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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quaternions: Are they from outer space, depths of the sea or are they surreal?

Would you believe that they are NUMBERS, that is 4-dimensional numbers used to describe dynamics of motion in 3-D.  Although created in 1800's they are today used for virtual reality games, robotics and geometry of space-time.  Quaternions are implemented in flight software for the NASA Space Shuttles.  If you have heard of complex numbers, a+bi where bi is the imaginary part, then think of quaternions as complex triple imaginary numbers.   a+bi+cj+dk.

 Irishman William Hamilton devoted his life to studying and teaching about his invention, quaternions. He founded a school of "quaternionists" and popularized them in several books.  He was from Dublin and belong to the Irish Royal Academy.  

In the 1900's the MATHEMATICS of quaternions was replaced with VECTOR analysis.  Who would have thought that 100 years later they would be revived for NASA and  for virtual reality games of the 21st century.


1 comment:

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