mscroggs.co.uk
mscroggs.co.uk

subscribe

Blog

 2016-03-31 
Pythagoras's Theorem is perhaps the most famous theorem in maths. It is also very old, and for over 2500 years mathematicians have been explaining why it is true.
This has led to hundreds of different proofs of the theorem. Many of them were collected in the 1920s in The pythagorean proposition by Elisha Scott Loomis [1]. Let's have a look at some of them.

Using similar triangles

For our first proof, start with a right angled triangle, \(ABC\), with sides of lengths \(a\), \(b\) and \(c\).
Add a point \(D\) on the hypotenuse such that the line \(AD\) is perpendicular to \(BC\). Name the lengths as shown in the second diagram.
\(ABC\) and \(DBA\) are similar triangles, so:
$$\frac{b}{x}=\frac{c}{b}$$ $$b^2=xc$$
\(ABC\) and \(DAC\) are similar triangles, so:
$$\frac{a}{c-x}=\frac{c}{a}$$ $$a^2=c^2-cx$$
Adding the two equations gives:
$$a^2+b^2=c^2$$

Constructing a quadrilateral

This proof shows the theorem is true by using extra lines and points added to the triangle. Start with \(ABC\) as before then add a point \(D\) such that \(AD\) and \(BC\) are perpendicular and of equal length. Add points \(E\) on \(AC\) and \(F\) on \(AB\) (extended) such that \(DE\) and \(AC\) are perpendicular and \(DF\) and \(AB\) are perpendicular.
By similar triangles, it can be seen that \(DF=b\) and \(DE=a\).
As the two diagonals of \(BACD\) are perpendicular, its area is \(\tfrac12c^2\).
The quadrilateral \(BACD\).
The area of \(BACD\) is also equal to the sum of the areas of \(ABD\) and \(ACD\). The area of \(ABD\) is \(\tfrac12b^2\). The area of \(ACD\) is \(\tfrac12a^2\).
The triangles \(ABD\) and \(ACD\).
Therefore, \(\tfrac12a^2+\tfrac12b^2=\tfrac12c^2\), which implies that \(a^2+b^2=c^2\).

Using a circle

This proof again uses extra stuff: this time using a circle. Draw a circle of radius \(c\) centred at \(C\). Extend \(AC\) to \(G\) and \(H\) and extend \(AB\) to \(I\).
By the intersecting chord theorem, \(AH\times AG = AB\times AI\). Using the facts that \(AI=AB\) and \(CH\) and \(CG\) are radii, the following can be obtained from this:
$$(c-a)\times(c+a)=b\times b$$ $$c^2-a^2=b^2$$ $$a^2+b^2=c^2$$

Rearrangement proofs

A popular method of proof is dissecting the smaller squares and rearranging the pieces to make the larger square. In both the following, the pieces are coloured to show which are the same:
Alternatively, the theorem could be proved by making copies of the triangle and moving them around. This proof was presented in The pythagorean proposition simply with the caption "LOOK":

Moving proof

This next proof uses the fact that two parallelograms with the same base and height have the same area: sliding the top side horizontally does not change the area. This allows us to move the smaller squares to fill the large square:

Using vectors

For this proof, start by labelling the sides of the triangle as vectors \(\alpha\), \(\beta\) and \(\gamma\).
Clearly, \(\gamma = \alpha+\beta\). Taking the dot product of each side with itself gives:
$$\gamma\cdot\gamma = \alpha\cdot\alpha+2\alpha\cdot\beta+\beta\cdot\beta$$
\(\alpha\) and \(\beta\) are perpendicular, so \(\alpha\cdot\beta=0\); and dotting a vector with itself gives the size of the vector squared, so:
$$|\gamma|^2=|\alpha|^2+|\beta|^2$$
If you don't like any of these proofs, there are of course many, many more. Why don't you tweet me your favourite.

The pythagorean proposition by Elisha Scott Loomis. 1928. [link]

Similar posts

A surprising fact about quadrilaterals
Harriss and other spirals
World Cup stickers 2018, pt. 3
Mathsteroids

Comments

Comments in green were written by me. Comments in blue were not written by me.
 Add a Comment 


I will only use your email address to reply to your comment (if a reply is needed).

Allowed HTML tags: <br> <a> <small> <b> <i> <s> <sup> <sub> <u> <spoiler> <ul> <ol> <li>
To prove you are not a spam bot, please type "decagon" in the box below (case sensitive):

Archive

Show me a random blog post
 2021 

Jan 2021

Christmas (2020) is over
 2020 
▼ show ▼
 2019 
▼ show ▼
 2018 
▼ show ▼
 2017 
▼ show ▼
 2016 
▼ show ▼
 2015 
▼ show ▼
 2014 
▼ show ▼
 2013 
▼ show ▼
 2012 
▼ show ▼

Tags

puzzles sport video games london underground menace matrix of cofactors news logs weak imposition tmip craft tennis london estimation manchester science festival exponential growth rhombicuboctahedron pi cross stitch talking maths in public matt parker stickers platonic solids geometry simultaneous equations pythagoras quadrilaterals data visualisation folding paper reddit coins radio 4 reuleaux polygons countdown bubble bobble hats mathslogicbot boundary element methods game show probability approximation curvature hannah fry christmas fractals probability matrix of minors twitter wave scattering squares propositional calculus arithmetic flexagons javascript big internet math-off trigonometry oeis royal baby draughts bodmas binary map projections european cup plastic ratio inverse matrices games game of life go inline code cambridge asteroids sobolev spaces martin gardner misleading statistics polynomials gerry anderson manchester palindromes the aperiodical world cup matrix multiplication matrices convergence bempp frobel dragon curves programming noughts and crosses golden ratio golden spiral numerical analysis captain scarlet phd harriss spiral graphs braiding machine learning books mathsjam error bars php latex advent calendar sound interpolation raspberry pi speed a gamut of games rugby electromagnetic field people maths ternary christmas card geogebra signorini conditions accuracy finite element method chalkdust magazine national lottery chebyshev hexapawn pi approximation day python dataset realhats nine men's morris sorting chess computational complexity light wool graph theory royal institution dates folding tube maps football pizza cutting final fantasy statistics gaussian elimination mathsteroids preconditioning determinants ucl triangles pac-man logic weather station data

Archive

Show me a random blog post
▼ show ▼
© Matthew Scroggs 2012–2021