Performativizing the Polygonic #2

Suppose a café offers you free drinks for three days. You can have tea or coffee in any order and any number of times. If you want tea every day of the three, you can have it. So here’s a question: how many ways can you choose from two kinds of drink in three days? One simple way is to number each drink, tea = 1, coffee = 2, then count off the choices like this:


1: 111
2: 112
3: 121
4: 122
5: 211
6: 212
7: 221
8: 222

Choice #1 is 111, which means tea every day. Choice #6 is 212, which means coffee on day 1, tea on day 2 and coffee on day 3. Now look at the counting again and the way the numbers change: 111, 112, 121, 122, 211… It’s really base 2 using 1 and 2 rather than 0 and 1. That’s why there are 8 ways to choose two drinks over three days: 8 = 2^3. Next, note that you use the same number of 1s to count the choices as the number of 2s. There are twelve 1s and twelve 2s, because each number has a mirror: 111 has 222, 112 has 221, 121 has 212, and so on.

Now try the number of ways to choose from three kinds of drink (tea, coffee, orange juice) over two days:


11, 12, 13, 21, 22, 23, 31, 32, 33 (c=9)

There are 9 ways to choose, because 9 = 3^2. And each digit, 1, 2, 3, is used exactly six times when you write the choices. Now try the number of ways to choose from three kinds of drink over three days:


111, 112, 113, 121, 122, 123, 131, 132, 133, 211, 212, 213, 221, 222, 223, 231, 232, 233, 311, 312, 313, 321, 322, 323, 331, 332, 333 (c=27)

There are 27 ways and (by coincidence) each digit is used 27 times to write the choices. Now try three drinks over four days:


1111, 1112, 1113, 1121, 1122, 1123, 1131, 1132, 1133, 1211, 1212, 1213, 1221, 1222, 1223, 1231, 1232, 1233, 1311, 1312, 1313, 1321, 1322, 1323, 1331, 1332, 1333, 2111, 2112, 2113, 2121, 2122, 2123, 2131, 2132, 2133, 2211, 2212, 2213, 2221, 2222, 2223, 2231, 2232, 2233, 2311, 2312, 2313, 2321, 2322, 2323, 2331, 2332, 2333, 3111, 3112, 3113, 3121, 3122, 3123, 3131, 3132, 3133, 3211, 3212, 3213, 3221, 3222, 3223, 3231, 3232, 3233, 3311, 3312, 3313, 3321, 3322, 3323, 3331, 3332, 3333 (c=81)

There are 81 ways to choose and each digit is used 108 times. But the numbers don’t have represent choices of drink in a café. How many ways can a point inside an equilateral triangle jump four times half-way towards the vertices of the triangle? It’s the same as the way to choose from three drinks over four days. And because the point jumps toward each vertex in a symmetrical way the same number of times, you get a nice even pattern, like this:

vertices = 3, jump = 1/2


Every time the point jumps half-way towards a particular vertex, its position is marked in a unique colour. The fractal, also known as a Sierpiński triangle, actually represents all possible choices for an indefinite number of jumps. Here’s the same rule applied to a square. There are four vertices, so the point is tracing all possible ways to choose four vertices for an indefinite number of jumps:

v = 4, jump = 1/2


As you can see, it’s not an obvious fractal. But what if the point jumps two-thirds of the way to its target vertex and an extra target is added at the centre of the square? This attractive fractal appears:

v = 4 + central target, jump = 2/3


If the central target is removed and an extra target is added on each side, this fractal appears:

v = 4 + 4 midpoints, jump = 2/3


That fractal is known as a Sierpiński carpet. Now up to the pentagon. This fractal of endlessly nested contingent pentagons is created by a point jumping 1/φ = 0·6180339887… of the distance towards the five vertices:

v = 5, jump = 1/φ


With a central target in the pentagon, this fractal appears:

v = 5 + central, jump = 1/φ


The central red pattern fits exactly inside the five that surround it:

v = 5 + central, jump = 1/φ (closeup)


v = 5 + c, jump = 1/φ (animated)


For a fractal of endlessly nested contingent hexagons, the jump is 2/3:

v = 6, jump = 2/3


With a central target, you get a filled variation of the hexagonal fractal:

v = 6 + c, jump = 2/3


And for a fractal of endlessly nested contingent octagons, the jump is 1/√2 = 0·7071067811… = √½:

v = 8, jump = 1/√2


Previously pre-posted:

Performativizing the Polygonic

Binary Babushkas

What’s the connection between grandmothers and this set of numbers?


1, 2, 6, 12, 44, 92, 184, 1208, 1256, 4792, 9912, 19832, 39664, 563952, 576464, 4496112, 4499184, 17996528, 17997488, 143972080, 145057520, 145070832, 294967024, 589944560...

To take the first step towards the answer, you need to put the numbers into binary:


1, 10, 110, 1100, 101100, 1011100, 10111000, 10010111000, 10011101000, 1001010111000, 10011010111000, 100110101111000, 1001101011110000, 10001001101011110000, 10001100101111010000, 10001001001101011110000, 10001001010011011110000, 1000100101001101011110000, 1000100101001111010110000, 1000100101001101011011110000, 1000101001010110011011110000, 1000101001011001101011110000, 10001100101001101011011110000, 100011001010011101011011110000...

The second step is compare those binary numbers with these binary numbers, which represent 1 to 30:


1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111, 1000, 1001, 1010, 1011, 1100, 1101, 1110, 1111, 10000, 10001, 10010, 10011, 10100, 10101, 10110, 10111, 11000, 11001, 11010, 11011, 11100, 11101, 11110...

To see what’s going on, take the first five numbers from each set:


• 1, 10, 110, 1100, 101100...
• 1, 10, 11, 100, 101...

What’s going on? If you look, you can see the n-th binary number of set 1 contains the digits of all binary numbers <= n in set 2. For example, 101100 is the 5th binary number in set 1, so it contains the digits of the binary numbers 1 to 5:


101100 ← 1
101100 ← 10
101100 ← 11
101100 ← 100
101100 ← 101

Now try 1256 = 10,011,101,000, the ninth number in set 1. It contains all the binary numbers from 1 to 1001:


10011101000 ← 1 (n=1)
10011101000 ← 10 (n=2)
10011101000 ← 11 (n=3)
10011101000 ← 100 (n=4)
10011101000 ← 101 (n=5)
10011101000 ← 110 (n=6)
10011101000 ← 111 (n=7)
10011101000 ← 1000 (n=8)
10011101000 ← 1001 (n=9)

But where do grandmothers come in? They come in via this famous toy:

Nested doll or Russian doll

It’s called a Russian doll and the way all the smaller dolls pack inside the largest doll reminds me of the way all the smaller numbers 1 to 1010 pack into 1001010111000. But in the Russian language, as you might expect, Russian dolls aren’t called Russian dolls. Instead, they’re called matryoshki (матрёшки, singular матрёшка), meaning “little matrons”. However, there’s a mistaken idea in English that in Russian they’re called babushka dolls, from Russian бабушка, babuška, meaning “grandmother”. And that’s what I thought, until I did a little research.

But the mistake is there, so I’ll call these babushka numbers or grandmother numbers:


1, 2, 6, 12, 44, 92, 184, 1208, 1256, 4792, 9912, 19832, 39664, 563952, 576464, 4496112, 4499184, 17996528, 17997488, 143972080, 145057520, 145070832, 294967024, 589944560...

They’re sequence A261467 at the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. They go on for ever, but the biggest known so far is 589,944,560 = 100,011,001,010,011,101,011,011,110,000 in binary. And here is that binary babushka with its binary babies:


100011001010011101011011110000 ← 1 (n=1)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 10 (n=2)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 11 (n=3)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 100 (n=4)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 101 (n=5)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 110 (n=6)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 111 (n=7)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 1000 (n=8)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 1001 (n=9)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 1010 (n=10)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 1011 (n=11)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 1100 (n=12)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 1101 (n=13)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 1110 (n=14)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 1111 (n=15)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 10000 (n=16)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 10001 (n=17)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 10010 (n=18)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 10011 (n=19)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 10100 (n=20)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 10101 (n=21)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 10110 (n=22)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 10111 (n=23)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 11000 (n=24)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 11001 (n=25)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 11010 (n=26)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 11011 (n=27)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 11100 (n=28)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 11101 (n=29)
100011001010011101011011110000 ← 11110 (n=30)

Babushka numbers exist in higher bases, of course. Here are the first thirteen in base 3 or ternary:


1 contains 1 (c=1) (n=1)
12 contains 1, 2 (c=2) (n=5)
102 contains 1, 2, 10 (c=3) (n=11)
1102 contains 1, 2, 10, 11 (c=4) (n=38)
10112 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12 (c=5) (n=95)
101120 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20 (c=6) (n=285)
1021120 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21 (c=7) (n=933)
10211220 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22 (c=8) (n=2805)
100211220 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, 100 (c=9) (n=7179)
10021011220 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, 100, 101 (c=10) (n=64284)
1001010211220 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, 100, 101, 102 (c=11) (n=553929)
1001011021220 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, 100, 101, 102, 110 (c=12) (n=554253)
10010111021220 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, 100, 101, 102, 110, 111 (c=13) (n=1663062)

Look at 1,001,010,211,220 (n=553929) and 1,001,011,021,220 (n=554253). They have the same number of digits, but the babushka 1,001,011,021,220 manages to pack in one more baby:


1001010211220 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, 100, 101, 102 (c=11) (n=553929)
1001011021220 contains 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, 100, 101, 102, 110 (c=12) (n=554253)

That happens in binary too:


10010111000 contains 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111, 1000, 1001 (c=9) (n=1208)
10011101000 contains 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111, 1000, 1001, 1010 (c=10) (n=1256)

What happens in higher bases? Watch this space.

Pi and By

Here’s √2 in base 2:

√2 = 1.01101010000010011110... (base=2)

And in base 3:

√2 = 1.10201122122200121221... (base=3)

And in bases 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10:

√2 = 1.12220021321212133303... (b=4)
√2 = 1.20134202041300003420... (b=5)
√2 = 1.22524531420552332143... (b=6)
√2 = 1.26203454521123261061... (b=7)
√2 = 1.32404746317716746220... (b=8)
√2 = 1.36485805578615303608... (b=9)
√2 = 1.41421356237309504880... (b=10)

And here’s π in the same bases:

π = 11.00100100001111110110... (b=2)
π = 10.01021101222201021100... (b=3)
π = 03.02100333122220202011... (b=4)
π = 03.03232214303343241124... (b=5)
π = 03.05033005141512410523... (b=6)
π = 03.06636514320361341102... (b=7)
π = 03.11037552421026430215... (b=8)
π = 03.12418812407442788645... (b=9)
π = 03.14159265358979323846... (b=10)

Mathematicians know that in all standard bases, the digits of √2 and π go on for ever, without falling into any regular pattern. These numbers aren’t merely irrational but transcedental. But are they also normal? That is, in each base b, do the digits 0 to [b-1] occur with the same frequency 1/b? (In general, a sequence of length l will occur in a normal number with frequency 1/(b^l).) In base 2, are there as many 1s as 0s in the digits of √2 and π? In base 3, are there as many 2s as 1s and 0s? And so on.

It’s a simple question, but so far it’s proved impossible to answer. Another question starts very simple but quickly gets very difficult. Here are the answers so far at the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (OEIS):

2, 572, 8410815, 59609420837337474 – A049364

The sequence is defined as the “Smallest number that is digitally balanced in all bases 2, 3, … n”. In base 2, the number 2 is 10, which has one 1 and one 0. In bases 2 and 3, 572 = 1000111100 and 210012, respectively. 1000111100 has five 1s and five 0s; 210012 has two 2s, two 1s and two 0s. Here are the numbers of A049364 in the necessary bases:

10 (n=2)
1000111100, 210012 (n=572)
100000000101011010111111, 120211022110200, 200011122333 (n=8410815)
11010011110001100111001111010010010001101011100110000010, 101201112000102222102011202221201100, 3103301213033102101223212002, 1000001111222333324244344 (n=59609420837337474)

But what number, a(6), satisfies the definition for bases 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6? According to the notes at the OEIS, a(6) > 5^434. That means finding a(6) is way beyond the power of present-day computers. But I assume a quantum computer could crack it. And maybe someone will come up with a short-cut or even an algorithm that supplies a(b) for any base b. Either way, I think we’ll get there, π and by.

An N-Finity

10111 in base 2
212 in base 3
113 in base 4
43 in base 5
35 in base 6
32 in base 7
27 in base 8
25 in base 9
23 in base 10
21 in base 11
1B in base 12
1A in base 13
19 in base 14
18 in base 15
17 in base 16
16 in base 17
15 in base 18
14 in base 19
13 in base 20
12 in base 21
11 in base 22
10 in base 23
N in all bases >= 24

√23 = 4.79583152331…

Block’n’Role

How low can you go? When it comes to standard bases in mathematics, you can’t go lower than 2. But base 2, or binary, is unsurpassable for simplicity and beauty. With only two digits, 1 and 0, you can capture any integer you like:

• 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5... -> 0, 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111, 1000, 1001, 1010, 1011, 1100, 1101, 1110, 1111, 10000, 10001, 10010, 10011, 10100, 10101, 10110, 10111, 11000, 11001, 11010, 11011, 11100, 11101, 11110, 11111, 100000, 100001, 100010, 100011, 100100, 100101, 100110, 100111, 101000, 101001, 101010, 101011, 101100, 101101, 101110, 101111, 110000, 110001, 110010, 110011, 110100, 110101, 110110, 110111, 111000, 111001, 111010, 111011, 111100, 111101, 111110, 111111...


Here are a few famous decimal numbers in binary:

• 23 = 10111 in binary
• 666 = 1010011010 in binary
• 1492 = 10111010100 in binary
• 2001 = 11111010001 in binary

As you can see, there’s a problem with binary for human beings. It takes up a lot of space and doesn’t look very distinctive. But that’s easy to solve by converting binary into octal (base 8) or hexadecimal (base 16). One digit in octal is worth three digits in binary and one digit in hexadecimal is worth four digits in binary. So the conversion back and forth is very easy:

• 23 = 10111 → (010,111) → 27 in octal
• 23 = 10111 → (0001,0111) → 17 in hexadecimal
• 666 = 1010011010 → (001,010,011,010) → 1232 in octal
• 666 = 1010011010 → (0010,1001,1010) → 29A in hexademical
• 1492 = 10111010100 → (010,111,010,100) → 2724 in octal
• 1492 = 10111010100 → (0101,1101,0100) → 5D4 in hexademical
• 2001 = 11111010001 → (011,111,010,001) → 3721 in octal
• 2001 = 11111010001 → (0111,1101,0001) → 7D1 in hexademical

But there’s another way to compress a binary number: count the lengths of the runs of 1 and 0. For example, 23 = 10111 and 10111 → one 1, one 0, three 1s → (1,1,3) → 113. That’s not much of a compression, but it usually gets better as the numbers get bigger:

• 2001 = 11111010001 → (5,1,1,3,1) → 51131

From the compressed form you can easily re-create the binary number:

• 51131 → (5,1,1,3,1) → (11111,0,1,000,1) → 11111010001

This block-compression doesn’t work with any other standard base. For example, the compressed form (1,2) in ternary, or base 3, is ambiguous:

• (1,2) → (1,00) → 100 in base 3 = 09 in decimal
• (1,2) → (1,22) → 122 in base 3 = 17 in decimal
• (1,2) → (2,00) → 200 in base 3 = 18 in decimal
• (1,2) → (2,11) → 211 in base 3 = 22 in decimal

The higher the base, the bigger the ambiguity. But ambiguity exists with binary block-compressions too. Look at 51131 ← 11111010001 = 2001 in decimal. Out of context, 51131 is infinitely ambiguous. It could represent a number in any base higher than 5:

• 51131 in base 06 = 006751 in base 10
• 51131 in base 07 = 012419 in base 10
• 51131 in base 08 = 021081 in base 10
• 51131 in base 09 = 033643 in base 10
• 51131 in base 10 = 051131 in base 10
• 51131 in base 11 = 074691 in base 10
• 51131 in base 12 = 105589 in base 10
• 51131 in base 13 = 145211 in base 10
• 51131 in base 14 = 195063 in base 10
• 51131 in base 15 = 256771 in base 10
• 51131 in base 16 = 332081 in base 10
• 51131 in base 17 = 422859 in base 10
• 51131 in base 18 = 531091 in base 10
• 51131 in base 19 = 658883 in base 10
• 51131 in base 20 = 808461 in base 10...

But that ambiguity raises an interesting question. Does the binary block-compression of n ever match the digits of n in another base? Yes, it does:

• 23 = 10111 in base 2 → (1,1,3) and 113 in base 4 = 10111 in base 2 = 23 in base 10

113 in base 4 = 1*4^2 + 1*4 + 3*4^0 = 16+4+3 = 23. You could call this “Block’n’Role”, because the blocks of 1 and 0 allow a binary number to retain its identity but take on a different role, that is, represent a number in a different base. Here’s a list of binary block-numbers that match the digits of n in another base:

• 10111 → (1,1,3) = 113 in base 4 (n=23)
• 11001 → (2,2,1) = 221 in base 3 (n=25)
• 101100 → (1,1,2,2) = 1122 in base 3 (n=44)
• 111001 → (3,2,1) = 321 in base 4 (n=57)
• 1011111 → (1,1,5) = 115 in base 9 (n=95)
• 1100001 → (2,4,1) = 241 in base 6 (n=97)
• 11100001 → (3,4,1) = 341 in base 8 (n=225)
• 100110000 → (1,2,2,4) = 1224 in base 6 (n=304)
• 101110111 → (1,1,3,1,3) = 11313 in base 4 (n=375)
• 111111001 → (6,2,1) = 621 in base 9 (n=505)
• 1110010111 → (3,2,1,1,3) = 32113 in base 4 (n=919)
• 10000011111 → (1,5,5) = 155 in base 30 (n=1055)
• 11111100001 → (6,4,1) = 641 in base 18 (n=2017)
• 1011101110111 → (1,1,3,1,3,1,3) = 1131313 in base 4 (n=6007)
• 11100101110111 → (3,2,1,1,3,1,3) = 3211313 in base 4 (n=14711)
• 10111011101110111 → (1,1,3,1,3,1,3,1,3) = 113131313 in base 4 (n=96119)
• 111001011101110111 → (3,2,1,1,3,1,3,1,3) = 321131313 in base 4 (n=235383)
• 100000111111111000001 → (1,5,9,5,1) = 15951 in base 31 (n=1081281)
• 101110111011101110111 → 11313131313 in b4 = 1537911
• 1110010111011101110111 → 32113131313 in b4 = 3766135
• 1011101110111011101110111 → 1131313131313 in b4 = 24606583
• 11100101110111011101110111 → 3211313131313 in b4 = 60258167
• 10111011101110111011101110111 → 113131313131313 in b4 = 393705335
• 111001011101110111011101110111 → 321131313131313 in b4 = 964130679

The list of block-nums is incomplete, because I’ve skipped some trivial examples where, for all powers 2^p > 2^2, the block-num is “1P” in base b = (2^p – p). For example:

• 2^3 = 08 = 1000 in base 2 → (1,3) and 13 in base 5 = 8, where 5 = 2^3-3 = 8-3
• 2^4 = 16 = 10000 in base 2 → (1,4) and 14 in base 12 = 16, where 12 = 2^4-4 = 16-4
• 2^5 = 32 = 100000 in base 2 → (1,5) and 15 in base 27 = 32, where 27 = 2^5-5 = 32-5
• 2^6 = 64 = 1000000 in base 2 → (1,6) and 16 in base 58 = 64, where 58 = 2^6-6 = 64-6

And note that the block-num matches in base 4 continue for ever, because the pairs 113… and 321… generate their successors using simple formulae in base 4:

• 113... * 100 + 13
• 321... * 100 + 13

For example, 113 and 321 are the first pair of matches:

• 10111 → (1,1,3) = 113 in base 4 (n=23)
• 111001 → (3,2,1) = 321 in base 4 (n=57)

In base 4, 113 * 100 + 13 = 11313 and 321 * 100 + 13 = 32113:

• 101110111 → (1,1,3,1,3) = 11313 in base 4 (n=375)
• 1110010111 → (3,2,1,1,3) = 32113 in base 4 (n=919)

Next, 11313 * 100 + 13 = 1131313 and 32113 * 100 + 13 = 3211313:

• 1011101110111 → (1,1,3,1,3,1,3) = 1131313 in base 4 (n=6007)
• 11100101110111 → (3,2,1,1,3,1,3) = 3211313 in base 4 (n=14711)

And so on.

Weight-Botchers

Suppose you have a balance scale and four weights of 1 unit, 2 units, 4 units and 8 units. How many different weights can you match? If you know binary arithmetic, it’s easy to see that you can match any weight up to fifteen units inclusive. With the object in the left-hand pan of the scale and the weights in the right-hand pan, these are the matches:

01 = 1
02 = 2
03 = 2+1
04 = 4
05 = 4+1
06 = 4+2
07 = 4+2+1
08 = 8
09 = 8+1
10 = 8+2
11 = 8+2+1
12 = 8+4
13 = 8+4+1
14 = 8+4+2
15 = 8+4+2+1

Balance scale


The weights that sum to n match the 1s in the digits of n in binary.

01 = 0001 in binary
02 = 0010 = 2
03 = 0011 = 2+1
04 = 0100 = 4
05 = 0101 = 4+1
06 = 0110 = 4+2
07 = 0111 = 4+2+1
08 = 1000 = 8
09 = 1001 = 8+1
10 = 1010 = 8+2
11 = 1011 = 8+2+1
12 = 1100 = 8+4
13 = 1101 = 8+4+1
14 = 1110 = 8+4+2
15 = 1111 = 8+4+2+1

But there’s another set of four weights that will match anything from 1 unit to 40 units. Instead of using powers of 2, you use powers of 3: 1, 3, 9, 27. But how would you match an object weighing 2 units using these weights? Simple. You put the object in the left-hand scale, the 3-weight in the right-hand scale, and then add the 1-weight to the left-hand scale. In other words, 2 = 3-1. Similarly, 5 = 9-3-1, 6 = 9-3 and 7 = 9-3+1. When the power of 3 is positive, it’s in the right-hand pan; when it’s negative, it’s in the left-hand pan.

This system is actually based on base 3 or ternary, which uses three digits, 0, 1 and 2. However, the relationship between ternary numbers and the sums of positive and negative powers of 3 is more complicated than the relationship between binary numbers and sums of purely positive powers of 2. See if you can work out how to derive the sums in the middle from the ternary numbers on the right:

01 = 1 = 1 in ternary
02 = 3-1 = 2
03 = 3 = 10
04 = 3+1 = 11
05 = 9-3-1 = 12
06 = 9-3 = 20
07 = 9-3+1 = 21
08 = 9-1 = 22
09 = 9 = 100
10 = 9+1 = 101
11 = 9+3-1 = 102
12 = 9+3 = 110
13 = 9+3+1 = 111
14 = 27-9-3-1 = 112
15 = 27-9-3 = 120
16 = 27-9-3+1 = 121
17 = 27-9-1 = 122
18 = 27-9 = 200
19 = 27-9+1 = 201
20 = 27-9+3-1 = 202
21 = 27-9+3 = 210
22 = 27-9+3+1 = 211
23 = 27-3-1 = 212
24 = 27-3 = 220
25 = 27-3+1 = 221
26 = 27-1 = 222
27 = 27 = 1000
28 = 27+1 = 1001
29 = 27+3-1 = 1002
30 = 27+3 = 1010
31 = 27+3+1 = 1011
32 = 27+9-3-1 = 1012
33 = 27+9-3 = 1020
34 = 27+9-3+1 = 1021
35 = 27+9-1 = 1022
36 = 27+9 = 1100
37 = 27+9+1 = 1101
38 = 27+9+3-1 = 1102
39 = 27+9+3 = 1110
40 = 27+9+3+1 = 1111

To begin understanding the sums, consider those ternary numbers containing only 1s and 0s, like n = 1011[3], which equals 31 in decimal. The sum of powers is straightforward, because all of them are positive and they’re easy to work out from the digits of n in ternary: 1011 = 1*3^3 + 0*3^2 + 1*3^1 + 1*3^0 = 27+3+1. Now consider n = 222[3] = 26 in decimal. Just as a decimal number consisting entirely of 9s is always 1 less than a power of 10, so a ternary number consisting entirely of 2s is always 1 less than a power of three:

999 = 1000 - 1 = 10^3 - 1 (decimal)
222 = 1000[3] - 1 (ternary) = 26 = 27-1 = 3^3 - 1 (decimal)

If a ternary number contains only 2s and is d digits long, it will be equal to 3^d – 1. But what about numbers containing a mixture of 2s, 1s and 0s? Well, all ternary numbers containing at least one 2 will have a negative power of 3 in the sum. You can work out the sum by using the following algorithm. Suppose the number is five digits long and the rightmost digit is digit #1 and the leftmost is digit #5:

01. i = 1, sum = 0, extra = 0, posi = true.
02. if posi = false, goto step 07.
03. if digit #i = 0, sum = sum + 0.
04. if digit #i = 1, sum = sum + 3^(i-1).
05. if digit #i = 2, sum = sum - 3^(i-1), extra = 3^5, posi = false.
06. goto step 10.
07. if digit #i = 0, sum = sum + 3^(i-1), extra = 0, posi = true.
08. if digit #i = 1, sum = sum - 3^(i-1).
09. if digit #i = 2, sum = sum + 0.
10. i = i+1. if i <= 5, goto step 2.
11. print sum + extra.

As the number of weights grows, the advantages of base 3 get bigger:

With 02 weights, base 3 reaches 04 and base 2 reaches 3: 04-3 = 1.
With 03 weights, base 3 reaches 13 and base 2 reaches 7: 13-7 = 6.
With 04 weights, 000040 - 0015 = 000025
With 05 weights, 000121 - 0031 = 000090
With 06 weights, 000364 - 0063 = 000301
With 07 weights, 001093 - 0127 = 000966
With 08 weights, 003280 - 0255 = 003025
With 09 weights, 009841 - 0511 = 009330
With 10 weights, 029524 - 1023 = 028501
With 11 weights, 088573 - 2047 = 086526
With 12 weights, 265720 - 4095 = 261625...

But what about base 4, or quaternary? With four weights of 1, 4, 16 and 64, representing powers of 4 from 4^0 to 4^3, you should be able to weigh objects from 1 to 85 units using sums of positive and negative powers. In fact, some weights can’t be matched. As you can see below, if n in base 4 contains a 2, it can’t be represented as a sum of positive and negative powers of 4. Nor can certain other numbers:

1 = 1 ← 1
2 has no sum = 2
3 = 4-1 ← 3
4 = 4 ← 10 in base 4
5 = 4+1 ← 11 in base 4
6 has no sum = 12 in base 4
7 has no sum = 13
8 has no sum = 20
9 has no sum = 21
10 has no sum = 22
11 = 16-4-1 ← 23
12 = 16-4 ← 30
13 = 16-4+1 ← 31
14 has no sum = 32
15 = 16-1 ← 33
16 = 16 ← 100
17 = 16+1 ← 101
18 has no sum = 102
19 = 16+4-1 ← 103
20 = 16+4 ← 110
21 = 16+4+1 ← 111
22 has no sum = 112
23 has no sum = 113
24 has no sum = 120
25 has no sum = 121
26 has no sum = 122
27 has no sum = 123
[...]

With a more complicated balance scale, it’s possible to use weights representing powers of base 4 and base 5 (use two pans on each arm of the scale instead of one, placing the extra pan at the midpoint of the arm). But with a standard balance scale, base 3 is the champion. However, there is a way to do slightly better than standard base 3. You do it by botching the weights. Suppose you have four weights of 1, 4, 10 and 28 (representing 1, 3+1, 9+1 and 27+1). There are some weights n you can’t match, but because you can match n-1 and n+1, you know what these unmatchable weights are. Accordingly, while weights of 1, 3, 9 and 27 can measure objects up to 40 units, weights of 1, 4, 10 and 28 can measure objects up to 43 units:

1 = 1 ← 1
2 has no sum = 2
3 = 4-1 ← 10 in base 3
4 = 4 ← 11 in base 3
5 = 4+1 ← 12 in base 3
6 = 10-4 ← 20
7 = 10-4+1 ← 21
8 has no sum = 22
9 = 10-1 ← 100
10 = 10 ← 101
11 = 10+1 ← 102
12 has no sum = 110
13 = 10+4-1 ← 111
14 = 10+4 ← 112
15 = 10+4+1 ← 120
16 has no sum = 121
17 = 28-10-1 ← 122
18 = 28-10 ← 200
19 = 28-10+1 ← 201
20 has no sum = 202
21 = 28-10+4-1 ← 210
22 = 28-10+4 ← 211
23 = 28-4-1 ← 212
24 = 28-4 ← 220
25 = 28-4+1 ← 221
26 has no sum = 222
27 = 28-1 ← 1000
28 = 28 ← 1001
29 = 28+1 ← 1002
30 has no sum = 1010
31 = 28+4-1 ← 1011
32 = 28+4 ← 1012
33 = 28+4+1 ← 1020
34 = 28+10-4 ← 1021
35 = 28+10-4+1 ← 1022
36 has no sum = 1100
37 = 28+10-1 ← 1101
38 = 28+10 ← 1102
39 = 28+10+1 ← 1110
40 = has no sum = 1111*
41 = 28+10+4-1 ← 1112
42 = 28+10+4 ← 1120
43 = 28+10+4+1 ← 1121


*N.B. 40 = 82-28-10-4, i.e. has a sum when another botched weight, 82 = 3^4+1, is used.

Zequality Now

Here are the numbers one to eight in base 2:

1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111, 1000…

Now see what happens when you count the zeroes:


1, 10[1], 11, 10[2]0[3], 10[4]1, 110[5], 111, 10[6]0[7]0[8]...

In base 2, the numbers one to eight contain exactly eight zeroes, that is, zerocount(1..8,b=2) = 8. But it doesn’t work out so exactly in base 3:


1, 2, 10[1], 11, 12, 20[2], 21, 22, 10[3]0[4], 10[5]1, 10[6]2, 110[7], 111, 112, 120[8], 121, 122, 20[9]0[10], 20[11]1, 20[12]2, 210[13], 211, 212, 220[14], 221, 222, 10[15]0[16]0[17], 10[18]0[19]1, 10[20]0[21]2, 10[22]10[23], 10[24]11, 10[25]12, 10[26]20[27], 10[28]21, 10[29]22, 110[30]0[31], 110[32]1, 110[33]2, 1110[34], 1111, 1112, 1120[35], 1121, 1122, 120[36]0[37], 120[38]1, 120[39]2, 1210[40], 1211, 1212, 1220[41], 1221, 1222, 20[42]0[43]0[44], 20[45]0[46]1, 20[47]0[48]2, 20[49]10[50], 20[51]11, 20[52]12, 20[53]20[54], 20[55]21, 20[56]22, 210[57]0[58], 210[59]1, 210[60]2, 2110[61], 2111, 2112, 2120[62], 2121, 2122, 220[63]0[64], 220[65]1, 220[66]2, 2210[67], 2211, 2212, 2220[68], 2221, 2222, 10[69]0[70]0[71]0[72], 10[73]0[74]0[75]1, 10[76]0[77]0[78]2, 10[79]0[80]10[81], 10[82]0[83]11, 10[84]0[85]12, 10[86]0[87]20[88]...

In base 3, 10020 = 87 and zerocount(1..87,b=3) = 88. And what about base 4? zerocount(1..1068,b=4) = 1069 (n=100,230 in base 4). After that, zerocount(1..16022,b=5) = 16023 (n=1,003,043 in base 5) and zerocount(1..284704,b=6) = 284,705 (n=10,034,024 in base 6).

The numbers are getting bigger fast and it’s becoming increasingly impractible to count the zeroes individually. What you need is an algorithm that will take any given n and work out how many zeroes are required to write the numbers 1 to n. The simplest way to do this is to work out how many times 0 has appeared in each position of the number. The 1s position is easy: you simply divide the number by the base and discard the remainder. For example, in base 10, take the number 25. The 0 must have appeared in the 1s position twice, for 10 and 20, so zerocount(1..25) = 25 \ 10 = 2. In 2017, the 0 must have appeared in the 1s position 201 times = 2017 \ 10. And so on.

It gets a little trickier for the higher positions, the 10s, 100s, 1000s and so on, but the same basic principle applies. And so you can easily create an algorithm that takes a number, n, and produces zerocount(1..n) in a particular base. With this algorithm, you can quickly find zerocount(1..n) >= n in higher bases:


zerocount(1..1000,b=2) = 1,000 (n=8)*
zerocount(1..10020,b=3) = 10,021 (n=87)
zerocount(1..100230,b=4) = 100,231 (n=1,068)
zerocount(1..1003042,b=5) = 1,003,043 (n=16,022)
zerocount(1..10034024,b=6) = 10,034,025 (n=284,704)
zerocount(1..100405550,b=7) = 100,405,551 (n=5,834,024)
zerocount(1..1004500236,b=8) = 1,004,500,237 (n=135,430,302)
zerocount(1..10050705366,b=9) = 10,050,705,367 (n=3,511,116,537)
zerocount(1..100559404366,b=10) = 100,559,404,367
zerocount(1..1006083A68919,b=11) = 1,006,083,A68,919 (n=3,152,738,985,031)*
zerocount(1..10066AA1430568,b=12) = 10,066,AA1,430,569 (n=107,400,330,425,888)
zerocount(1..1007098A8719B81,b=13) = 100,709,8A8,719,B81 (n=3,950,024,143,546,664)*
zerocount(1..10077C39805D81C7,b=14) = 1,007,7C3,980,5D8,1C8 (n=155,996,847,068,247,395)
zerocount(1..10080B0034AA5D16D,b=15) = 10,080,B00,34A,A5D,171 (n=6,584,073,072,068,125,453)
zerocount(1..10088DBE29597A6C77,b=16) = 100,88D,BE2,959,7A6,C77 (n=295,764,262,988,176,583,799)*
zerocount(1..10090C5309AG72CBB3F,b=17) = 1,009,0C5,309,AG7,2CB,B3G (n=14,088,968,131,538,370,019,982)
zerocount(1..10099F39070FC73C1G73,b=18) = 10,099,F39,070,FC7,3C1,G75 (n=709,394,716,006,812,244,474,473)
zerocount(1..100A0DC1258614CA334EB,b=19) = 100,A0D,C12,586,14C,A33,4EC (n=37,644,984,315,968,494,382,106,708)
zerocount(1..100AAGDEEB536IBHE87006,b=20) = 1,00A,AGD,EEB,536,IBH,E87,008 (n=2,099,915,447,874,594,268,014,136,006)

And you can also easily find the zequal numbers, that is, the numbers n for which, in some base, zerocount(1..n) exactly equals n:


zerocount(1..1000,b=2) = 1,000 (n=8)
zerocount(1..1006083A68919,b=11) = 1,006,083,A68,919 (n=3,152,738,985,031)
zerocount(1..1007098A8719B81,b=13) = 100,709,8A8,719,B81 (n=3,950,024,143,546,664)
zerocount(1..10088DBE29597A6C77,b=16) = 100,88D,BE2,959,7A6,C77 (n=295,764,262,988,176,583,799)
zerocount(1..100CCJFFAD4MI409MI0798CJB3,b=24) = 10,0CC,JFF,AD4,MI4,09M,I07,98C,JB3 (n=32,038,681,563,209,056,709,427,351,442,469,835)
zerocount(1..100DDL38CIO4P9K0AJ7HK74EMI7L,b=26) = 1,00D,DL3,8CI,O4P,9K0,AJ7,HK7,4EM,I7L (n=160,182,333,966,853,031,081,693,091,544,779,177,187)
zerocount(1..100EEMHG6OE8EQKO0BF17LCCIA7GPE,b=28) = 100,EEM,HG6,OE8,EQK,O0B,F17,LCC,IA7,GPE (n=928,688,890,453,756,699,447,122,559,347,771,300,777,482)
zerocount(1..100F0K7MQO6K9R1S616IEEL2JRI73PF,b=29) = 1,00F,0K7,MQO,6K9,R1S,616,IEE,L2J,RI7,3PF (n=74,508,769,042,363,852,559,476,397,161,338,769,391,145,562)
zerocount(1..100G0LIL0OQLF2O0KIFTK1Q4DC24HL7BR,b=31) = 100,G0L,IL0,OQL,F2O,0KI,FTK,1Q4,DC2,4HL,7BR (n=529,428,987,529,739,460,369,842,168,744,635,422,842,585,510,266)
zerocount(1..100H0MUTQU3A0I5005WL2PD7T1ASW7IV7NE,b=33) = 10,0H0,MUT,QU3,A0I,500,5WL,2PD,7T1,ASW,7IV,7NE (n=4,262,649,311,868,962,034,947,877,223,846,561,239,424,294,726,563,632)
zerocount(1..100HHR387RQHK9OP6EDBJEUDAK35N7MN96LB,b=34) = 100,HHR,387,RQH,K9O,P6E,DBJ,EUD,AK3,5N7,MN9,6LB (n=399,903,937,958,473,433,782,862,763,628,747,974,628,490,691,628,136,485)
zerocount(1..100IISLI0CYX2893G9E8T4I7JHKTV41U0BKRHT,b=36) = 10,0II,SLI,0CY,X28,93G,9E8,T4I,7JH,KTV,41U,0BK,RHT (n=3,831,465,379,323,568,772,890,827,210,355,149,992,132,716,389,119,437,755,185)
zerocount(1..100LLX383BPWE[40]ZL0G1M[40]1OX[39]67KOPUD5C[40]RGQ5S6W9[36],b=42) = 10,0LL,X38,3BP,WE[40],ZL0,G1M,[40]1O,X[39]6,7KO,PUD,5C[40],RGQ,5S6,W9[36] (n=6,307,330,799,917,244,669,565,360,008,241,590,852,337,124,982,231,464,556,869,653,913,711,854)
zerocount(1..100MMYPJ[38]14KDV[37]OG[39]4[42]X75BE[39][39]4[43]CK[39]K36H[41]M[37][43]5HIWNJ,b=44) = 1,00M,MYP,J[38]1,4KD,V[37]O,G[39]4,[42]X7,5BE,[39][39]4,[43]CK,[39]K3,6H[41],M[37][43],5HI,WNJ (n=90,257,901,046,284,988,692,468,444,260,851,559,856,553,889,199,511,017,124,021,440,877,333,751,943)
zerocount(1..100NN[36]3813[38][37]16F6MWV[41]UBNF5FQ48N0JRN[40]E76ZOHUNX2[42]3[43],b=46) = 100,NN[36],381,3[38][37],16F,6MW,V[41]U,BNF,5FQ,48N,0JR,N[40]E,76Z,OHU,NX2,[42]3[43] (n=1,411,636,908,622,223,745,851,790,772,948,051,467,006,489,552,352,013,745,000,752,115,904,961,213,172,605)
zerocount(1..100O0WBZO9PU6O29TM8Y0QE3I[37][39]A7E4YN[44][42]70[44]I[46]Z[45][37]Q2WYI6,b=47) = 1,00O,0WB,ZO9,PU6,O29,TM8,Y0Q,E3I,[37][39]A,7E4,YN[44],[42]70,[44]I[46],Z[45][37],Q2W,YI6 (n=182,304,598,281,321,725,937,412,348,242,305,189,665,300,088,639,063,301,010,710,450,793,661,266,208,306,996)
zerocount(1..100PP[39]37[49]NIYMN[43]YFE[44]TDTJ00EAEIP0BIDFAK[46][36]V6V[45]M[42]1M[46]SSZ[40],b=50) = 1,00P,P[39]3,7[49]N,IYM,N[43]Y,FE[44],TDT,J00,EAE,IP0,BID,FAK,[46][36]V,6V[45],M[42]1,M[46]S,SZ[40] (n=444,179,859,561,011,965,929,496,863,186,893,220,413,478,345,535,397,637,990,204,496,296,663,272,376,585,291,071,790)
zerocount(1..100Q0Y[46][44]K[49]CKG[45]A[47]Z[43]SPZKGVRN[37]2[41]ZPP[36]I[49][37]EZ[38]C[44]E[46]00CG[38][40][48]ROV,b=51) = 10,0Q0,Y[46][44],K[49]C,KG[45],A[47]Z,[43]SP,ZKG,VRN,[37]2[41],ZPP,[36]I[49],[37]EZ,[38]C[44],E[46]0,0CG,[38][40][48],ROV (n=62,191,970,278,446,971,531,566,522,791,454,395,351,613,891,150,548,291,266,262,575,754,206,359,828,753,062,692,619,547)
zerocount(1..100QQ[40]TL[39]ZA[49][41]J[41]7Q[46]4[41]66A1E6QHHTM9[44]8Z892FRUL6V[46]1[38][41]C[40][45]KB[39],b=52) = 100,QQ[40],TL[39],ZA[49],41]J[41],7Q[46],4[41]6,6A1,E6Q,HHT,M9[44],8Z8,92F,RUL,6V[46],1[38][41],C[40][45],KB[39] (n=8,876,854,501,927,007,077,802,489,292,131,402,136,556,544,697,945,824,257,389,527,114,587,644,068,732,794,430,403,381,731)
zerocount(1..100S0[37]V[53]Y6G[51]5J[42][38]X[40]XO[38]NSZ[42]XUD[47]1XVKS[52]R[39]JAHH[49][39][50][54]5PBU[42]H3[45][46]DEJ,b=55) = 100,S0[37],V[53]Y,6G[51],5J[42],[38]X[40],XO[38],NSZ,[42]XU,D[47]1,XVK,S[52]R,[39]JA,HH[49],[39][50][54],5PB,U[42]H,3[45][46],DEJ (n=28,865,808,580,366,629,824,612,818,017,012,809,163,332,327,132,687,722,294,521,718,120,736,868,268,650,080,765,802,786,141,387,114)

Autonomata

“Describe yourself.” You can say it to people. And you can say it to numbers too. For example, here’s the number 3412 describing the positions of its own digits, starting at 1 and working upward:


3412 – the 1 is in the 3rd position, the 2 is in the 4th position, the 3 is in the 1st position, and the 4 is in the 2nd position.

In other words, the positions of the digits 1 to 4 of 3412 recreate its own digits:


3412 → (3,4,1,2) → 3412

The number 3412 describes itself – it’s autonomatic (from Greek auto, “self” + onoma, “name”). So are these numbers:


1
21
132
2143
52341
215634
7243651
68573142
321654798

More precisely, they’re panautonomatic numbers, because they describe the positions of all their own digits (Greek pan or panto, “all”). But what if you use the positions of only, say, the 1s or the 3s in a number? In base ten, only one number describes itself like that: 1. But we’re not confined to base 10. In base 2, the positions of the 1s in 110 (= 6) are 1 and 10 (= 2). So 110 is monautonomatic in binary (Greek mono, “single”). 10 is also monautonomatic in binary, if the digit being described is 0: it’s in 2nd position or position 10 in binary. These numbers are monoautonomatic in binary too:


110100 = 52 (digit = 1)
10100101111 = 1327 (d=0)

In 110100, the 1s are in 1st, 2nd and 4th position, or positions 1, 10, 100 in binary. In 10100101111, the 0s are in 2nd, 4th, 5th and 7th position, or positions 10, 100, 101, 111 in binary. Here are more monautonomatic numbers in other bases:


21011 in base 4 = 581 (digit = 1)
11122122 in base 3 = 3392 (d=2)
131011 in base 5 = 5131 (d=1)
2101112 in base 4 = 9302 (d=1)
11122122102 in base 3 = 91595 (d=2)
13101112 in base 5 = 128282 (d=1)
210111221 in base 4 = 148841 (d=1)

For example, in 131011 the 1s are in 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th position, or positions 1, 3, 10 and 11 in quinary. But these numbers run out quickly and the only monautonomatic number in bases 6 and higher is 1. However, there are infinitely long monoautonomatic integer sequences in all bases. For example, in binary this sequence at the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences describes itself using the positions of its 1s:


A167502: 1, 10, 100, 111, 1000, 1001, 1010, 1110, 10001, 10010, 10100, 10110, 10111, 11000, 11010, 11110, 11111, 100010, 100100, 100110, 101001, 101011, 101100, 101110, 110000, 110001, 110010, 110011, 110100, 111000, 111001, 111011, 111101, 11111, …

In base 10, it looks like this:


A167500: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26, 30, 31, 34, 36, 38, 41, 43, 44, 46, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 56, 57, 59, 61, 62, 63, 64, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 75, 77, 80, 83, 86, 87, 89, 91, 94, 95, 97, 99, 100, 101, 103, 104, 107, 109, 110, 111, 113, 114, 119, 120, 124, … (see A287515 for a similar sequence using 0s)

In any base, you can find some sequence of integers describing the positions of any of the digits in that base – for example, the 1s or the 7s. But the numbers in the sequence get very large very quickly in higher bases. For example, here are some opening sequences for the digits 0 to 9 in base 10:


3, 10, 1111110, … (d=0)
1, 3, 10, 200001, … (d=1)
3, 12, 100000002, … (d=2)
2, 3, 30, 10000000000000000000000003, … (d=3)
2, 4, 14, 1000000004, … (d=4)
2, 5, 105, … (d=5)
2, 6, 1006, … (d=6)
2, 7, 10007, … (d=7)
2, 8, 100008, … (d=8)
2, 9, 1000009, … (d=9)

In the sequence for d=0, the first 0 is in the 3rd position, the second 0 is in the 10th position, and the third 0 is in the 1111110th position. That’s why I’ve haven’t written the next number – it’s 1,111,100 digits long (= 1111110 – 10). But it’s theoretically possible to write the number. In the sequence for d=3, the next number is utterly impossible to write, because it’s 9,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,973 digits long (= 10000000000000000000000003 – 30). In the sequence for d=5, the next number is this:


1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000005 (100 digits long = 105 – 5).

And in fact there are an infinite number of such sequences for any digit in any base – except for d=1 in binary. Why is binary different? Because 1 is the only digit that can start a number in that base. With 0, you can invent a sequence starting like this:


111, 1110, 1111110, …

Or like this:


1111, 11111111110, …

Or like this:


11111, 1111111111111111111111111111110, …

And so on. But with 1, there’s no room for manoeuvre.

Square on a Three String

222 A.D. was the year in which the Emperor Heliogabalus was assassinated by his own soldiers. Exactly 1666 years later, the Anglo-Dutch classicist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema exhibited his painting The Roses of Heliogabalus (1888). I suggested in “Roses Are Golden” that Alma-Tadema must have chosen the year as deliberately as he chose the dimensions of his canvas, which, at 52″ x 84 1/8“, is an excellent approximation to the golden ratio.

But did Alma-Tadema know that lines at 0º and 222º divide a circle in the golden ratio? He could easily have done, just as he could easily have known that 222 precedes the 48th prime, 223. But it is highly unlikely that he knew that 223 yields a magic square whose columns, rows and diagonals all sum to 222. To create the square, simply list the 222 multiples of the reciprocal 1/223 in base 3, or ternary. The digits of the reciprocal repeat after exactly 222 digits and its multiples begin and end like this:

001/223 = 0.00001002102101021212111012022211122022... in base 3
002/223 = 0.00002011211202120201222101122200021121...
003/223 = 0.00010021021010212121110120222111220221...
004/223 = 0.00011100200112011110221210022100120020...
005/223 = 0.00012110002220110100102222122012012120...

[...]

218/223 = 0.22210112220002112122120000100210210102... in base 3
219/223 = 0.22211122022110211112001012200122102202...
220/223 = 0.22212201201212010101112102000111002001...
221/223 = 0.22220211011020102021000121100022201101...
222/223 = 0.22221220120121201010111210200011100200...

Each column, row and diagonal of ternary digits sums to 222. Here is the full n/223 square represented with 0s in grey, 1s in white and 2s in red:

(Click for larger)


It isn’t difficult to see that the white squares are mirror-symmetrical on a horizontal axis. Here is the symmetrical pattern rotated by 90º:

(Click for larger)


But why should the 1s be symmetrical? This isn’t something special to 1/223, because it happens with prime reciprocals like 1/7 too:

1/7 = 0.010212... in base 3
2/7 = 0.021201...
3/7 = 0.102120...
4/7 = 0.120102...
5/7 = 0.201021...
6/7 = 0.212010...

And you can notice something else: 0s mirror 2s and 2s mirror 0s. A related pattern appears in base 10:

1/7 = 0.142857...
2/7 = 0.285714...
3/7 = 0.428571...
4/7 = 0.571428...
5/7 = 0.714285...
6/7 = 0.857142...

The digit 1 in the decimal digits of n/7 corresponds to the digit 8 in the decimal digits of (7-n)/7; 4 corresponds to 5; 2 corresponds to 7; 8 corresponds to 1; 5 corresponds to 4; and 7 corresponds to 2. In short, if you’re given the digits d1 of n/7, you know the digits d2 of (n-7)/7 by the rule d2 = 9-d1.

Why does that happen? Examine these sums:

 1/7 = 0.142857142857142857142857142857142857142857...
+6/7 = 0.857142857142857142857142857142857142857142...
 7/7 = 0.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999... = 1.0

 2/7 = 0.285714285714285714285714285714285714285714...
+5/7 = 0.714285714285714285714285714285714285714285...
 7/7 = 0.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999... = 1.0

 3/7 = 0.428571428571428571428571428571428571428571...
+4/7 = 0.571428571428571428571428571428571428571428...
 7/7 = 0.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999... = 1.0

And here are the same sums in ternary (where the first seven integers are 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21):

  1/21 = 0.010212010212010212010212010212010212010212...
+20/21 = 0.212010212010212010212010212010212010212010...
 21/21 = 0.222222222222222222222222222222222222222222... = 1.0

  2/21 = 0.021201021201021201021201021201021201021201...
+12/21 = 0.201021201021201021201021201021201021201021...
 21/21 = 0.222222222222222222222222222222222222222222... = 1.0

 10/21 = 0.102120102120102120102120102120102120102120...
+11/21 = 0.120102120102120102120102120102120102120102...
 21/21 = 0.222222222222222222222222222222222222222222... = 1.0

Accordingly, in base b with the prime p, the digits d1 of n/p correspond to the digits (p-n)/p by the rule d2 = (b-1)-d1. This explains why the 1s mirror themselves in ternary: 1 = 2-1 = (3-1)-1. In base 5, the 2s mirror themselves by the rule 2 = 4-2 = (5-1) – 2. In all odd bases, some digit will mirror itself; in all even bases, no digit will. The mirror-digit will be equal to (b-1)/2, which is always an integer when b is odd, but never an integer when b is even.

Here are some more examples of the symmetrical patterns found in odd bases:

Patterns of 1s in 1/19 in base 3


Patterns of 6s in 1/19 in base 13


Patterns of 7s in 1/19 in base 15


Elsewhere other-posted:

Roses Are Golden — more on The Roses of Heliogabalus (1888)
Three Is The Key — more on the 1/223 square

T4K1NG S3LF13S

It’s like watching a seed grow. You take a number and count how many 0s it contains, then how many 1s, how many 2s, 3s, 4s and so on. Then you create a new number by writing the count of each digit followed by the digit itself. Then you repeat the process with the new number.

Here’s how it works if you start with the number 1:

1

The count of digits is one 1, so the new number is this:

→ 11

The count of digits for 11 is two 1s, so the next number is:

→ 21

The count of digits for 21 is one 1, one 2, so the next number is:

→ 1112

The count of digits for 1112 is three 1s, one 2, so the next number is:

→ 3112

The count of digits for 3112 is two 1s, one 2, one 3, so the next number is:

→ 211213

What happens after that? Here are the numbers as a sequence:

1 → 11 → 21 → 1112 → 3112 → 211213 → 312213 → 212223 → 114213 → 31121314 → 41122314 → 31221324 → 21322314

That’s all you need, because something interesting happens with 21322314. The digit count is two 1s, three 2s, two 3s, one 4, so the next number is:

→ 21322314

In other words, 21322314 is what might be called a self-descriptive number: it describes the count of its own digits. That’s why I think this procedure is like watching a seed grow. You start with the tiny seed of 1 and end in the giant oak of 21322314, whose factorization is 2 * 3^2 * 13 * 91121. But there are many more self-descriptive numbers in base ten and some of them are much bigger than 21322314. A047841 at the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences lists all 109 of them (and calls them “autobiographical numbers”). Here are a few, starting with the simplest possible:

22 → two 2s → 22
10213223 → one 0, two 1s, three 2s, two 3s → 10213223
10311233 → one 0, three 1s, one 2, three 3s → 10311233
21322314 → two 1s, three 2s, two 3s, one 4 → 21322314
21322315 → two 1s, three 2s, two 3s, one 5 → 21322315
21322316 → two 1s, three 2s, two 3s, one 6 → 21322316*
1031223314 → one 0, three 1s, two 2s, three 3s, one 4 → 10
31223314
3122331415 → three 1s, two 2s, three 3s, one 4, one 5
→ 3122331415
3122331416 → three 1s, two 2s, three 3s, one 4, one 6
→ 3122331416*

*And for 21322317, 21322318, 21322319; 3122331417, 3122331418, 3122331419.


And here’s what happens when you seed a sequence with a number containing all possible digits in base ten:

1234567890 → 10111213141516171819 → 101111213141516171819 → 101211213141516171819 → 101112213141516171819

That final number is self-descriptive:

101112213141516171819 → one 0, eleven 1s, two 2s, one 3, one 4, one 5, one 6, one 7, one 8, one 9 → 101112213141516171819

So some numbers are self-descriptive and some start a sequence that ends in a self-descriptive number. But that doesn’t exhaust the possibilities. Some numbers are part of a loop:

103142132415 → 104122232415 → 103142132415
104122232415 → 103142132415 → 104122232415
1051421314152619 → 1061221324251619 → 1051421314152619…
5142131415261819 → 6122132425161819 → 5142131415261819
106142131416271819 → 107122132426171819 → 106142131416271819


10512223142518 → 10414213142518 → 10512213341518 → 10512223142518
51222314251718 → 41421314251718 → 51221334151718 →
51222314251718

But all that is base ten. What about other bases? In fact, nearly all self-descriptive numbers in base ten are also self-descriptive in other bases. An infinite number of other bases, in fact. 22 is a self-descriptive number for all b > 2. The sequence seeded with 1 is identical in all b > 4:

1 → 11 → 21 → 1112 → 3112 → 211213 → 312213 → 212223 → 114213 → 31121314 → 41122314 → 31221324 → 2132231421322314

In bases 2, 3 and 4, the sequence seeded with 1 looks like this:

1 → 11 → 101 → 10101 → 100111 → 1001001 → 1000111 → 11010011101001… (b=2) (1101001[2] = 105 in base 10)
1 → 11 → 21 → 1112 → 10112 → 1010112 → 2011112 → 10111221011122… (b=3) (1011122[3] = 854 in base 10)
1 → 11 → 21 → 1112 → 3112 → 211213 → 312213 → 212223 → 1110213 → 101011213 → 201111213 → 101112213101112213… (b=4) (101112213[4] = 71079 in base 10)

In base 2 there are only two self-descriptive numbers (and no loops):

111 → three 1s → 111… (b=2) (111 = 7 in base 10)
1101001 → three 0s, four 1s → 1101001… (b=2) (1101001 = 105 in base 10)

So if you apply the “count digits” procedure in base 2, all numbers, except 111, begin a sequence that ends in 1101001. Base 3 has a few more self-descriptive numbers and also some loops:

2222… (b >= 3)
10111 → one 0, four 1s → 10111… (b=3)
11112 → four 1s, one 2 → 11112
100101 → three 0s, three 1s → 100101… (b=3)
1011122 → one 0, four 1s, two 2s → 1011122… (b=3)
2021102 → two 0s, two 1s, three 2s → 2021102… (b=3)
10010122 → three 0s, three 1s, two 2s → 10010122


2012112 → 10101102 → 10011112 → 2012112
10011112 → 2012112 → 10101102 → 10011112
10101102 → 10011112 → 2012112 → 10101102

A question I haven’t been able to answer: Is there a base in which loops can be longer than these?

103142132415 → 104122232415 → 103142132415
10512223142518 → 10414213142518 → 10512213341518 → 10512223142518

A question I have been able to answer: What is the sequence when it’s seeded with the title of this blog-post? T4K1NGS3LF13S is a number in all bases >= 30 and its base-30 form equals 15,494,492,743,722,316,018 in base 10 (with the factorization 2 * 72704927 * 106557377767). If T4K1NGS3LF13S seeds a sequence in any b >= 30, the result looks like this:

T4K1NGS3LF13S → 2123141F1G1K1L1N2S1T → 813213141F1G1K1L1N1S1T → A1122314181F1G1K1L1N1S1T → B1221314181A1F1G1K1L1N1S1T → C1221314181A1B1F1G1K1L1N1S1T → D1221314181A1B1C1F1G1K1L1N1S1T → E1221314181A1B1C1D1F1G1K1L1N1S1T → F1221314181A1B1C1D1E1F1G1K1L1N1S1T → G1221314181A1B1C1D1E2F1G1K1L1N1S1T → F1321314181A1B1C1D1E1F2G1K1L1N1S1T → F1222314181A1B1C1D1E2F1G1K1L1N1S1T → E1421314181A1B1C1D1E2F1G1K1L1N1S1T → F1221324181A1B1C1D2E1F1G1K1L1N1S1T → E1421314181A1B1C1D1E2F1G1K1L1N1S1T