Monthly Archives: July 2016

Mathematics Today…


When we talk about doing mathematics, what comes to  our mind is Blackboard-chalk, notebook-pen and books. No doubt that these are and will remain one one of the most important instruments leading to elegant mathematical discoveries.  But, the evolution of technology we use has also affected the way we do, learn and share mathematics. In ancient time, mathematics was shared in form of books and letters. Then in 17th Century people started publishing academic journals periodically, which has today become one the most profitable business (like pharmaceuticals).  In 1960s computer algebra systems were invented (called MATHLAB). Then in 1970s books were digitized and today we have dedicated ebook readers.  Another major challenge  of publishing mathematical knowledge was to be able to typeset weird symbols, and this problem was fully solved using computers in 1978 by Donald Knuth. (to know more about this transition read this discussion).

Now it’s 21st century and the shape of sharing mathematical knowledge has changed significantly in past decade.  To begin with, in 2003 Poincaré conjecture’s solution was not published in any journal but was rather posted on arXiv. Today we have people on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Weblogs...  who let you know the results just as they are being cooked up. For example, Live-tweet of Babai’s first Graph Isomorphism talk, in this talk one of the most interesting theorem of 2015 was proved. Many big shots announce their big results directly on their Weblogs, for example Terence Tao announced his proof of Erdős Discrepancy Problem on his blog. Today we can have interactive textbooks (like this), articles (like this) and assignments (like this) with advent of MathJax, SageMath

So far I have been concerned about “print” mathematics, but with advent of cheap internet, whole new methods of mathematical ideas sharing have come into picture. Today almost every reputed research organization maintain video lecture archives (IAS, CIRM,  IHÉSIHPInstitut Fourier, MatScience). Apart from mainstream mathematics, popularization of mathematics has become much more interesting today. We have lots of interesting mathematics popularization channels on YouTube like ViHartNumberphile, Mathologer, 3Blue1Brown, The Global Math Project,… and SoundCloud like BBC Radio 4: More or Less, ACMEScience ,… For a big-list of online mathematics videos see this and for big-list of mathematics podcasts see this.

Before this internet era, there were similar mathematics popularization attempts. Like my favourite: “Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land” (1959)

But I’m not aware of existence of mathematical radio programs back then. So, if you know about such radio programs,o please let me know about them as comments below.

What is Algebra?


About 8 months ago I wrote about Analysis:

Thus, algebraic approximations produced the algebra of inequalities. The application of Algebra of inequalities lead to concept of Approximations in Calculus.


You may have seen/heard this quote several times…

Now the time has come to understand the term “Algebra” itself, which has very rich history and dynamic present. I will use following classification (influenced by Shreeram Abhyankar) of algebra in 3 levels:

  1. High School Algebra (HSA)
  2. College Algebra (CA)
  3. University Algebra (UA)

HSA (8th Century – 16th Century) is all about learning tricks and manipulations to solve mensuration problems which involve solving linear, quadratic and “special” cubic equations for real (or rational) numbers. This level was developed by Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-KhwārizmīThābit ibn QurraOmar KhayyámLeonardo Pisano (Fibonacci)Maestro Dardi of PisaScipione del FerroNiccolò Fontana (Tartaglia)Gerolamo CardanoLodovico Ferrari and Rafael Bombelli.

CA (18th Century – 19th Century) is commonly known as abstract algebra. Its development was motivated by the failure of HSA to solve the general equations of degree higher than the fourth and later on the study of symmetry of equations, geometric objects, etc. became one of the central topics of interest. In this we study properties of various algebraic structures like fields, linear spaces, groups, rings and modules. This level was developed by Joseph-Louis LagrangePaolo RuffiniPietro Abbati MarescottiNiels AbelÉvariste GaloisAugustin-Louis Cauchy Arthur CayleyLudwig SylowCamille JordanOtto HölderCarl Friedrich GaussLeonhard EulerWilliam Rowan Hamilton, Hermann GrassmannHeinrich Weber Emmy Noether and Abraham Fraenkel .

UA (19th Century – present) has derived its motivations from many diverse subjects of study in mathematics like Number Theory, Geometry and Analysis.  In this level of study, the term “algebra” itself has a different meaning

An algebra over a field is a vector space (a module over a field) equipped with a bilinear product.

and topics are named like Commutative Algebra, Lie  Algebra and so on. This level was initially developed by Benjamin Peirce,  Georg FrobeniusRichard DedekindKarl WeierstrassÉlie CartanTheodor MolienSophus LieJoseph WedderburnMax NoetherLeopold Kronecker,  David HilbertFrancis Macaulay,  Emanuel LaskerJames Joseph SylvesterPaul Gordan, Emil ArtinKurt HenselErnst SteinitzOtto Schreier ….

Since algebra happens to be a fast developing research area, the above classification is valid only for this moment. Also note that, though Emmy Noether was daughter of Max Noether I have included the contributions of Emmy in CA and those of Max in UA. The list of contributors is not exhaustive.


[1] van der Waerden, B. L.  A history of algebra. Berlin and Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 1985. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-51599-6

[2] Kleiner, I.  A History of Abstract Algebra. Boston : Birkhäuser, 2007. doi: 10.1007/978-0-8176-4685-1

[3] Burns, J. E. “The Foundation Period in the History of Group Theory.” American Mathematical Monthly 20, (1913), 141-148.  doi: 10.2307/2972411

Cross Diagonal Cover – VI


The problem has finally been solved by Matthew Scroggs.

{\text{\# filled squares} = (\mathrm{lcm}(m-1,n-1)+1 )- \frac12\left(\frac{\mathrm{lcm}(m-1,n-1)}{m-1}-1\right)\left(\frac{\mathrm{lcm}(m-1,n-1)}{n-1}-1\right)}

He and I, independently,  found a counterexample  for the conjecture by replacing lowest common multiple by greatest common factor using the relation: ab=\mathrm{lcm}(a,b)\gcd(a,b).

In 15×5, there are 26 filled squares and gcd(15,5)=5, so 15×5 is a counterexample to the conjecture!

As it turns out, SAGE is giving float(26/5) = 5.0 when I run it inside the program, but return 5.2 when I run it independently. Leading to wrong conjecture.

The solution is pretty beautiful and  this is the outline:

There are 3 levels of simplifications of the problem:

Original Grid –> Dual Grid –> Mirror Grid –> Inner-point Grid

Counting the “Corners visited twice” (the subtracted term) was something I wasn’t able to do. Corners visited was essentially what I called “number of steps needed for algorithm to stop“. So, his mirror argument provides a proof without words of that result.