« Uhhhhh, wow. | Main | And Finally... »

Comments

Catalyst

"You even had to tell us that we had to forget EVERYTHING that we know about math (including simple long division, multiplication, addition, and even fractions!). Are you seriously saying that this is LOGICAL? We can't even start from basic facts and work up to a proof of some sort?"

Ok, I'll admit that was a little out there. I meant to say "forget everything you know of advanced mathematics". Essentially, take a look at this as though you're in junior high school, or fresh out of high school.

"Your way just goes, "0.99|9 does not look the same to me as 1, therefore 0.99|9 != 1." This is what is called "circular logic." I don't think that's the kind of logic you want to be toting around."

Ok, let me address this. When you first heard about this whole thing, whenever that was in your life, I am willing to bet you looked at the two numbers proposed as being equal and thought "What? Those aren't equal..."

Now, why is that two things that are "equal" would need so many things to prove that they are "equal"? Shouldn't they be incredibly easily and beyond a doubt (i.e. we shouldn't even have to be here) proven equal?

Next, tell me how this "circular logic" is wrong. What I see here is two different numbers. To use an analogy, I see an apple and an orange. To me, you are claiming that the apple is an orange. And you happen to have many people believing it.

Again, I ask you, why is it so hard to grasp that when two numbers look different, it's quite possible that they ARE different. If you're saying that type of logic is wrong, then have fun going around thinking that all oranges are apples, and that apples don't exist. Because that's exactly what you're doing here.

"You seem to agree that the process is endless, yet you still insist on having this "end" (the 7) show up. I wasn't "trying" to take the 7 out. It just isn't ever displayed in the answer (the 2.99|9 part) because it never becomes part of it, as you certainly must understand, since you stated so.

Just like all the other 7s in the 10th, 100th, 1000th, etc. decimal places that have been turned into 9s, the 7 is not noted in the answer.

To state my point more clearly, for the equation:

0.9999 x 3 = 2.9997

the 7 at the 10th decimal place is being ignored, as well as the ones in the 100th and 1000th places. According to you, we should make sure that these 7s be noted within the finite answer of 2.9997."

Ok, let me once again rephrase this: The 7 in the answer does exist. However, when you look at the "end" (which we both agree doesn't exist) we see a 9. However, by doing the math in a finite setting, we end up with a 7 at the "end". So, if we take the 7 from the infinite finite multiplications to get the answer (not sure how to phrase this part... but I mean every time we increase this:
0.99 x 3 = 2.97
0.999 x 3 = 2.997
0.9999 x 3 = 2.9997), and take the 9 that is seen when we look at it infinitely, then both must exist simultaneously.

I don't mean to propose any specific "notation" of how this should be written, but I merely wish to show how I arrive at these numbers. However, if you were to write it, I think I'd have it as 2.99|9...7 or possibly 2.99|9|7.

"What is really lazy is to just end the 0.3333... with a 1/3 tacked at the end (actually, it isn't really "0.33333333333...(finite number of 3s) + 1/3" but "0.3333333333...(finite number of 3s) + 1/300000000...(however many zeros is needed so the sum is 1/3).) If that's your answer, then why bother at all with dividing 1 by 3? Leave it at 1/3 in the first place!"

True, mine is also lazy. However, it takes in a number more representative of the answer, and when you use it, you get the answers that you should get.

However, I'd agree that we should just leave it as 1/3. It's simpler, anyone can understand it, and we don't end up with things like this.

"1/2 = 0.5 is not to be trusted. Sure, it seems so simple and obvious, but the process used to get that answer is the same one that failed for something as mundane as 1/3, so LOGICALLY we can't be sure that it's correct, can we? I'd like to see you try to logically state that 1/2 = 0.5 while at the same time insisting that 1/3 != 0.33|3. Or do you actually agree that 1/2 may not equal 0.5?"

Actually, no. 1/2 doesn't do quite the same thing as 1/3. 2 is an even number, while 3 is odd. All of the fractions that is 2 to any power (1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, etc) give you nice, easy decimal values. It's because it's cut in half each time. It operates on a fairly different system than 1/3.

It's easy to explain, really. when I cut something in half, I get half of it. Makes sense, doesn't it? But a third is a third, and it doesn't work quite so well, for some reason.

“WOW...it just gets better. If your special "numbers" don't exist then my point is proven exactly! And by the way, those numbers do not exist.
ok...so I showed that those number are indeed possible? how exactly? Because you just can't be wrong. Ok, think about it...you're trying to prove to me that .999... != 1. So to prove that you insist that there are numbers between .9|9 and 1. And those numbers exist why? because .9|9 != 1?? you're coming to a conclusion assuming the point your trying to prove to be true. It makes no sense. You can't say that A is true because B implies A, therefore A implies B to prove that B is true. So please give me some sort of proof that the number .9|91 crap exists.”

You showed that the numbers are possible assuming we write them in the form I’ve shown. To be fair, let’s look at it this way and assume that .99|9 is NOT the same as 1 (I know, it’s hard to grasp). I’m merely using this because in my mind it’s the next number down the number line, in a sense. If you want to show me another number down the number line to use, which is definitely not equal to 1 but it is fairly close to it, fine.

Assuming that they are not equal, then there would have to be infinite numbers between them, correct? At least, that’s what you’ve told me. So, I assume that it would be easiest to write them as .99|9…1. This 1 would represent the next chain of infinite numbers. So then you could have things like .99|9…2, or .99|9…3. The 1, 2, or 3 is separate from the recurring decimals, as it’s part of that “in-between” area.

This can go on infinitely. Please, if you want to propose that .99|9 is equal to 1 in order to prove me wrong in these regards, then show me a different number to use. After all, with so many numbers, there must be one that is only slightly farther down the line.

Actually, andy hit it on the nose. I think that about solves part of the problem, here.

“And honestly, I'm not sure why I'm arguing with you unless you have a masters or PHD in math. I have a B.S. in math so I've been well educated in the field. I don't go on "gut feeling" anymore when it comes to mathematics.”

Ah, pulling the “I have a degree so I’m smarter than you” card? Well, in that case, you’re not allowed to use a computer until you get a degree in computer science. You’re not educated enough, and go on too many “gut instincts” with them. You’re a danger to computer society.

Please, buddy, don’t act like a degree makes you “god of math knowledge”. I am just as entitled to my right to have my opinion and share it as you are. Sorry if having a lesser person debate with you is too much, since obviously degrees mean everything. That’s why Bill Gates is the richest man on earth. Oh wait, that’s right, he dropped out. Since he didn’t get his degree, he obviously wasn’t smart enough to use computers, so he shouldn’t have been able to make Microsoft, and earn nearly 1 million dollars per year.

If you’re going to use that on me, then I suggest you shut up and go away, because I have better things to deal with than arrogant math freaks who think that just because they’ve gone through college they’re better than me.

“this problem basically boils down to what's the next number after 0? or what's the next number after any number. most would say 0.000....1, whatever that means, but if you say 0.0000...1 = 0; then it makes perfect sense for 0.99999.. = 1. They both exploit the same problem, what's the next number after any number? is there a branch of mathetmatics that studies this?”

I think he’s hit this on the nose better than I have. You have to admit that there is some number that comes after zero, if not perfectly after it. And, going on down, we eventually need to get other numbers. If you deny that, then we have no numbers.

Chip

@ Lzygenius,
ummmm...no I meant 10^-(infinity+1). I was trying to show a number between 10^-x and 0. So what's a number less than 10^-x? 10^-(x+1). For example, 10^-2 < 10^-1. So no, I didn't mean 10^-(infinity-1). Let's work on our basic algebra skills here before devulging into our beliefs on how the mathematics at infinity works.

Anyway, I feel that I'm beating a dead horse here. For those that don't believe it still, then just look at the multitude of websites available in this subject offered by trustworthy mathematicians. No, it's not a conspiracy and no it's not a flaw in mathematics. If you don't like repeating decimals then blame our base 10 number system, not math.

Chip

@ Catalyst,
haha, I actually do have a B.S. in computer engineering too. But this is getting very retarded. I'm not trying to start name calling stuff nor do I think I'm "holier than thou" because I have a math degree. I'm simply saying that I've studied mathematics to a great degree. If you study a bit more then you too would start to get the point. So I apologize if I insulted you. Any discussion that leads to name calling is pretty pointless. So let me get back to the point...

There is no "next number" on the real number line. The real numbers are dense. Suppose we assert that a is "right next" to b. That is, you can't "fit" any real number between a and b. However, if we take the average of a and b (a+b)/2 then we should get a real number. As I have said, since the real numbers are a field then valid binary operations on 2 different real numbers will result in another real number. So we have now just found another real number between a and b, which contradicts our statement that there can't be any number between a and b. So can you see how it is flawed to believe that there is a real number "right next" to every real number? There are many areas of mathematics that deal with this concept. Number theory and topology are just a couple of fields that deal with this.

Again, I apologize for seeming to make you feel "inferior" to me.

Chip

The reason why .999...1 cannot be a real number is this: Every decimal place represents a term in a series, whether it be finite or infinite series. For example, .225 = 2/10 + 2/100 + 5/1000. .999... = 9/10 + 9/100 + 9/1000 + 9/10000 + ... So the .x notation just represents a base 10 digit divided by some power of 10. so the "number" .999...1 = 9/10 + 9/100 + 9/1000 + ... + 1/10^??? We know that 1/10^(-infinity) is not a real number (if you want a proof then I can give one to you). So what exactly is that real number which divides 1 after that never-ending string of 9's? Think about it...infinity is not a real number so you can't divide a number by infinity. This is why a 1 does not exist after a never-ending string of 9's.

mark

Allow me to summarize:

Premise: Real numbers are dense. This means that between any two real numbers, there are an infinite number of real numbers between them.
Premise: There are no numbers between .999... and 1

Possible conclusions:
1) .999... = 1
2) .999... < 1, but it is not a real number.
3) .999... < 1, and it is a real number, and so are an infinite number of numbers such as .000...1, .000...2 and so on.

So, if you want to argue that .999... < 1, you better start arguing that it isn't a real number.

Monimonika

[Ok, let me address this. When you first heard about this whole thing, whenever that was in your life, I am willing to bet you looked at the two numbers proposed as being equal and thought "What? Those aren't equal..."]

I will say that, yes, I did initially balk at the idea that 0.99|9 = 1. But then I looked at the proofs showing that this was indeed true and was convinced because I could not find any contradiction in the steps taken (and believe me, I tried). It especially was convincing since the steps were based on easy-to-understand (for me at least) highschool math. It now especially makes sense to me once I uncoiled my thinking from assuming that 0.99|9 has an "end" somewhere in there, thus making it less than 1. This insight is hard to explain in words, but the fact that I can't plot 0.99|9 anywhere (except on top of 1) on a number line without resorting to assuming an "end" to the line of 9s now convinces me on even an intuitive level.

You say that something like this should be apparent to anyone without showing mathematical proofs. Well, it sure is "apparent" to me that the Earth is flat (shouldn't I be able to notice the curvature?), the Sun revolves around the Earth (if Earth is the one moving, why don't I feel it?), and of the three lines shown in this "optical illusion":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muller-Lyer_distortion_illusion

the middle one is obviously longer than the other two.

See how this form of "logic" doesn't really work? It may seem obvious at first that 0.99|9 != 1, but when you actually go and check it out (using basic equations), you come back with the fact that this is not so.

[Ok, let me once again rephrase this: The 7 in the answer does exist. However, when you look at the "end" (which we both agree doesn't exist) we see a 9. However, by doing the math in a finite setting, we end up with a 7 at the "end".]

I'm sorry, but you're still assuming that there is an "end" onto which the 7 can be placed. You keep saying that you agree with me that there is no end, but then say,

[I don't mean to propose any specific "notation" of how this should be written, but I merely wish to show how I arrive at these numbers. However, if you were to write it, I think I'd have it as 2.99|9...7 or possibly 2.99|9|7.]

Where are you putting that 7? At the end of the 9s? Actually, the better question is, why should the 7 even be noted at all? As I said before, we don't take note of all those other 7s that came before-hand. Stop saying that you agree that there is no end and then follow up with statements that assume that there is an end (whether you're imagining a moving end or a dangling end is unclear).

[It's easy to explain, really. when I cut something in half, I get half of it. Makes sense, doesn't it? But a third is a third, and it doesn't work quite so well, for some reason.]

..."for some reason"? This argument from ignorance is the best you can come up with? I highly recommend that you go and look up what bases are in mathematics. The reason 1/2 yields neatly to 0.5 while 1/3 yields a repeating decimal 0.33|3 is simply because we are doing the math in base-10. Such numbers as 2, 4, 5, 8, etc. divide neatly into non-repeating decimals solely because their prime factors consist ONLY of the prime numbers 1, 2 and/or 5 (which, surprise!, are the factors for 10). Other numbers that include prime factors other than 1, 2 or 5 in them end up with repeating decimals when they are used to divide 1 in base-10.

And are you seriously suggesting that you can divide an object (say, pizza) in halves, but can't physically divide it into thirds? Seven equal pieces? 13 equal pieces? Hmm? They physically do exist in reality, it's just the way we arbritrarily group things in tens that makes things difficult.

Oh, and here's a little something extra to mull over:

Since I stated that 3 x 0.99|9 = 2.99|9, then it must be true that 2.99|9 divided by 3 is 0.99|9. Try to do it in long division (imagine that the dashes and slash are connnected, and add in the lines that are missing above the 29s):

0.999999...
------------
3/ 2.999999...
-27
29
-27
29
-27
2(and so on)

Monimonika

Argh!! Ignore the stars (for space-taking purposes) in the final equation:

***0.999999...
**------------
3/ 2.999999...
***-27
*****29
****-27
******29
*****-27
*******2(and so on)

pEnG

0.9999999999999... = 1
If you disagree, you're a fucking retard.

Chip

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof_that_0.999..._equals_1

If you don't believe it yet, then I suggest you write to wikipedia and tell them that they are publishing fraudulent material. I'm sure they'll listen to you.

Lurker

Yes Catalyst, I admit I did succumb to the temptation to flame... please forgive me a harmless little jest. I hope you can see through your understandable (but hopefully not deep) anger towards me and consider a few more ideas. And I will admit you are correct; I indeed know very little about math. But I do know certain proofs when I see 'em.

1. Many posters have provided numerous excellent (and correct) proofs that 0.999... = 1. You have not offered a rigorous counterexample to any. Since you say you have a math degree, I am sure that you took a semester in proofs, or number theory, or formal logic, or some other class with a similar name and purpose. There you learned to write formal proofs or present counterexamples, using strict terminology, did you not? So far your arguments rely on your intuition and rhetoric, not rigorous formality, and rigorous formality is of course the foundation of mathematics.

2. In math, there are numerous examples of things that are equal, but do not appear so at first. In fact, you might even say that most of meaningful mathematics deals with things that are equal but do not appear to be so....:

Quote: "Now, why is that two things that are "equal" would need so many things to prove that they are "equal"? Shouldn't they be incredibly easily and beyond a doubt (i.e. we shouldn't even have to be here) proven equal?"

Take pythagorean theorem for example. (I'll assume you're familiar with it, having a math degree and all). It's indisputably true, isn't it? But there are numerous proofs to prove it is equal. And as for myself, not having a math degree (unless you count a minor), those proofs are neither easy nor intuitive to me! But upon inspection I am compelled to admit their truth. Perhaps I've taken your quote a bit out of context, and if so I apologize and admit laziness, but the quote reflects a common lay-attitude towards many of the more technical aspects of math, which I though I'd point out. To digress a bit... some mathematicians have become very famous for proving things that defy all common sense.

3. This whole silly 0.999... = 1 debate is not even REMOTELY the most mind-bending or counterintuitive truth of formal math. If you disagree with this equality... what do you have to say about the cardinality of infinite sets? Are there more real numbers than integers? They're both infinite, right? Or are they? Is it possible for one kind of infinity to be bigger than another? Hmm. What about a set of all sets? Can you define one for me?

There are other confusing topics out there too. I wish you an opportunity to enjoy exploring them.

If I've flamed you, or pissed you off, I only hope it serves to encourage you to pursue your interest in math further and deeper. As your posting passion demonstrates, you obviously are interested in math topics, and that alone is highly commendable in my book. I hope you don't stop pursuing this particular topic until the proverbial "Aha!" catches you!

adamsj

When Catalyst says this:

'Ok, I'll admit that was a little out there. I meant to say "forget everything you know of advanced mathematics". Essentially, take a look at this as though you're in junior high school, or fresh out of high school.'

I think he makes it clear he's yanking your chains.

Ranbir

If the whole argument is that it doesn't make sense on a high school level...that isn't a disproof of this result. :)

Since not everyone is on the same playing field let's keep it real simple;

Find a number between 0.99|9 and 1.00|0 and we'll all accept that these two numbers are different.

Chip

pi is exactly 3!!!

John B. Sandlin

Chip - I can define a number system where pi does equal three... but it makes counting very, very difficult!

jbs

John B. Sandlin

The real hang up I see in most of the posts revolves around understanding a never ending series. If I define a number, 0.2|2 for example, and at some point - time, the universe, and everything ends - my 2's still continue. Hmm. I should have made that 0.42|42.

HA! I've found the formula for immortality!

jbs

Paul "the tree" Carpenter

Good call on this being your last post on this tired topic. Let's have some *actually challening* maths!

SunXia

Your methods are all correct!! I stand by your argument, you are right!!

thebizofknowledge

I'm not a mathematician, so I would not dare to enter the actual debate. I did want to say, though I greatly admire you for standing up for math teachers who teach the "higher" levels of math. I agree with you that no one should be discrediting the whole profession just because they disagree with a particular post.

Juno888

Enjoy and have fun with your vacation....Keep up the good work..

John Cowan

This debate is a wonderful demonstration of the difference between truth and truthiness, or intuitive acceptability. It is a truth that 0.999... is equal to 1, but it just isn't truthy enough for most people to really believe, even if they can regurgitate it on command.

I posted (but did not write) an anonymous fable at http://quomodocumque.wordpress.com/2007/09/30/they-had-not-the-habit-of-definition/#comment-686
that bears on this question.

Dave

I wanted to expand on what Monimonika said above.

Some people have trouble understanding what an infinite number of digits after the decima means. It means that if x = 0.999... (an infinite number of 9s after the decimal), then 10x = 9.999... (still the same number of 9s after the decimal). That's why 10x - x = 9. The infinite number of 9s after the decimal cancel out when subtracting.

Tony

When you are talking about how .6 + .4 = 1

But .666~ + .444~ =/= 1

Because you said that .666~ is a bigger number. However, .66<.6

Isn't the farther you go down in decimal places, the smaller the number gets?

some_genius

apparently infinity is every single number to ever exist, so when ever your writing a answer to your maths problem, or typing it, your writing/typing infinity, so infinity has already been proved millions of years before now, because when math was first invented they used numbers.

dan

Catalyst said that 1/3 != 0.333... because they don't look the same on paper. Others don't believe that numerals of different bases still represent the same number. These people need to understand that this is just the NOTATION. That is, a VISUAL REPRESENTATION of the number. There are many visual representations of the same number. The same way as there are many ways I can say a word: by using DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.

If I want to represent the number NINE, I can do so in many ways:

I can draw nine dots, for example, or I could use one of these:
nine
9 (decimal)
9/9
27/3
1001 (binary)
10 (octal)
102 (trinary)

and many many more. They are different representations of the concept we know as "the number nine", but they are still the same number!

So, if we want to represent what we call "the number one", we can do that in many ways too:
. (One single dot)
one
1
1/1
2/2
0.999...
0.999|9

and many more.

They are just representations. We (humans) defined what these representations mean so that we can communicate concepts to each other in an unambiguous way. We defined that 0.999... = 1 just like we defined 0.333... = 1/3

Why did we do this? Because decimals aren't capable of representing certain numbers. This doesn't mean that number doesn't exist, just that the DECIMAL REPRESENTATION or LANGUAGE doesn't have a word for it. So we created one.

Another example: the number PI is an infinitely long sequence of non-repeating decimal digits. Because this is hard to write, we often use the PI symbol to represent it. The symbol is a representation of PI equal to its numeric value. It doesn't look the same on paper, but we defined it to mean the same thing. Its all NOTATION.

Joker

The only hard thing to explain, at least in my mind is this part of the proof:

.999~ = 1

The simple equality relates a whole number, aka an integer, with a never-ending decimal, which has been taught to me, to be a non-integer. The gut feeling, and what number theory seems to suggest is that an integer should not be equal to this never-ending decimal, even if the proof is correct.

The comments to this entry are closed.

The .999... Posts That Made Me Briefly Famous

My Feeble Attempts at Humor

Other blogs I like

  • EvolutionBlog
    He writes mostly about evolution, but he's a math guy.
  • Good Math, Bad Math
    Scienceblogs finally has a math guy!
  • Kung Fu Monkey
    A very smart, high-profile screen writer and comic with sensible politics and an amazing ability to rant
  • Math Spectrometer
    My ideas about life, teaching, and politics
  • Pharyngula
    Biology, lefty politics, and strident anti-Intelligent Design
Blog powered by Typepad