I attended a public lecture yesterday by Professor E.Victor Flynn on some fields within Algebraic Geometry…It was incredibly fascinating. Although maybe 20% of it went over my head, it did feel like i’d simply have to jump up to be able to reach it. So when I got home, I decided to google some of the ideas that had been expressed.

I always knew number theory was a diverse field, but I never realised HOW diverse it was. At one point, I had 6 or 7 tabs open, with each one linking to one of the others, sharing ideas and definitions – you could not read any one page completely without knowing content from the others. Most of the time, it was simply a case of definitions – when talking about an algebraic number field, you need to know about field extensions, fields and Rational numbers, and knowing the definitions of these terms allows you to understand the definition of an algebraic number field – and so this bought up some interesting questions for me.

Before I’d started looking into these ideas, I’d done my normal routine of checking 20 or so math based blogs for new content. one blog – “Godel’s lost letter and P=NP” – spoke about the importance of memorisation. Now, if you’ve read my previous blogs, you may notice that I find memorisation of theorems and definitions to be a complete waste of time.

I think now I am beginning to see the error of my ways…

without knowing definitions, we cannot hope to know other definitions that depend on the earlier ones. If an algorithm F works because algorithm G works, we need to know how G works to show F works.

On analysing these thoughts (and ideas expressed by others), I re-evaluated what I thought and why. I think one of the comments on the other blog found the real issue – ‘rote’ memorisation.

however, my thoughts are still developing on this front, and maybe at another point I shall come back to the idea. I agree – and think I have thought this way for some time, but failed to notice it – that knowing definitions and theorems etc are incredibly important. I think what I have issue with is how we learn them, and how we learn to apply them.

now, moving on to the questions from the last post:

I still don’t have much of an idea for the second question – in truth I’m a bit bored of it, so I’m just going to leave it.

but as for the first, this one appeals to me!

so: what do we know?

the number plate is only 4 digits long and contains 2 unique digits, so it’s of the form aabb or abba or abab. As the eldest child is 9 years old, it must be divisible by 9, so

9|(2a+2b)

⇒ 9|(a+b) with 0 ≤ a,b ≤ 9

⇒a+b=9

now, what else do we know? 8 children, each with a different age. the eldest is 9, which means that the other 7 children are either 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 or 8. therefore, there is either a child of 4, or a child of 8, which means the number is divisible by 4.

this tells us the number plate was one of:

9900, 1188,7272,2772, 3636,6336 or 5544.

this gives my smith an age of 00, 88, 72, 36 or 44. logic would dictate that 00 is impossible, 88 and 72 highly improbable. we shall include them for now, but we won’t include 00.

now notice that none of these possible numbers are divisible by 5, which means the children’s ages are 1,2,3,4,6,7,8 and 9. so the number must be divisible by 504=(9*8*7).

simple calculation gives:

1188 mod 504=180

7272 mod 504=216

2772 mod 504=252

3636 mod 504=108

6336 mod 504=288

5544 mod 504=0 (504*11=5544)

so the number plate was 5544, the children’s ages were 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9 and Mr Smith is a (presumably) very tired 44-year-old.

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