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Good Math by Mark C. Chu-Carroll

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Sometimes Aesthetics Trumps Practicality

What I find particularly interesting about Egyptian fractions is how long they’ve lasted given how difficult it is to work with them. Adding Egyptian fractions is difficult; multiplying one by an integer is a pain, but multiplying two of them is absolutely insane. From a purely practical standpoint, they seem downright ridiculous. As early as AD 150, they were roundly criticized by Ptolemy himself! And yet they were the dominant way that fractions were written for close to three thousand years. The aesthetics of unit fractions overwhelmed the practicality of tractable arithmetic.

There are a bunch of interesting, open problems involving Egyptian fractions. I’ll just leave you with one fun example: Paul ...

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