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HCSSiM Workshop day 17

July 21, 2012

This is a continuation of this, where I take notes on my workshop at HCSSiM.

Magic Squares

First Elizabeth Campolongo talked about magic squares. First she exhibited a bunch, including these classic ones which I found here:

Then we noted that flipping or rotating a magic square gives you another one, and also that the trivial magic square with all “1”‘s should also count as a crappy kind of magic square.

Then, for 3-by-3 magic squares, Elizabeth showed that knowing 3 entries (say the lowest row) would give you everything. This is in part because if you add up all four “lines” going through the center, you get the center guy four times and everything else once, or in other words everything once and the center guy three times. But you can also add up all the horizontal lines to get everything once. The first sum is 4C, if C is the sum of any line, and the second sum is 3C, so subtracting we get that C is the the center three times, or the center is just C/3.

This means if you have the bottom row, you can also infer C and thus the center. Then once you have the bottom and the center you can infer the top, and then you can infer the two sides.

After convincing them of this, Elizabeth explained that the set of magic cubes was actually a vector space over the rational numbers, and since we’d exhibited 3 non-collinear ones and since we’d proved we can have at most 3 degrees of freedom for any magic square, we actually had a basis.

Finally, she showed them one of the “all prime magic squares”:

The one with the “17” in the corner of course. She exhibited this as a sum of the basis we had written down. It was very cool.

The game of Set

My man Max Levit then whipped out some Set cards and showed people how to play (most of them already knew). After assigning numbers mod 3 to each of the 4 dimensions, he noted that taking any two cards, you’d be able to define the third card uniquely so that all three form a set. Moreover, that third card is just the negative of the sum of the first two, or in other words the sum of all three cards in a set is the vector (0, 0, 0, 0).

Next Max started talking about how many cards you can have where they don’t form a set. He started in the case where you have only two dimensions (but you’re still working mod 3). There are clearly at most 4, with a short pigeon hole argument, and he exhibited 4 that work.

He moved on to 3 and 4 dimensions and showed you could lay down 9 in 3 and 20 in 4 dimensions without forming a set (picture from here), which one of our students eagerly demonstrated with actual cards:

Finally, Max talked about creating magic squares with sets, tying together his awesome lecture with Elizabeth’s. A magic square of sets is also generated by 3 non-collinear cards, and you get the rest from those three placed anywhere away from a line:

Probability functions on lattices

Josh Vekhter then talked about probability distributions as functions from posets of “event spaces” to the real line.  So if you role a 6-sided die, for example, you can think of the event “it’s a 3, 4, or 6” as being above the event “it’s a 3”. He talked about a lattice as a poset where there’s always an “or” and an “and”, so there’s always a common ancestor and child for any two elements.

Then he talked about the question of whether that probability function distributes in the way it “should” with respect to “and” and “or”, and explained how it doesn’t in the case of the two slit experiment.

He related this lack of distribution law of the probability function to the concept of the convexity of the space of probability distributions (keeping in mind that we actually have a vector space of possibly probability functions on a given lattice, can we find “pure” probability distributions that always take the values of 0 or 1 and which form a kind of basis for the entire set?).

This is not my expertise and hopefully Josh will fill in some details in the coming days.

King Chicken

I took over here at the end and discussed some beautiful problems related to flocks of chickens and pecking orders, which can be found in this paper. It was particularly poignant for me to talk about this because my first exposure to these problems was my entrance exam to get into this math program in 1987, when I was 14.

Notetaking algorithm

Finally, I proved that the notetaking algorithm we started the workshop with 3 weeks before actually always works. I did this by first remarking that, as long as it really was a function from the people to the numbers, i.e. it never gets stuck in an infinite loop, then it’s a bijection for sure because it has an inverse.

To show you don’t get stuck in an infinite loop, consider it as a directed graph instead of an undirected graph, in which case you put down arrows on all the columns (and all the segments of columns) from the names to the numbers, since you always go down when you’re on a column.

For the pipes between columns, you can actually squint really hard and realize there are two directed arrows there, one from the top left to the lower right and the other from the top right to the lower left. You’ve now replaces the “T” connections with directed arrows, and if you do this to every pipe you’ve removed all of the “T” connections altogether. It now looks like a bowl of yummy spaghetti.

But that means there is no chance to fall into an infinite loop, since that would require a vertex. Note that after doing this you do get lots of spaghetti circles falling out of your diagram.

Categories: math education
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