A complex number is a number, but is different from common numbers in many ways. A complex number is made up using two numbers combined together. The first part is a real number. The second part of a complex number is an imaginary number. The most important imaginary number is called , defined as a number that will be -1 when squared ("squared" means "multiplied by itself"): . All the other imaginary numbers are multiplied by a real number, in the same way that all real numbers can be thought of as 1 multiplied by another number. Arithmetic functions such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division can be used with complex numbers. They also follow commutative, associative and distributive properties, just like real numbers.
Complex numbers were discovered while attempting to solve special equations that have exponents in them. These began to pose real problems for mathematicians. As a comparison, using negative numbers, it is possible to find the x in the equation for all real values of a and b, but if only positive numbers are allowed for x it is sometimes impossible to find a positive x, as in the equation 3 + x = 1.
With exponentiation, there is a difficulty to be overcome. There is no real number that gives −1 when it is squared. In other words, −1 (or any other negative number) has no real square root. For example, there is no real number that solves . To solve this problem, mathematicians introduced a symbol i and called it an imaginary number. This is the imaginary number that will give −1 when it is squared.
The first mathematicians to have thought of this were probably Gerolamo Cardano and Raffaele Bombelli. They lived in the 16th century. It was probably Leonhard Euler who introduced writing for that number.
All complex numbers can be written as  (or ), where a is called the real part of the number, and b is called the imaginary part. We write or for the real part of a complex number . So, if , we write . Similarly, we write or for the imaginary part of a complex number ; , for the same z. Every real number is also a complex number; it is a complex number z with .
The set of all complex numbers is usually written as .
Operations over complex numbers[change | change source]
Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division as long as the divisor is not zero, and exponentiation (raising numbers to exponents) are all possible with complex numbers. Some other calculations are also possible with complex numbers.
The rule for addition and subtraction of complex numbers is pretty simple:
Let , then , and .
Multiplication is a bit different:
Another notable operation for complex numbers is conjugation. A complex conjugate to is . It is pretty simple, but is important for calculations, because belongs to the real numbers for all complex :
We can use this to do division:
Other forms of describing complex numbers[change | change source]
Complex numbers can be shown on a so-called complex plane. If you have a number , you can go to a point on the real axis and to b on the imaginary axis and draw a vector from to . The length of this vector can be calculated using the Pythagorean theorem and angle between the positive real axis and this vector, going counterclockwise. The length of a vector for a number is called its modulus (written as ), and the angle is called its argument ().
This is closely connected to De Moivre's formula.
There exists even another form, called exponential form.
Conclusion[change | change source]
With the addition of complex numbers to math, every polynomial with complex coefficients has roots that are complex numbers. The successful addition of the complex numbers to math also helped to open a path to the creation of another sorts of numbers that could resolve and help to explain many different problems, for example the: hypercomplex numbers, sedenion, hyperreal numbers, surreal numbers and many others. See types of numbers.