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This image makes it seem like real and imaginary numbers are all complex numbers. I thought complex numbers were numbers composed of a real and imaginary part. This got me thinking, and I think I might see it now. All real numbers can be written as $$r \times i^{4k}$$ and all imaginary numbers can be written as $$i^k \times 1$$ or $$i^k + 0$$ There are other ways to combine them in ways that does nothing to the value. So, is it these combinations that make all real and imaginary numbers into complex numbers?

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    $\begingroup$ A number is complex , if it can be written as $a+bi$ with real numbers $a,b$. So , yes, a complex number can be purely imaginary and also real. And every real number as well as every purely imgainary number is complex. For the real numbers we just set $b=0$ and for the purely imgainary numbers we set $a=0$ to get the desiresd representation. $\endgroup$
    – Peter
    Jul 18, 2021 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ This is a more complicated question than you realize. Far simpler question... "Is the natural number $1$ equal to the integer number $1$?" As sets? No, they are not equal. The natural number $1$ is equal to $\{\emptyset\}$ if defined via Von Neumann's construction of the naturals while the integer $1$ is $\{(1,0),(2,1),(3,2),(4,3),(5,4),\dots\}$ (where the numbers appearing are the natural numbers). Despite this, there is a very clear association between the natural number $1$ and the integer $1$ and we often gloss over the distinction and freely switch between them at will. $\endgroup$
    – JMoravitz
    Jul 18, 2021 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ So... it is more correct to say that the complex numbers contains a subset which is isomorphic to the reals... and if we refer to a number such as $1$, it could just as well have been referring to the complex number $1$, the real number $1$, the rational $1$, or whichever other that we wanted... The process of switching between them is so second nature and glossed over so heavily that many people do it without thinking and many ley persons aren't aware of it at all in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – JMoravitz
    Jul 18, 2021 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Set Theoretic Definition of Numbers $\endgroup$
    – JMoravitz
    Jul 18, 2021 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ No, the number or types of different representations is irrelevant. The base formal definition is what matters here if you want to talk about true equality. If you want to talk about informal equality, then as alluded to earlier... we often say that the natural number $1$ is (informally) "equal" to the integer $1$. As for the natural being written as $0.5+0.5$... I would not have allowed that... since if we were working purely in the context of naturals you have $0.5$ is not defined. That is a rational number (or real or higher), not a natural number. $\endgroup$
    – JMoravitz
    Jul 18, 2021 at 16:08

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Perhaps we could modify the Venn diagram to let $\mathbb I$ intersect with $\mathbb Z$ (and consequently $\mathbb R$). (Which integer can be considered imaginary? Which imaginary number can be considered an integer?)

rschwieb: It would make me happy to just eliminate the blob with 𝕀 altogether. $\quad$ Yes that’s true, actually; the set of prime numbers is arguably more deserving of being singled out in this Venn diagram.

And yes, I would certainly classify all real and imaginary numbers as complex; the complex plane includes both the real and imaginary axes, after all.

P.S. I’d never encountered the symbol $\mathbb I$ (which here denotes the set of imaginary numbers) prior to this, but apparently, in the days of yore, it sometimes denoted the set of integers...

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  • $\begingroup$ I got this Venn diagram off the internet so I can't take credit for it (only saying this since you used the word your). $\endgroup$
    – A. Kvåle
    Jul 18, 2021 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ @A. Kvåle edited-) $\endgroup$
    – ryang
    Jul 18, 2021 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ @A.Kvåle: If you post images taken from somewhere else, you should at least give credit to the source. $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2021 at 19:56
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The actual fact of the matter is that different definitions can lead to different answers on whether the real numbers are complex numbers. (In case you’ve never worried about definitions before, then…What, exactly, is a real number, anyway? A complex number?)

What is most important is that, no matter what your answer to that question is, one can always see the real numbers inside the complex numbers by associating the real numbers $a$ to the complex number $a+0i.$ The possibility of such an association, which is the same as looking at the “copy” of the usual number line given by the real axis in the complex plane, is the only issue at hand that has serious mathematician significance, not whether real numbers literally are complex numbers, or are something quite different.

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