Four Examples

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Following are the four examples of sequences (along with their properties) which can be helpful to gain a better understanding of theorems about sequences (real analysis):

  • \langle n\rangle_{n=1}^{\infty} : unbounded, strictly increasing, diverging
  • \langle \frac{1}{n}\rangle_{n=1}^{\infty} : bounded, strictly decreasing, converging
  • \langle \frac{n}{1+n}\rangle_{n=1}^{\infty} : bounded, strictly increasing, converging
  • \langle (-1)^{n+1}\rangle_{n=1}^{\infty} : bounded, not converging (oscillating)

I was really amazed to found that x_n=\frac{n}{n+1} is a strictly increasing sequence, and in general, the function f(x)=\frac{x}{1+x} defined for all positive real numbers is an increasing function bounded by 1:

 

Thre graph of x/(1+x) for x>0. Plotted using SageMath 7.5.1

The graph of x/(1+x) for x>0, plotted using SageMath 7.5.1

 

Also, just a passing remark, since \log(x)< x+1 for all x>0, and as seen in prime number theorem we get an unbounded increasing function \frac{x}{\log(x)} for x>1

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The plot of x/log(x) for x>2. The dashed line is y=x for the comparison of growth rate. Plotted using SageMath 7.5.1

 

Magic Cubes

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Last week I attended a talk (by a student) about Magic Squares. I learned a bunch of cool facts about them (like how to devise an algorithm to construct them). Towards the end of the talk, one student from the audience suggested the possibility of Magic Cubes. I got very excited about this idea since it pointed towards the stereotypical mathematical ideology of generalizing the examples in order to see the deeper connections.

I myself don’t know much about Magic Cubes (or even Magic Squares) but would like to quote W. W. Rouse Ball & H. S. M. Coxeter from pp. 217 the book “Mathematical Recreations and Essays” (11th Ed.) :

A Magic Cube of the n^{th} order consists of the consecutive numbers from 1 to n^3, arranged in the form of a cube, so that the sum of the numbers in every row, every column, every file, and in each of the four diagonals (or “diameters “), is the same-namely, \frac{1}{2}(n^3 + 1). This sum occurs in 3n^2 + 4 ways. I do not know of any rule for constructing magic cubes of singly-even order. But such cubes of any odd or doubly-even order can be constructed by a natural extension of the methods already used for squares.

I would like to read about these magic hyper-cubes in future. And if you know something interesting about them, let me know in the comments below.

Counting Cycles

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During one of my reading projects in 2015, I read about the Enigma cipher machine. While reading about it, I came to know that the number of possible keys of this machine is 7, 156, 755, 732, 750, 624, 000. One can see the counting procedure at pp. 22 of this document. But the counting procedure was not found to be satisfactory by most members of the audience (during my presentation). My failure to convince the audience that the counting procedure was correct, lead to my distrust in the counting arguments in general. Many times, I still, find the counting procedures controversial.

So, in an attempt to regain the trust, I will present two counting procedures for counting the number of cycles of length r when n objects (colours/beads/numbers) are given.

Procedure A: Using multiplication principle
Step 1: Choose r objects from the n choices.
Step 2: Arrange the selected r objects in a cyclic order.

  1. Since the Step 1 and Step 2 are independent of each other but should be performed together, we will multiply the results (i.e. use the multiplication principle). From Step 1 we will get \binom{n}{r} and from Step 2, we will get (r-1)! as per the circular permutation formula. Hence we get:

\displaystyle{\# r-\text{cycles from } n \text{ objects} =\binom{n}{r}\times(r-1)! = \frac{n!}{r (n-r)!}}

Procedure B: Using division principle
Step 1: Permute r of the n objects.
Step 2: Realise the mistake that you counted the permutations r extra times because these circular permutations of objects are equivalent since the circle can be rotated.

Since in Step 2 we want to correct the overcounting mistake of Step 1 performed for different objects simultaneously, we will divide the result of Step 1 by the result of Step 2. From Step 1 we will get ^n P_r and from Step 2 we will get r. Hence we get:

\displaystyle{\# r-\text{cycles from } n \text{ objects} =\frac{^n P_r}{r} = \frac{n!}{r (n-r)!}}

I am still not happy with the Procedure B, so if you have a better way of stating it please let me know.

When the intuition is correct

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Before starting college I read Paul Zeitz’s The Art and Craft of Problem Solving (a must read book along with the books by Arthur Engel and Terence Tao) and after the first example to illustrate Psychological Strategies he writes (pp. 15):

Just because a problem seems impossible does not mean that it is impossible. Never admit defeat after a cursory glance. Begin optimistically; assume that the problem can be solved. Only after several failed attempts should try to prove impossibility. If you cannot do so, then do not admit defeat. Go back to the problem later.

And today I will share a problem posed by August Ferdinand Möbius around 1840:

Problem of the Five Princes:
There was a king in India who had a large kingdom and five sons. In his last will, the king said that after his death the sons should divide the kingdom among themselves in such a way that the region belonging to each son should have a borderline (not just a point) in common with the remaining four regions. How should the kingdom be divided?

The hint is in the title of this blog post. The solution is easy, hence I won’t discuss it here. The reader is invited to write the solution as a comment to this post.

Prime Polynomial Theorem

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I just wanted to point towards a nice theorem, analogous to the Prime Number Theorem, which is not talked about much:

# irreducible monic polynomials with coefficients in \mathbb{F}_q and of degree n \sim \frac{q^n}{n}, for a prime power q.

The proof of this theorem follows from Gauss’ formula:

# monic irreducible polynomialswith coefficients in \mathbb{F}_q and of degree n = \displaystyle{\frac{1}{n}\sum_{d|n}\mu\left(\frac{n}{d}\right)q^d}, by taking d=n.

 

For details, see first section of this: http://alpha.math.uga.edu/~pollack/thesis/thesis-final.pdf

Recursion and Periodicity

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One of the simplest recursive formula that I can think of is the one which generates the Fibonacci sequence, F_{n+1} = F_n +F_{n-1}, n\geq 1 with F_0 = F_1=1. So, I will illustrate a following general concept about recursions using Fibonacci sequence.

A sequence generated by a recursive formula is periodic modulo k, for any positive integer k greater than 1.

I find this fact very interesting because it means that a sequence which is strictly increasing when made bounded using the modulo operation (since it will allow only limited numbers as the output of recursion relation), will lead to a periodic cycle.

Following are the first 25 terms of the Fibonacci sequence:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657, 46368, 75025.

And here are few examples modulo k, for k=2,3,4,5,6,7,8

table110

As you can see, the sequence repeats as soon as 1,0 appears. And from here actually one can see why there should be a periodicity.

For the sequence to repeat, what we need is a repetition of two consecutive values (i.e. the number of terms involved in the recursive formula) in the sequence of successive pairs. And for mod k, the choices are limited, namely k^2.  Now, all we have to ensure is that “1,0” should repeat. But since consecutive pairs can’ repeat (as per recursive formula) the repetition of “1,0” must occur within the first k^2.

For rigorous proofs and its relation to number theory, see: http://math.stanford.edu/~brianrl/notes/fibonacci.pdf

Under 40

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The age of 40 is considered special in mathematics because it’s an ad-hoc criterion for deciding whether a mathematician is young or old. This idea has been well established by the under-40 rule for Fields Medal, based on Fields‘ desire that:

while it was in recognition of work already done, it was at the same time intended to be an encouragement for further achievement on the part of the recipients and a stimulus to renewed effort on the part of others

Though it must be noted that this criterion doesn’t claim that after 40 mathematicians are not productive (example: Yitang Zhang).  So I wanted to write a bit about the under 40 leading number theorists which I am aware of (in order of decreasing age):

  • Sophie Morel: The area of mathematics in which Morel has already made contributions is called the Langlands program, initiated by Robert Langlands. Langlands brought together two fields, number theory and representation theory. Morel has made significant advances in building that bridge. “It’s an extremely exciting area of mathematics,” Gross says, “and it requires a vast background of knowledge because you have to know both subjects plus algebraic geometry.” [source]
  • Melanie Wood: Profiled at age 17 as “The Girl Who Loved Math” by Discover magazine, Wood has a prodigious list of successes. The main focus of her research is in number theory and algebraic geometry, but it also involves work in probability, additive combinatorics, random groups, and algebraic topology.  [source1, source2]
  • James Maynard:  James is primarily interested in classical number theory, in particular, the distribution of prime numbers. His research focuses on using tools from analytic number theory, particularly sieve methods, to study primes.  He has established the sensational result that the gap between two consecutive primes is no more than 600 infinitely often. [source1, source2]
  • Peter Scholze: Scholze began doing research in the field of arithmetic geometry, which uses geometric tools to understand whole-number solutions to polynomial equations that involve only numbers, variables and exponents. Scholze’s key innovation — a class of fractal structures he calls perfectoid spaces — is only a few years old, but it already has far-reaching ramifications in the field of arithmetic geometry, where number theory and geometry come together. Scholze’s work has a prescient quality, Weinstein said. “He can see the developments before they even begin.” [source]