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Homework Addendum

Math 112L

Zeno's Paradox Answered?


It's 2 o'clock. So, the big hand is on 12 and the little hand is on 2. Let's
call the minute hand Achilles and the hour hand Tortoise. In this
interpretation one hour can be thought of either as a length of time or the
distance between consecutive digits on the clock face.
The race starts, and Zeno's question is whether Achilles can catch Tortoise. The problem is, before
Achilles can catch Tortoise, Achilles must get to where Tortoise started, i.e., to the 2. But by the time
Achilles reaches 2, Tortoise has moved to a new position. And by the time Achilles reaches that
position, Tortoise has moved again. As this reasoning continues, the argument seems to imply that
Achilles can never catch Tortoise.
We'll analyze this paradox in two ways.
I. Using Geometric Series.
"
Just where is Tortoise when Achilles gets to 2? Well, Tortoise moves "#
as fast as Achilles, so while
"
Achilles is moving from 12 to 2, Tortoise covers a distance of 2 "# , which takes Tortoise to the
"
"
position 2  2 "#
. But now Achilles must cover the distance of 2 "#
between him and Tortoise,
and by the time Achilles travels over this distance, Tortoise will have moved ahead a distance of .
And so the analysis continues . Write down an infinite series which adds together each of these
distances Achilles must cover before he can catch Tortoise. Then compute the sum of the series to show
how far Achilles must run to catch Tortoise.

II. Using Velocities and Elementary Physics. [Reality check for your answer in part I; i.e., do you
believe this resolution of the paradox?] Achilles can run at 12 units/hour, while Tortoise can run at only
1 unit/hour. Let . represent the distance (in units) Achilles has to run to be side-by-side with Tortoise.
Using simple physics, set up equation with . as the only unknown and solve this equation for . .
Compare this distance to the distance you computed in part I.