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Cubic Equations

A cubic equation is one of the form ax3 + bx2 + cx + d = 0 where a,b,c and d are real numbers. For example, x3-2x2-5x+6 = 0 and x3 -3x2 + 4x - 2 = 0 are cubic equations. The first one has the real solutions, or roots, -2, 1, and 3, and the second one has the real root 1 and the complex roots 1+i and 1-i.

Every cubic equation has either three real roots as in our first example or one real root and a pair of (conjugate) complex roots as in our second example.

There is a formula for finding the roots of a cubic equation that is similar to the one for the quadratic equation but much more complicated. It was first used by Geronimo Cardano in 1545, even though he had obtained the formula from Niccolo Tartaglia under the promise of secrecy.



Bittinger, Marvin L., and Davic Ellenbogen. Intermediate Algebra: Concepts and Applications. 6th ed. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 2001.

Roy Dubisch

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cosine to Cyano group