these lines represent the ratios for a series of right-angled triangles ranging from almost a square to almost a flat line. This makes Plimpton 322 a powerful tool that could have been used for surveying fields or architectural calculations to build palaces, temples or step pyramids."

"The Babylonians unique approach to arithmetic and geometry means this is not only the world's oldest trigonometric table, it's also the only completely accurate trigonometric table on record."

Tags: Babylonians, Trigonometry

#9 Posted by seanjo on 25 August, 2017, 19:27
What's one-third of 12?
#10 Posted by paperdyer on 25 August, 2017, 19:29
4.  That just proves our math works right sometimes. Just trying to have a bit of fun with quirks of math.
#11 Posted by bison on 25 August, 2017, 21:20
Sexagesimal numbers survive in our reckoning of angles: minutes, degrees, and seconds.  A full circle, 360 degrees, 0 minutes, 0 seconds, divided by the rather simple sexagesimal term  114  35  30 comes very very close to the Pi  ratio. Substantially fewer digits, it appears, than required to express Pi to a similar degree of precision in the decimal system.
#12 Posted by jarjarbinks on 25 August, 2017, 21:39
numbers are all made up from we invented them. that's why some people uses CM and others inches. Imagine a system with PI=1.
#13 Posted by bison on 25 August, 2017, 21:57
Pi is a ratio; one length compared to another. If you mean the circumference of a circle = 1, then the diameter is ~ 0.31831, which is 1 divided by Pi.
#14 Posted by pbarosso on 26 August, 2017, 2:23
this makes perfect sense to me. this ratio based table would have been used to not only calculate the angle of the facing block when needed but also how tall and wide each step needs to be to keep a constant exact angle all the way up whther it be a smooth pyramid or facing OR steps.
#15 Posted by Captain Risky on 26 August, 2017, 6:23
George the Greek, my local grocer is gonna be p***ed when i tell him this.
#16 Posted by Frank_Hoenedge on 26 August, 2017, 14:18
Still a beauty as to how they found it, as an approach, to begin with
#17 Posted by Ozymandias on 27 August, 2017, 0:51
There are three ghings I love about thos story: (1) the fact that Pythagoras' Theorem was known about more than 1000 years before Pyghagoras even lived; (2) that the Babylonians were making quite accurate and exact calculations using their sexagesimal number system long before anyone else; (3) their approach to trigonometry was entirely different from our modern one yet just as valid.
#18 Posted by Frank_Hoenedge on 27 August, 2017, 20:55
Might even shed some kind of seasonal insight into the King's List, rather than an ascending chronology they might have had 'numerical compartments'.

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