9.13.2012

Phlogiston theory and complex numbers

At the beginning of XVIII century the theory of phlogiston appeared in chemistry and explained the process of burning the presence of "a fiery substance" to combustibles. It was believed that when the material is burned, it disappears from the phlogiston. For its time it was the most advanced theory, the first theory in the history of chemistry, through which chemicals become a science.

In the development of this theory, there was such a paradox: in chemical experiments on calcination have found that scale weighs more than the metal itself. Instead, that would decrease the mass scale increases when the metal is released phlogiston. Here come to the aid of physics mathematics with its negative numbers. The logic was clear - if there are positive and negative numbers, so there is a positive and negative mass. The theory of phlogiston recorded that phlogiston has negative mass, which is confirmed by experiments - negative weight of phlogiston leaves the metal and enters the air, resulting in a positive mass scale increases.

Thanks to the work of Antoine Lavoisier was digging the role of oxygen in the combustion process and replaced the phlogiston theory came the oxygen theory of combustion. In the new theory, the increase in mass scale was explained in the positive numbers: the weight of the metal added weight of oxygen from the air, resulting in a mass scale increases. That's so simple and effective negative numbers were expelled from chemistry. Because of this, today we enjoy the benefits of chemistry in the form in which they exist.

But physics lurking different fate. Where did the complex numbers? From the same place there was a weight of phlogiston - of negative numbers. This is the common parent of the two theories are even conduct DNA analysis is not necessary. Why is this? To understand this, one must look at the history of mathematics.

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