a definite meaning as the number corresponding to the extremity of a length x, on the logarithmic scale, such that 5 corresponds to the extremity of 2x. Thus the concrete fact required to enable us to pass arithmetically from the conception of a fractional number to the conception of a surd is the fact of performing calculations by means of logarithms. In the same way we regard log102, not as a new kind of number, but as an approximation.
(vii.) The use of fractional indices follows directly from this parallelism. We find that the product am × am × am is equal to a3m; and, by definition, the product × × is equal to a, which is a1. This suggests that we should write as a1/3; and we find that the use of fractional indices in this way satisfies the laws of integral indices. It should be observed that, by analogy with the definition of a fraction, ap/q mean (a1/q)p, not (ap)1/q.
II. Graphical Introduction to Algebra
29. The science of graphics is closely related to that of mensuration. While mensuration is concerned with the representation of geometrical magnitudes by numbers, graphics is concerned with the representation of numerical quantities by geometrical figures, and particularly by lengths. An important development, covering such diverse matters as the equilibrium of forces and the algebraic theory of complex numbers (§ 66), has relation to cases where the numerical quantity has direction as well as magnitude. There are also cases in which graphics and mensuration are used jointly; a variable numerical quantity is represented by a graph, and the principles of mensuration are then applied to determine related numerical quantities. General aspects of the subject are considered under Mensuration; Vector Analysis; Infinitesmal Calculus.
30. The elementary use of graphic methods is qualitative rather than quantitative; i.e. it is for purposes of illustration and suggestion rather than for purposes of deduction and exact calculation. We start with related facts, and adopt a particular method of visualizing the relation. One of the relations most commonly illustrated in this way is the time-relation; the passage of time being associated with the passage of a point along a straight line, so that equal intervals of time are represented by equal lengths.
31. It is important to begin the study of graphics with concrete cases rather than with tracing values of an algebraic function. Simple examples of the time-relation are—the number of scholars present in a class, the height of the barometer, and the reading of the thermometer, on successive days. Another useful set of graphs comprises those which give the relation between the expressions of a length, volume, &c., on different systems of measurement. Mechanical, commercial, economic and statistical facts (the latter usually involving the time-relation) afford numerous examples.
32. The ordinary method of representation is as follows. Let X and Y be the related quantities, their expressions in terms of selected units A and B being x and y, so that X = x•A, Y = y•B. For graphical representation we select units of length L and M, not necessarily identical. We take a fixed line OX, usually drawn horizontally; for each value of X we measure a length or abscissa ON equal to x•L, and draw an ordinate NP at right angles to OX and equal to the corresponding value of y•M. The assemblage of ordinates NP is then the graph of Y.
The series of values of X will in general be discontinuous, and the graph will then be made up of a succession of parallel and (usually) equidistant ordinates. When the series is theoretically continuous, the theoretical graph will be a continuous figure of which the lines actually drawn are ordinates. The upper boundary of this figure will be a line of some sort; it is this line, rather than the figure, that is sometimes called the "graph." It is better, however, to treat this as a secondary meaning. In particular, the equality or inequality of values of two functions is more readily grasped by comparison of the lengths of the ordinates of the graphs than by inspection of the relative positions of their bounding lines.
33. The importance of the bounding line of the graph lies in the fact that we can keep it unaltered while we alter the graph as a whole by moving OX up or down. We might, for instance, read temperature from 60° instead of from 0°. Thus we form the conception, not only of a zero, but also of the arbitrariness of position of this zero (cf. § 27 (i.)); and we are assisted to the conception of negative quantities. On the other hand, the alteration in the direction of the bounding line, due to alteration in the unit of measurement of Y, is useful in relation to geometrical projection.
This, however, applies mainly to the representation of values of Y. Y is represented by the length of the ordinate NP, so that the representation is cardinal; but this ordinate really corresponds to the point N, so that the representation of X is ordinal. It is therefore only in certain special cases, such as those of simple time-relations (e.g. "J is aged 40, and K is aged 26; when will J be twice as old as K?"), that the graphic method leads without arithmetical reasoning to the properties of negative values. In other cases the continuation of the graph may constitute a dangerous extrapolation.
34. Graphic representation thus rests on the principle that equal numerical quantities may be represented by equal lengths, and that a quantity mA may be represented by a length mL, where A and L are the respective units; and the science of graphics rests on the converse property that the quantity represented by pL is pA, i.e. that pA is determined by finding the number of times that L is contained in pL. The graphic method may therefore be used in arithmetic for comparing two particular magnitudes of the same kind by comparing the corresponding lengths P and Q measured along a single line OX from the same point O.
- (i.) To divide P by Q, we cut off from P successive portions each equal to Q, till we have a piece R left which is less than Q. Thus P=kQ+R, where k is an integer.
- (ii.) To continue the division we may take as our new unit a submultiple of Q, such as Q/r, where r is an integer, and repeat the process. We thus get P = kQ+m•Q/r+S = (k+m/r)Q+S, where S is less than Q/r. Proceeding in this way, we may be able to express P÷Q as the sum of a finite number of terms k+m/r+n/r²+...; or, if r is not suitably chosen, we may not. If, e.g. r = 10, we get the ordinary expression of P/Q as an integer and a decimal; but, if P/Q were equal to 1/3, we could not express it as a decimal with a finite number of figures.
- (iii.) In the above method the choice of r is arbitrary. We can avoid this arbitrariness by a different procedure. Having obtained R, which is less than Q, we now repeat with Q and R the process that we adopted with P and Q; i.e. we cut off from Q successive portions each equal to R. Suppose we find Q = sR+T, then we repeat the process with R and T; and so on. We thus express P÷Q in the form of a continued fraction, , which is usually written, for conciseness, k + &c., or k + &c.
- (iv.) If P and Q can be expressed in the forms pL and qL, where p and q are integers, R will be equal to (p-kq)L, which is both less than pL and less than qL. Hence the successive remainders are successively smaller multiples of L, but still integral multiples, so that the series of quotients k, s, t, . . . will ultimately come to an end. Moreover, if the last divisor is uL., then it follows from the theory of numbers (§ 26 (ii.)) that (a) u is a factor of p and of q, and (b) any number which is a factor of p and q is also a factor of u. Hence u is the greatest common measure of p and q.
35. In relation to algebra, the graphic method is mainly useful in connexion with the theory of limits (§§ 58, 61) and the functional treatment of equations (§ 60). As regards the latter, there are two classes of cases. In the first class come equations in a single unknown; here the function which is equated to zero is the Y whose values for different values of X are traced,