After a month of the unexpected break from mathematics, I will resume the regular weekly blog posts. It’s a kind of relaunch of this blog, and I will begin with the discussion of an arithmetic problem with a geometric solution. This is problem 103 from The USSR Olympiad Problem Book:
where is the number of divisors of the natural number .
One can solve this problem by using the principle of mathematical induction or using the fact that the number of integers of the sequence which are divisible by any chosen integer is equal to . The second approach of counting suggests an elegant geometric solution.
Consider the equilateral hyperbola , (of which we shall take only the branches in the first quadrant):
We note all the points in the first quadrant which have integer coordinates as the intersection point of the dotted lines. Now, if an integer is a divisor of the integer , then the point is a point on the graph of the hyperbola . Conversely, if the hyperbola contains an integer point, then the x-coordinate is a divisor of . Hence the number of integers is equal to the number of the integer points lying on the hyperbola . The number is thus equal to the number of absciassas of integer points lying on the hyperbola . Now, we make use of the fact that the hyperbola lies “farther out” in the quadrant than do . The following implication hold:
The sum is equal to the number of integer points lying under or on the hyperbola . Each such point will lie on a hyperbola , where . The number of integer points with abscissa located under the hyperbola is equal to the integer part of the length of the segment [in figure above ]. That is , since , i.e. ordinate of point on hyperbola for abscissa . Thus, we obtain
Caution: Excess of anything is harmful, even mathematics.
Let’s talk about the work of a mathematician. When I was young (before highschool), I used to believe that anyone capable of using mathematics is a mathematician. The reason behind this was that being a mathematician was not a job for people like Brahmagupta, Aryabhatta, Fermat, Ramanujan (the names I knew when I was young). So by that definition, even a shopkeeper was a mathematician. And hence I had no interest in becoming a mathematician.
Then, during highschool, I came to know about the mathematics olympiad and was fascinated by the “easy to state but difficult to solve” problems from geometry, combinatorics, arithmetic and algebra (thanks to AMTI, Vipul Naik and Sai Krishna Deep) . I practiced many problems in hope to appear for the exam once in my life. But that day never came (due to bad education system of my state) and I switched to physics, just because there was lot of hype about how interesting our nature is (thanks to Walter Lewin).
In senior school I realised that I can’t do physics, I simply don’t like the thought process behind physics (thanks to Feynman). And luckily, around the same time, came to know what mathematicians do (thanks to Uncle Paul). Mathematicians “create new maths”. They may contribute according to their capabilities, but no contribution is negligible. There are two kinds of mathematicians, one who define new objects (I call them problem creators) and others who simplify the existing theories by adding details (I call them problem solvers). You may wonder that while solving a problem one may create bigger maths problems, and vice versa, but I am talking about the general ideologies. What I am trying to express, is similar to what people want to say by telling that logic is a small branch of mathematics (whereas I love maths just for its logical arguments).
A few months before I had to join college (in 2014), I decided to become a mathematician. Hence I joined a research institute (clearly not the best one in my country, but my concern was just to be able to learn as much maths as possible). Now I am learning lots of advanced (still old) maths (thanks to Sagar Srivastava, Jyotiraditya Singh and my teachers) and trying to make a place for myself, to be able to call myself a mathematician some day.
I find all this very funny. When I was young, I used to think that anyone could become a mathematician and there was nothing special about it. But now I everyday have to prove myself to others so that they give me a chance to become a mathematician. Clearly, I am not a genius like all the people I named above (or even close to them) but I still want to create some new maths either in form of a solution to a problem or foundations of new theory and call myself a mathematician. I don’t want it to end up like my maths olympiad dream.