# Radicals in math and politics

Chapter one of College Algebra: we are learning about square roots. After you square something, you can use a square root to undo the square.  They provide reversibility.  The number under the root-sign-thingy is the radicand, and the number on the outside is the index. The entire square root expression is called a radical.

Radical power: defining degrees of freedom (in stats)

Radicals seem to be mostly used for party tricks with negative numbers. “Hey, Pythagoras, watch me square this negative number. POOF. I have a positive number. Where did the negatives go??” Without the negative, you can do practical things like calculate a standard deviation and play with “degrees of freedom.” As long as the squared numbers remain under the safe cover of the radical, they are in a (heterotopic) space where you can add, divide, apply, and make meaning.  And the really wondrous part? Not only can you square away negative signs when you don’t want them, and not only can you later conjure them back with your radical-at-the-ready, but you can ALSO bring them back with the new meanings still attached.