’60 Minutes’ called out over claim two high school seniors solved ‘impossible’ theorem

CBS’ “60 Minutes” is under fire for allegedly pretending two black college students solved an “impossible” theorem.

According to the latest “60 Minutes” episode, students Calcea Johnson and Ne’Kiya Jackson of St. Mary’s Academy in New Orleans discovered that the famous Pythagorean Theorem can be solved using trigonometry.


But critics say, though it’s not clear if they’re correct, that the Pythagorean Theorem was already solved using trigonometry by a “white man” sometime around 15 years ago.

Critics also alleged that the only reason “60 Minutes” ran with this story is because of the two girls’ skin color.


Of course, none of this is to downplay Johnson and Jackson’s intelligence or suggest they did anything wrong because they certainly didn’t. In fact, the two were already stars before Sunday.

Indeed, last March the two delivered a presentation to the American Mathematical Society’s Annual Southeastern Conference about their solution to the Pythagorean Theorem.

Interestingly, the AMS has also touted the narrative that the two girls’ solution is somehow unique.

“In the 2000 years since trigonometry was discovered it’s always been assumed that any alleged proof of Pythagoras’s Theorem based on trigonometry must be circular,” AMS’ website reads.

“In fact, in the book containing the largest known collection of proofs (The Pythagorean Proposition by Elisha Loomis) the author flatly states that ‘There are no trigonometric proofs, because all the fundamental formulae of trigonometry are themselves based upon the truth of the Pythagorean Theorem,'” it continues.

“But that isn’t quite true: in our lecture, we present a new proof of Pythagoras’s Theorem which is based on a fundamental result in trigonometry—the Law of Sines—and we show that the proof is independent of the Pythagorean trig identity,” it concludes.

To its credit, Scientific American, a usually left-wing magazine, at least had the decency to admit the truth about the two girls.

“If verified, Johnson and Jackson’s proof would contradict mathematician and educator Elisha Loomis, who stated in his 1927 book The Pythagorean Proposition that no trigonometric proof of the Pythagorean theorem could be correct,” an article from last year reads.

Here’s the key: “Their work joins a handful of other trigonometric proofs that were added to the mathematical archives over the years. Each sidestepped ‘circular logic’ to prove the pivotal theorem.

All this comes amid a wider debate about so-called “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” or DEI. Proponents of DEI basically argue that skin color comes first, and that a just society is one in which minorities are always propped up above the majority, regardless of merit.

Critics say what happened with Johnson and Jackson is a perfect example of DEI, because they’re being credited for something they never achieved, and they’re being credited for it solely because they’re black.

Again, none of this is to say that the two young ladies aren’t brilliant and exceptionally talented in math.

Vivek Saxena


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