Don Quijote, Al-Chwarizmi, and Rhythm’n’Blues

Sometimes I feel like Don Quijote. You know, this is the guy who was fighting windmills and thought he could win the battle. Let’s get it straight:

An algorithm is not a kind of rhythm.
An algorithm is not a kind of rhythm.
An algorithm is not a kind of rhythm.

Not in English. And even less in German language.

In German, we say “Algorithmus”. The “i” in Algorithmus is pronounced like an “i” in the German word “Berlin”.

The German word “Rhythmus” — i.e. “rhythm” — is spelled with a “y” and is pronounced in German like “Rütmus”.

Two very different pronunciations, indeed. Why don’t you tell your favorite teacher who mispronounces “Algorithmus” like “Algorüthmus” next time about his/her mistake?

The word “algorithm” comes from the Persian mathematician Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, who lived in Bagdad (and other places) from around 780 to circa 850. He was cool. He wrote a book where he first specified the “notational system” (“Stellenwertsystem”)
for numbers. From an European point of view, we could say that he invented the 0 — a number for “nothing”. It took until the 12th century, until his book got translated to Latin and thus helped to spread the notational number system in Europe. The still famous mathematician Fibonacci was also influential for making the “0” known in Europe.

Europeans seemed to be unsure about the status of zero as a number. They asked themselves, “How can nothing be something?”, leading to philosophical and, by the Medieval period, religious arguments about the nature and existence of zero. If you want to know more about “the zero”, start reading here:

The term “algebra” goes back to  Al-Chwarizmi’s work, too.

Check out more details about this magnificent man:

But now — the good news: There is also “AlgoRhythm”, a combination of “algorithm” and “rhythm”. Try this one:

I did not dig the music too much. Therefore, one more link on rhythm & blues:

For those of you, who have read until here and still do not know what an “algorithm” is, read here:

2 thoughts on “Don Quijote, Al-Chwarizmi, and Rhythm’n’Blues

  1. Markus

    There is so much worse out there from teachers…

    Everyone who visited a certain 4th semester lecture this year has heard the words “devlopment” (yes, without the “e” between the “v” and the “l”) and “devloper” about 50 times over the last weeks. Not even the snickering in the classroom that grows bigger and bigger everytime the words are said seem to discourage the teacher.

    1. kcposch Post author

      So why did nobody take the courage and tell the teacher? If I were this teacher, I would be really happy if someone told me. In fact, it happened at least once last year in Rechnerorganisation. My mistake was a lot bigger. I not only mispronounced a word, but I used even a wrong word. Of course, I was embarrassed, but not about the student who told me. I was embarrassed about me. But only for a short while. Then I felt lucky, since I have learned something through a student. Teachers like students who are courageous. Go ahead, and tell the teacher. You could even do now. I am sure that this teacher would appreciate your comment, if you come forward with it in a polite manner.

      University is a place to learn. Young and old. Novices and experts. All learn all the time.
      Why don’t you send him this link:


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