Question:

What does a upside down question mark mean a the beginning of a math equation?

Answer:

In mathematics, the Minkowski question mark function is a function possessing various unusual fractal properties.

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mathematics
Mathematical analysis

Mathematical analysis is a branch of mathematics that includes the theories of differentiation, integration, measure, limits, infinite series, and analytic functions. These theories are usually studied in the context of real and complex numbers and functions. Analysis evolved from calculus, which involves the elementary concepts and techniques of analysis. Analysis may be distinguished from geometry. However, it can be applied to any space of mathematical objects that has a definition of nearness (a topological space) or specific distances between objects (a metric space).

Early results in analysis were implicitly present in the early days of ancient Greek mathematics. For instance, an infinite geometric sum is implicit in Zeno's paradox of the dichotomy. Later, Greek mathematicians such as Eudoxus and Archimedes made more explicit, but informal, use of the concepts of limits and convergence when they used the method of exhaustion to compute the area and volume of regions and solids. In India, the 12th century mathematician Bhāskara II gave examples of the derivative and used what is now known as Rolle's theorem.

Fractal curves Fractals
Minkowski's question mark function

In mathematics, the Minkowski question mark function (or the slippery devil's staircase), denoted by ?(x), is a function possessing various unusual fractal properties, defined by Hermann Minkowski in 1904. It maps quadratic irrationals to rational numbers on the unit interval, via an expression relating the continued fraction expansions of the quadratics to the binary expansions of the rationals, given by Arnaud Denjoy in 1938. In addition, it maps rational numbers to dyadic rationals, as can be seen by a recursive definition closely related to the Stern–Brocot tree.

If [a_0; a_1, a_2, \ldots] is the continued fraction representation of an irrational number x, then

Minkowski Function
Fractal dimension

A fractal dimension is a ratio providing a statistical index of complexity comparing how detail in a pattern (strictly speaking, a fractal pattern) changes with the scale at which it is measured. It has also been characterized as a measure of the space-filling capacity of a pattern that tells how a fractal scales differently than the space it is embedded in; a fractal dimension does not have to be an integer.


Hermann Minkowski

Hermann Minkowski (June 22, 1864 – January 12, 1909) was a Lithuanian-German mathematician. He created and developed the geometry of numbers and used geometrical methods to solve problems in number theory, mathematical physics, and the theory of relativity.

Minkowski is perhaps best known for his work in relativity, in which he showed in 1907 that his former student Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity (1905), presented algebraically by Einstein, could also be understood geometrically as a theory of four-dimensional space-time. Einstein himself at first viewed Minkowski's treatment as a mere mathematical trick, before eventually realizing that a geometrical view of space-time would be necessary in order to complete his own later work in general relativity (1915).

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