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### Roots of the Quadratic Equation

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Date: 4/10/96 at 14:23:37
From: kelli rostkowski

Would you explain to me why a quadratic equation cannot have one
irrational or one imaginary root.
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Date: 4/27/96 at 19:42:54
From: Doctor Steven

I'm assuming you mean a quadratic equation with rational
coefficients. The reason why it can't have two complex roots is
that if one complex number is a root, then its conjugate must be a
root, in order to make the constant at the end of the quadratic a
real number.  The reason it can't have just one irrational root is
that an irrational multiplied by a rational is still irrational,
so the constant at the end of the quadratic would be irrational.

To see this, say h and g are the roots and p(x) is the quadratic:

p(x) = x^2 + a*x + b

But p(x) is:

(x - h)(x - g).

So (x - h)(x - g) = x^2 + a*x + b

Simplify the left side to get:

x^2 + (-h - g)*x + h*g = x^2 + a*x + b.

So -h - g = a and h*g = b.

Both a and b must be rational.

If h is irrational and g isn't, then -h - g is irrational, and h*g
must also be irrational.  But this can't happen, so one root can't
be irrational and the other not.

If h is complex, and g is not its conjugate, then -h - g is still
complex, and h*g is also complex then.  But this can't happen, so
one root can't be complex and the other not its conjugate (which
is also complex).

Hope this helps.

-Doctor Steven,  The Math Forum

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Associated Topics:
Middle School Factoring Expressions

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