Greece's Imaginary Numbers

What works in mathematics will doom efforts to rescue Greece.

Mathematics can be deadly.

Photo: STF/AFP/Getty Images

Mathematicians use "imaginary numbers" for abstract concepts such as the square root of -1 (which, since you asked, has two answers: i and -i). The European Union seems to be using a similar trick in constructing a bailout for Greece. Unfortunately, the magic that works for arithmetic seems likely to doom the rescue efforts in Europe. Here's a selection of the numbers that could add up to disaster for Greece.

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