Imaginary Exponents and Euler's Equation What does it mean to have an imaginary exponent? There is only one sensible way to define this. It was discovered in 1748 by the famous Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler, who gave the following equation:
e^{xi} = cos(x) + sin(x) i where x is any real number. This is called "Euler's Equation." Here x is the measure of an angle in radians, i is the square root of 1, and e is the base of natural logarithms. An equivalent equation had been discovered by Roger Cotes before 1722, and a related formula by Abraham DeMoivre in 1722. Here are two different proofs of Euler's Equation.
A consequenceA consequence of Euler's Equation is that
e^{ i} = 1 This remarkable equation involves the five most important constants in all of mathematics: 0, 1, i, pi (), and e. The proof is to substitute x = into Euler's Equation above.
An applicationIt is often useful to write a complex number as an exponential. This is always possible in the following way. Suppose z = a + bi, and z is not zero. Then z = sqrt(a^{2}+b^{2}) z/z is then a complex number whose absolute value is 1. Then there is some t such that cos(t) = a/sqrt(a^{2}+b^{2})
You can always choose t in the range z = sqrt(a^{2}+b^{2})[a/sqrt(a^{2}+b^{2}) + bi/sqrt(a^{2}+b^{2})] NOTE: The value of t is not unique. You can add any integer multiple of 2 to the above value, and get another that works just as well. This has the unexpected consequence that when we evaluate complex numbers raised to complex powers, such as i^{i}, the result is not a single complex number, but an infinite set of them.

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