Category Archives: Mathematics

Squares of squares, and the group of rational points on the circle

The purpose of this post is to describe a slightly different way of thinking about the existence – or otherwise – of a 3×3 magic square of squares. Of course it may not lead to any real progress, but it … Continue reading

Posted in chatter, Mathematics | 1 Comment

Almost-magic squares of squares

In the last post we saw that every 3×3 almost-magic square is a rearrangement of three three-term arithmetic progressions that have the same common difference. In other words, if we pick any three numbers x, y and z, and any … Continue reading

Posted in chatter, Mathematics | 2 Comments

Magic squares of squares: Part I

A recent Numberphile video discussed an intriguing unsolved problem in number theory: is there a 3×3 magic square whose entries are all square numbers? (Matt Parker proposed a solution which doesn’t quite work: see the video for more. The “Parker … Continue reading

Posted in chatter, Mathematics | 2 Comments

Counting coins

This afternoon, Matt Locke tweeted the following problem from his nine-year-old daughter’s maths homework:

Posted in algorithms, Mathematics | 14 Comments

Tackling the Minimal Superpermutation Problem

What’s the shortest string that contains every possible permutation of ABCD somewhere inside it? As it happens, it’s 33 letters long: ABCDABCADBCABDCABACDBACBDACBADCBA. A string like this is called a minimal superpermutation. So what’s the shortest string that contains every possible … Continue reading

Posted in chatter, Mathematics, news | 6 Comments

Revisiting “On editing text”

This document is an incomplete draft. About two years ago I wrote about a category-theoretic treatment of collaborative text editing. That post is unique in the history of Bosker Blog in having been cited – twice so far that I know … Continue reading

Posted in algorithms, category theory, Mathematics | 3 Comments

Decoding the mysterious symmetry of the bicycle lock numbers

Suppose you have a lock of this sort that has n dials and k numbers on each dial. Let m(n, k) be the minimum number of turns that always suffice to open the lock from any starting position, where a turn … Continue reading

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The bicycle lock problem

Don’t lock your bicycle with a combination lock. Someone will steal it: I learnt this the hard way. It’s quite easy to open a combination lock by feel, without knowing the combination. Try it: with a bit of practice, you … Continue reading

Posted in algorithms, Mathematics | 4 Comments

Beyond Bézier curves

There is a new feature of Pages and Keynote, not mentioned in any of Apple’s publicity nor in any press coverage I’ve seen, that is really very interesting. Perhaps it will even one day prove to have been revolutionary, in … Continue reading

Posted in algorithms, Mathematics | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

The algebra of Unix command substitution

Shadab Ahmed raised an interesting question. Open a Unix command shell, type : ‘!!’ and press return. Then type : “!!” ‘!!’ and press return. Now repeat the following a few times: press the up arrow, and press return.

Posted in Mathematics | 6 Comments