Pythagorean Theorem

For the first fifteen years of my career in software, I barely used algebra. Web development requires plenty of abstract reasoning, but not higher math. Since working on autonomous vehicles, however, I constantly find myself revisiting topics I last touched in high school.

Pythagorean Theorem is a great example.

a*a + b*b = c*c

When on earth would you actually use this in “real life?” A few years ago I might have said never. Now I use it all the time.

Imagine I’m trying to calculate a vehicle’s acceleration, and the sensors tells me it’s accelerating 1 meter per second in the x-direction and 0.5 meters per second in the y-direction. What is the acceleration in the vehicle’s own frame of reference?

I’d use Pythagorean Theorem to find the answer. You can try it with an online calculator. What’d you get?

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