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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Tuesday September 14, 2004

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 3:00 PM

The Square Wheel

Harmonic analysis may be based either on the circular (i.e., trigonometric) functions or on the square (i. e., Walsh) functions.  George Mackey's masterly historical survey showed that the discovery of Fourier analysis, based on the circle, was of comparable importance (within mathematics) to the discovery (within general human history) of the wheel.  Harmonic analysis based on square functions– the "square wheel," as it were– is also not without its importance.

For some observations of Stephen Wolfram on square-wheel analysis, see pp. 573 ff. in Wolfram's magnum opus, A New Kind of Science (Wolfram Media, May 14, 2002).  Wolfram's illustration of this topic is closely related, as it happens, to a note on the symmetry of finite-geometry hyperplanes that I wrote in 1986.  A web page pointing out this same symmetry in Walsh functions was archived on Oct. 30, 2001.

That web page is significant (as later versions point out) partly because it shows that just as the phrase "the circular functions" is applied to the trigonometric functions, the phrase "the square functions" might well be applied to Walsh functions– which have, in fact, properties very like those of the trig functions.  For details, see Symmetry of Walsh Functions, updated today.

"While the reader may draw many a moral from our tale, I hope that the story is of interest for its own sake.  Moreover, I hope that it may inspire others, participants or observers, to preserve the true and complete record of our mathematical times."

From Error-Correcting Codes
Through Sphere Packings
To Simple Groups
,
by Thomas M. Thompson,
Mathematical Association of America, 1983

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