“Where” exactly are complex numbers used “in the real world”?

I’ve always enjoyed solving problems in the complex numbers during my undergrad. However, I’ve always wondered where are they used and for what? In my domain (computer science) I’ve rarely seen it be used/applied and hence am curious.

So what practical applications of complex numbers exist and what are the ways in which complex transformation helps address the problem that wasn’t immediately addressable?

Way back in undergrad when I asked my professor this he mentioned that “the folks in mechanical and aerospace engineering use it a lot” but for what? (Don’t other domains use it too?). I’m well aware of its use in Fourier analysis but that’s the farthest I got to a ‘real world application’. I’m sure that’s not it.

PS: I’m not looking for the ability to make one problem easier to solve, but a bigger picture where the result of the complex analysis is used for something meaningful in the real world. A naive analogy is deciding the height of tower based on trigonometry. That’s going from paper to the real world. Similarly, what is it that is analyzed in the complex world and the result is used in the real world without imaginaries clouding the problem?

The question: Interesting results easily achieved using complex numbers is nice but covers a more mathematical perspective on interim results that make solving a problem easier. It covers different ground IMHO.


Complex numbers are used in electrical engineering all the time, because Fourier transforms are used in understanding oscillations that occur both in alternating current and in signals modulated by electromagnetic waves.

Source : Link , Question Author : PhD , Answer Author : Michael Hardy

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