A large part of my fascination in mathematics is because of some very surprising results that I have seen there.

I remember one I found very hard to swallow when I first encountered it, was what is known as the Banach Tarski Paradox. It states that you can separate a ball $x^2+y^2+z^2 \le 1$ into finitely many disjoint parts, rotate and translate them and rejoin (by taking disjoint union), and you end up with exactly two complete balls of the same radius!

So I ask you which are your most surprising moments in maths?

  • Chances are you will have more than one. May I request post multiple answers in that case, so the voting system will bring the ones most people think as surprising up. Thanks!

91 Answers 91


Computational instability of the Quadratic Formula. Who would have thought?

Due to this computational stability an alternative formula is also employed. Here is the relevant quote from the Wikipedia article:

“The alternative formula can reduce loss of precision in the numerical evaluation of the roots, which may be a problem if one of the roots is much smaller than the other in absolute magnitude.”

And here is the link to the full article:



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