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 "s" then "e" then "g" then "m" then "e" then "n" then "t" in the box below (case sensitive):

Archive

Show me a random blog post
 2020 

Jul 2020

Happy τ+e-6 Approximation Day!

May 2020

A surprising fact about quadrilaterals
Interesting tautologies

Mar 2020

Log-scaled axes

Feb 2020

PhD thesis, chapter ∞
PhD thesis, chapter 5
PhD thesis, chapter 4
PhD thesis, chapter 3
Inverting a matrix
PhD thesis, chapter 2

Jan 2020

PhD thesis, chapter 1
Gaussian elimination
Matrix multiplication
Christmas (2019) is over
 2019 
▼ show ▼
 2018 
▼ show ▼
 2017 
▼ show ▼
 2016 
▼ show ▼
 2015 
▼ show ▼
 2014 
▼ show ▼
 2013 
▼ show ▼
 2012 
▼ show ▼

Tags

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

Archive

Show me a random blog post
▼ show ▼
© Matthew Scroggs 2012–2020