TITLE: Proofs from THE BOOK AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 01, 2004 2:04 PM DESC: Proofs from THE BOOK is a great read if you like math and creative thinking. ----- BODY: I just finished reading Proofs from THE BOOK, by Martin Aigner and Günter Ziegler. The title comes from Paul Erdós, who "liked to talk about The Book, in which God maintains the perfect proofs for mathematical theorems". Mathematicians don't have to believe in God, said Erdós, but they have to believe in the book. Proofs from THE BOOK collects some of the proofs Erdós liked best and some others in the same spirit: clever or elegant proofs that reflect some interesting insight into a problem. I am a computer scientist, not a mathematician, but many of these proofs made me smile. My favorite sections were on number theory and combinatorics. Some of the theorems on prime and irrational numbers were quite nice. My favorite proof from The Book applied the pigeonhole principle in a surprising way. The claim:
Suppose we are given n integers a1, ..., an, which need not be distinct. Then there is always a set of consecutive numbers aj+1, ..., ak whose sum is a multiple of n.
This doesn't seem obvious to me at all. But consider the sequences N = {0, a1, a1+a2, a1+a2+a3, ..., a1+a2+...+an} and R = {0, 1, 2, ..., n-1}. Now consider the function f that maps each member of N, ai, to (ai mod n) in R. Now, |N| = n+1 and |R| = n, so by the pigeonhole principle we know that there must be two sums from N, a1+...+aj and a1+...+ak (j<k), mapped to the same value in R. a1+...+aj may actually be 0, the first value in N, but that doesn't affect our result. Then:
must have a remainder of 0. QED. Beautiful. Eugene sez: Check out Proofs from THE BOOK. P.S. It might be fun to create a similar book for proofs related specifically to computer science. Proofs from THE BOOK has some proofs on counting and one proof on information theory, but most of the book focuses on mathematics more broadly. -----