Proof by Contradiction

The concept of proof by contradiction refers to taking a statement and assuming the opposite is true. When assuming the opposite is true we begin to further examine the our ‘opposite’ statement and reach to a conclusion which doesn’t add up or in simple terms is absurd.

Take the case:

Statement: There are infinite number of prime numbers.

Using the concept of proof by contradiction, we will assume the opposite is true.


If an integer (2) divides an integer (6) we say that 2 divides 6 or 2|6. In a more general sense we can say that if any integer ‘a’ divides any other integer ‘b’ then a|b.

Prime numbers: it is an integer (n ≥ 2) that has exactly two positive factors (1 and itself).

eg. 2, 3, 5 …

Composite numbers: it is an integer (n ≥ 2) that has more than two positive factors.

eg. 4, 6, 8 …

Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic: Every integer n ≥ 2 has a unique (exactly one) prime factorization.…

By | April 17th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Proof by contradiction – part 2

So, in the last post we proved that \sqrt{2} is irrational, by trying to see what the consequences would be if it were rational. We first said that if it were rational, then we should be able to write it in a simplest form \frac{p}{q} where p and q had no common factors, and then showed that in fact this was impossible, so our original proposition was indeed true (as trying to prove otherwise gave us a contradiction).
Now we are going to look at another example, which looks very similar, but here our contradiction will be a little different to last time. The fact is that, unlike much of what you would have done at highschool, there isn’t such a roadmap to how to do things here – you have to figure out for yourself where the contradiction comes in. In these posts I will point them out for you, but in general, you need to build your intuition about where something looks a bit dodgy and a contradiction is raising its head.…

By | March 22nd, 2016|Courses, First year, MAM1000, Undergraduate|5 Comments

Proof by contradiction – part 1

Proof by contradiction may at first seem completely weird! I give you something to prove, and you seem to ignore me and try and prove that what I want you to prove is wrong!

Actually, this isn’t nearly as strange as it first seems, and it can work in contexts other than mathematics. The idea stems from the fact that a statement is either true, or false (well, if you listen to Gödel, then you have to be a bit careful, but it’s reasonable enough for now). The process is the following:

  1. You want to prove that a statement is true.
  2. You say “what would happen if the statement were actually false?”
  3. You explore the consequences of it being false.
  4. If you find that it gives you a contradiction (something which you claimed to be true, but which you now see isn’t true), then you know that in fact the original statement can’t be false…so it must be true, and you’ve proved it.
By | March 20th, 2016|Courses, First year, MAM1000, Uncategorized, Undergraduate|4 Comments