|the Fermat's problem: find $M$ so that $MA + MB + MC$ is minimum|
In the previous post, we have analyzed the Fermat's problem, the problem of finding a point $M$ for a given triangle $ABC$ such that $MA + MB + MC$ is the minimum.
In previous posts about modulo, we learn about the mathematician Fermat and his famous problem $$x^n + y^n = z^n.$$
Today, we will look at a geometry problem that bears his name. As we already know, Fermat was not a professional mathematician, but was a lawyer. He was doing math probably just for fun and most of his achievements that we know of today originated from his letters to his friends and also from his occasional writings on the margin of books that he read. The most famous is, of course, the problem $x^n + y^n = z^n$ and his note "I have found a beautiful proof but there is not enough space" that he wrote on the margin of the book by Diophantus.
The problem that we investigate today was raised in a letter that Fermat sent to an Italian mathematician, Torricelli. In his letter, Fermat challenged Torricelli to find a point such that the total distance from this point to the three vertices of a triangle is the minimum possible. Well, this problem was not hard for Torricelli. Since Torricelli knew how to find such a point, today some people refer to this point as the Fermat's point, and others refer it as the Torricelli's point of the triangle.
|the Fermat's problem: find a point $M$ so that $MA + MB + MC$ is minimum|
Today we will look at two problems that seem to be unrelated. The first one is a beautiful geometry problem about finding shortest path and the other one is about a property of an ellipse.
But first, let us introduce the ellipse. An ellipse is drawn below.
I would like to share with you a lesson that I have learnt. That is when facing a problem and we do not know what to do, the first thing we can do is to look at special cases of that problem. Investigating special cases can help us gain a greater understanding of the problem. To illustrate the point, let us solve some problems.