memory and answers

Visualisation of the (countable) field of alge...

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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|(a+b) with  0 ≤ 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.


Rambling puzzles…Number plates, shoelaces and you.

Square root of x formula. Symbol of mathematics.

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I recently read 2 rather interesting questions online. The first was this:

Mr Smith has 8 children, and each one is a different age. His entire family is in the car, when his eldest, aged 9, shouts out “Daddy! That number plate has only two numbers, and each number is repeated twice! And the number is divisible by each of our ages!” “You’re Correct!” Mr Smith shouts as he whips out his iPhone to check. “and look, the last two digits are my age!”

What is Mr Smith’s age?Actually the question wasn’t like that, it gave you choices and you had  to say which of those numbers were not the age of one of his kids, but this question is a bit harder and more interesting.
The second question:there are 30 shoelaces in a closed box with all of their ends sticking out (so 60 ends). You tie one end to another, and keep doing this until each end is connected to one other.
How many ways are there of doing this?
What is the expected numberof loops?This was on the “Mind Your Decisions” Blog, and I gave a comment which got beautifully shot down by a fellow commentator, And I’m still uncertain who was right.
But anywho, have a go at the puzzles and see if you can solve them.
The first question I don’t know if it’s possible to answer without extra info. If it isn’t, try work out what extra info you need.
As for the second, the only decent suggestion I have is you start with a smaller number and see what happens.
I also recently discovered that Cambridge University has a very different teaching approach to mathematics. They arrange for 2 students to meet up with a lecturer to go over mathematics that they’ve been doing. I’m quite jealous of this! And yet I wonder if I’d actually take the opportunity…doubtless there are people somewhere who will hear about Auckland University and be amazed I haven’t taken more opportunities that have been offered to me, yet from my point of view, they don’t seem like options.
One thing I’ve always been told to do is go and speak to my lecturers. (In fact, I’ve told people to do it myself). Yet I never have. I always think “what would I talk to them about?” I have one query for one of my lecturers, but it seems incredibly trivial and it has no point other than to give me something to talk about with him for about 43 seconds (it takes about 13 seconds to say hello, how are you etc normally). And then? Do I just leave or what? This is why I would like the chance to have a supervisor, but the truth is I do have the chance, I’m just not taking it.I was aiming to speak to one of my lecturers this last week, but have been unable to attend uni this last week and a half…so I think I’m going to aim to go and speak to some of them next week. With some good questions. Hopefully.
I’ve been reading a fair amount of mathematics recently,online and print, about mathematics and mathematicians. There are a variety of mathematicians, some are ‘gifted’ (or ‘genius’) and others persevere and work hard at it – and of course there are varying degrees of both in some mathematicians, and some great mathematicians have neither. But no matter what ‘category’the mathematician falls into, one key characteristic is passion, passion for mathematics. Another, a willingness to forge a new path that no ones been down before.
It is this second that strikes me most. Too often we do what we are expected to do, and not what we want to do. The joy is doing what we want. If we feel forced into doing it, there is not much joy there.
Some mathematicians will tell you to memorise important theorems and proofs – that is the way to be a good mathematician. Others will tell you to discover the proofs and theorems yourself – that is the way to be a good mathematician. And yet others will tell you find a good mathematician and be their ‘apprentice’ – that is the way to be a good mathematician.
But I guess it all comes down to us as individuals. What do you want to do? How do you want to do it? Forget about the marks or opinions,what do you want to do?

truthful guests of patterns

Let me introduce to some logic games/ideas…
There is an island with only two tribes on it. Tribe number 1 is the “truth tellers”, tribe number 2 is the “liars”. The truth tellers can only tell the truth, the liars can only lie. You’re visiting the island and come across three of the inhabitants. You ask the first what tribe he is from, but he responds in a voice so low and guttural you cannot make out what he said. You ask the second one what the first one said and he states “He said he is a truth teller”. the final inhabitant looks solemnly at the second, then, turning to you says “he lied to you”.
Which tribe was the third speaker from?
I suggest you think about this first before reading on, it’s quite a fun intellectual exercise to do, and requires nothing more than 5 mins of contemplation.
The trick with this question is to look first not at the third speaker, but one of the other two. Now, we don’t know what the first speaker said, so maybe we should see if we can find out what he said.
Imagine the first speaker was a truth teller. He would then tell us he is a Truth teller. But if he was a liar, he’d still tell us he was a truth teller! This tells us that the second speaker is a truth teller, which tells us that the last speaker is a liar.
A slightly more complicated version of this story: the truth tellers love to eat outsiders (ie: you) and the liars love to help outsiders get off the island safely. Both tribes respect the other, and so if you are with a liar, the truth tellers will not try and abduct you and if you are with a truth teller the liars will not try and save you. Inhabitants will never take an outsider, the outsider must always choose to go with them, regardless of the tribe. There are no differences between the tribes other than their honesty and what they do with outsiders. The only way to get off the island is with the liars, and if an outsider doesn’t choose a tribe s/he will starve to death…
So. Imagine you’re on the island and you run into 3 inhabitants. In as few questions as possible, how do you determine who you go with?
I like the idea of asking them questions about themselves (it’s more personal that way…and requires some well thought out questions). I’ll give them names for illustration: Andy, Bob and Carlise. Then you could ask Bob “if I asked Andy which tribe he was from, what would he say?”, asking Carlise the same question but about Bob, then asking Andy about Carlise. Whichever tribe they mention is the tribe they’re from. A simpler way is to ask them whether it’s raining or not!
There are many variations on these – I think there is a book on them, but I can’t seem to find it. Some of the variations involve different conditions for the inhabitants (they all tell the truth on certain days of the week) language issues, etc.
Now, as stated, these are logic games/puzzles. Some people may not realise it ties into mathematics – but it does! All these games can be broken down into symbols and letters and linked together, giving you a set of tools to solve the problems with. If you want to know more about mathematical logic, study it, look it up online, or ask me!
I would now like to go on a small rant if I may about something that bugs me about people who don’t know much about maths…why do people always expect that because you study maths you are going to be a whiz at mental arithmetic? There are people who are amazing at mental arithmetic, and there are others who quite enjoy working out the patterns of arithmetic ( indeed, I’m one of the latter. For example, take any three digit number where the 1st and 3rd digit differ by at least 2. Reverse the number. Subtract the smaller number from the bigger one. Take your new number, and reverse it. Add those two numbers together. And your answer is 1089. Always. And those patterns are very interesting to analyse as they make cool math tricks) but not every mathematician likes or is good at simple calculations – it’s why we have calculators, although it is definitely better for your brain if you spend some time calculating it yourself! In truth, expecting all mathematicians to be able to calculate quickly and easily in their head is like expecting an engineer to build a boeing 747 from a junk site, or a chef to make a wedding cake with ease, or an artist to take stunning photos, all musicians to be able to sing opera. Whilst there are some that can, it does not mean that all of them can.
Moving on 🙂
Using the logic we played with before, we can attack almost any problem and solve it. However, it is probably best to sort out a method of approach first!
First, find the simplest version of the problem.
See how it behaves.
Slowly complicate the problem toward the original.
look for patterns.
prove the patterns.
(if you read the blog about Fibonacci’s rabbits, it ties into the idea of simplifying the problem first).
there are many mini steps that can fit in there, and some steps that could be there but aren’t, and some that are in front of others that should be behind them….but this is just a general guide line.
So now for the next problem.
Mr and Mrs Senzigic were having a party. They invited 4 other couples around, and had a very good time. At about midnight, Mr Senzigic gathered everyone around and asked them all how many hands they had shaken. To his amazement, everyone had shaken a different amount of hands (even himself), ie, one had shaken 0, one 1, one 2…all the way to 8. Nobody had shook the same person twice, and nobody had shaken their spouses hand. How many hands did Mrs Senzigic shake?
On first look, this problem seems impossible. How, without knowing more detail, can you even begin to hope to solve to this??? The only thing you can deduce is that Mrs Senzigic shook the same number of hands as someone else.
So lets take it down to a simple state of affairs, with only two couples, the Hosts, and The Guests. HM will refer to Mr Host, HF will be Mrs Host, GM Mr Guest, GF Mrs Guest.
Let’s imagine that HM – being the nice man he is – shakes every hands except his wife and his own. This means that his wife has shook none, but both of the guests have shook one. if one of the guests shakes hands again, they will be on two shakes, but they can only get there if they shake HF, which would mean she has shaken two hands as well. This would cause a problem, and you would get a similar situation if you started by assuming HF had shaken everybody’s hand. The only option left the is that one of the Guests shakes two hands, so lets assume GF shakes both HM and HF hands, then they each have one, GF has two, and GM has none.
if you look at the same situation with 2 Guest couples, you find that Mr Guest 1 would shake 4 hands, his wife none, Mrs Guest 2 three hands, Mr Guest 2 one hand, and the Hosts would shake the 2 hands each.
The proof for this is very simple. Start with the last couple to arrive. They walk in, walk around the room greeting everybody, one of them shaking everybody’s hand (8 shakes), the other shaking none(0 shakes). The same for the couple before them, they would have walked in and one of them would have shaken everybody’s hand who was there (6 shakes for now) and their partner shaking none. When the couple arrived after them, the earlier couple would have both been shaken by the shaker in the new couple, meaning that the earlier couple would now have shook 7 and 1 hands respectively. The same pattern continues for the first two couples to arrive. Because of this, it ends up that every couple shakes a total of 8 hands. S0 8 and 0, 7 and 1, 6 and 2, 5 and 3…4 and 4?! but that would mean that there was a repeat in the numbers!!
and then you remember that that Mrs Senzigic shook the same amount of hands as one other person…therefore she must be in the couple of four and four, therefore Mrs Senziga shook four hands.
Hope you followed that, if not, let me know :).
Now for the final problem – and this was in an assignment for a fairly difficult paper that I’m not doing – yet.
Imagine a square, 1×1 units.

 Divide each of these sides into three new sides.
 On the middle piece of each sides, draw a new square with three new sides.

Repeat this pattern for each side.

What is the total area of this shape?
Have fun! Email me if you want the solution.