Archive for the ‘number theory’ Category

A fun identity

So I’ve been working on one of my papers where we need to compute some numbers. They end up being determined by a cubic equation.

However, one often finds surprising identities when Mathematica spits out a bunch of numbers expressed in algebraic form. Here is one of them:

\frac{1}{42} \sqrt[3]{\frac{1}{2} \left(90720 \sqrt{7446}-2859138\right)}-\frac{7893}{7\ 2^{2/3} \sqrt[3]{2859138+90720 \sqrt{7446}}}=0

PS: I use italics in the word surprising above only because if one does not know the origin of these identities they might seem surprising.

Read Full Post »

Well, sometimes I get five minutes off to goof around and I find silly facts, which as far as I can tell serve little to no purpose. Hence the name factoid is sometimes applied to them. The random novelty of the day is that the number


is prime. Moreover, it is a factor of 1010101010101010101010101010101010101. The only other prime factor is almost as pretty.


Beware  of 909090909090909090909090909091 which surprise, surprise, it  also happens to be prime. And so seems to be


If someone knows anything more about these primes, please let it be known. I found them by accident, but they seem to have been discovered before my time, so I can not name them after myself, nor get a patent for them.



Read Full Post »

Today’s puzzle is really simple. It is a single number, and don’t worry about the formating: it is not essential.

Your job, if you decide to take it, is to figure out how this number was chosen.












Read Full Post »

In case you ever wondered what the most prestigious mathematical competition for high school students looks like, you get to solve 6 problems, in two sets of three problems. For each set, you get 4.5 hours of uninterrupted work, with all the scratch paper you might need, you bring your standard geometry drawing tools (ruler and compass) and you go.

For the list of problems, the IMO organization has a list of the official problems. Some are quite entertaining to do. This year, after being piqued a bit, I worked problem one in about half an hour to 45 minutes (I still got it). I used to compete in these types of competitions when I was in high school.

In any case, the problems are elementary: they just use algebra, trigonometry, basic plane geometry and elementary number theory. Here is problem one:

Let n be a positive integer and let

a_1 , . . . , a_k (k \geq 2)

be distinct integers in the set {1, . . . , n} such that n divides  a_i(a_{i+1}-1) for i = 1, . . . , k − 1. Prove that n does not divide a_k(a_1-1).

If you ever have tried to design these problems, you will notice that the conditions are somewhat contrived. n appears in two places: both in the size of the original set, and in the division condition. Could one do without the first?

The answer is no. If all of the a_k are multiples of n, then the problem does not follow. But having all of them small must be important. The next thing one needs to do is understand the relation of divisibility better so that one can solve the problem. I’ll let you figure the rest out…

Read Full Post »

In the previous post in this series, I described a problem dealing with a lattice with an origin, and asked what is the probability that one can see the origin from a random place in the lattice. In this post I’ll give you my *new* proof of this result, with the understanding that someone else might have done this same proof before me (I’m not aware of such person so I will claim discovery).

As Carl Brannen pointed out in the comments, this is the same as the probability that when one picks two random integers they are relatively prime. I’ll leave that to you as a proof. This is a famous result in mathematics: it is given by

\zeta(2)^{-1} = \frac{6}{\pi^2}

It is also sometimes stated as “Most fractions are reduced”, seeing as fractions involve the ratio of two integers.

 The first time I heard about this result I was about 15 years old. It was told to me without proof and I thought it must be really hard to proof, because how does one pull all those factors of \pi by counting?

Here below is an illustration of the situation.

A region near the origin.

A region near the origin.

I’ve graphed a region of the plane near the origin. If you don’t pay too much attention to the details, you will notice that the figure is rather uniform in color. We have to show that this uniformity of color persists to a large enough (infinite) size.


Read Full Post »

It seems that the readers of this blog like puzzles. There is circumstantial evidence for that, so being a theorist, I will declare that to be true.

I thought I would start the year with one such puzzle. Here is a typical interesting probability problem that is posed for amusement. Assume that you have a stage (I’ll use cartesian coordinates and put it at (0,0)) and that people can be seated anywhere on a rectangular grid (the locations with integer entries). It could also be a honeycomb grid. In fact, any lattice will do. You can also assume that the arena where this is taking place has radius N where N is large. An important question that you might ask, is if you can see the stage when you are seated at some location. For simplicity, let us assume that you can see the stage if the straight line from your location to the origin hits no other head (another integer lattice point). If the show is packed, meaning all locations are full, what is the probability that you will have an unobstructed view?


Read Full Post »