Babylonians knew trigonometry?

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Babylonians knew trigonometry?

Postby Athena on August 31st, 2017, 9:52 am 

News sources of all kinds are telling about Babylonians knowing trigonometry and Evelyn Lamb, a math historian, makes a good argument against the latest hype about Babylonians knowing trigonometry. I do not know who is right in this argument, only that it is a good argument. ... etry-hype/

You may have seen headlines about an ancient Mesopotamian tablet. “Mathematical secrets of ancient tablet unlocked after nearly a century of study,” said the Guardian. “This mysterious ancient tablet could teach us a thing or two about math,” said Popular Science, adding, “Some researchers say the Babylonians invented trigonometry—and did it better.” National Geographic was a bit more circumspect: “A new study claims the tablet could be one of the oldest contributions to the study of trigonometry, but some remain skeptical.” Daniel Mansfield and Norman Wildberger certainly did a good job selling their new paper in the generally more staid journal Historia Mathematica. I’d like to help separate fact from speculation and outright nonsense when it comes to this new paper.
What is Plimpton 322?

Plimpton 322, the tablet in question, is certainly an alluring artifact. It’s a broken piece of clay roughly the size of a postcard....
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Re: Babylonians knew trigonometry?

Postby someguy1 on August 31st, 2017, 11:42 am 

Wildberger is a crank. It's wonderful that SciAm debunked the article that's going around.

ps -- Let me add some detail.

Wildberger is a finitist. He doesn't believe in the real numbers.

Philosophically that's perfectly ok, but Wildberger's writings are cranky. He thinks he's right and everyone else is wrong. He has a well-deserved reputation as a crank.

He has a system called rational trigonometry, in which he does trig with whole numbers. This work is not cranky or incorrect, but it is irrelevant. Nobody takes it seriously. At best it's an alternative teaching approach and nobody uses it.

Now one day Wildberger says Hey, the Babylonians used my system of rational trigonometry!

What are the odds? The credulous press of course printed the story without questioning it.

I'm grateful to Sci Am and the excellent Evelyn Lamb for publishing a debunking of the latest Wildberger nonsense so quickly. ... s-of-math/
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