O l’Omertà o la Morte

• φασὶ γοῦν Ἵππαρχον τὸν Πυθαγόρειον, αἰτίαν ἔχοντα γράψασθαι τὰ τοῦ Πυθαγόρου σαφῶς, ἐξελαθῆναι τῆς διατριβῆς καὶ στήλην ἐπ’ αὐτῷ γενέσθαι οἷα νεκρῷ. — Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς, Στρώματα.

• They say, then, that Hipparchus the Pythagorean, being guilty of writing the tenets of Pythagoras in plain language, was expelled from the school, and a pillar raised for him as if he had been dead. — Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, 2.5.9.57.3-4

Squaring and Paring

Squares are often thought to be the most boring of all shapes. Yet every square holds a stunning secret – something that in legend prompted a mathematical cult to murder a traitor. If each side of a square is one unit long, how long is the square’s diagonal, that is, the line from one corner to the opposite corner?

By Pythagoras’ theorem, the answer is this:

• x^2 = 1^2 + 1^2
• x^2 = 2
• x = √2

But what is √2? Pythagoras and his followers thought that all numbers could be represented as either whole numbers or ratios of whole numbers. To their dismay, so it’s said, they discovered that they were wrong. √2 is an irrational number – it can’t be represented as a ratio. In modern notation, it’s an infinitely decimal that never repeats:

• √2 = 1·414213562373095048801688724209698…

A modern story, unattested in ancient records, says that the irrationality of √2 was a closely guarded secret in the Pythagorean cult. When Hippasus of Metapontum betrayed the secret, he was drowned at sea by enraged fellow cultists. Apocryphal or not, the story shows that squares aren’t so boring after all.

Nor are they boring when they’re caught in the fract. Divide one square into nine smaller copies of itself:


Discard three of the copies like this:

Stage 1
Retain squares 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 (reading left-to-right, bottom-to-top)


Then do the same to each of the sub-squares:

Stage 1


And repeat:

Stage 3


Stage 4


Stage 5


Stage 6


The result is a fractal of endlessly subdividing contingent hexagons:

Animated vesion


Retain squares 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 (reading left-to-right, bottom-to-top)


Here are a few more of the fractals you can create by squaring and paring:

Retain squares 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 (reading left-to-right, bottom-to-top)


Retain squares 2, 4, 5, 6, 8


Retain squares 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9


Retain squares 1, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 16


Retain squares 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16


Retain squares 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15


Retain squares 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25


Retain squares 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, 19, 23, 25


Retain squares 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 25


Retain squares 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24


Retain squares 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 13, 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25


Previously pre-posted (please peruse):

M.i.P. Trip

He Say, He Sigh, He Sow #19

“The study of mathematics is the indispensable basis for all intellectual and spiritual progress.” — F.M. Cornford (1874-1943) quoted in The Sacred in Music (see also Pythagoreanism).

Factory Records

The factors of n are those numbers that divide n without remainder. So the factors of 6 are 1, 2, 3 and 6. If the function s(n) is defined as “the sum of the factors of n, excluding n, then s(6) = 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. This makes 6 a perfect number: its factors re-create it. 28 is another perfect number. The factors of 28 are 1, 2, 4, 7, 14 and 28, so s(28) = 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 = 28. Other perfect numbers are 496 and 8128. And they’re perfect in any base.

Amicable numbers are amicable in any base too. The factors of an amicable number sum to a second number whose factors sum to the first number. So s(220) = 284, s(284) = 220. That pair may have been known to Pythagoras (c.570-c.495 BC), but s(1184) = 1210, s(1210) = 1184 was discovered by an Italian schoolboy called Nicolò Paganini in 1866. There are also sociable chains, in which s(n), s(s(n)), s(s(s(n))) create a chain of numbers that leads back to n, like this:

12496 → 14288 → 15472 → 14536 → 14264 → 12496 (c=5)

Or this:

14316 → 19116 → 31704 → 47616 → 83328 → 177792 → 295488 → 629072 → 589786 → 294896 → 358336 → 418904 → 366556 → 274924 → 275444 → 243760 → 376736 → 381028 → 285778 → 152990 → 122410 → 97946 → 48976 → 45946 → 22976 → 22744 → 19916 → 17716 → 14316 (c=28)

Those sociable chains were discovered (and christened) in 1918 by the Belgian mathematician Paul Poulet (1887-1946). Other factor-sum patterns are dependant on the base they’re expressed in. For example, s(333) = 161. So both n and s(n) are palindromes in base-10. Here are more examples — the numbers in brackets are the prime factors of n and s(n):

333 (3^2, 37) → 161 (7, 23)
646 (2, 17, 19) → 434 (2, 7, 31)
656 (2^4, 41) → 646 (2, 17, 19)
979 (11, 89) → 101 (prime)
1001 (7, 11, 13) → 343 (7^3)
3553 (11, 17, 19) → 767 (13, 59)
10801 (7, 1543) → 1551 (3, 11, 47)
11111 (41, 271) → 313 (prime)
18581 (17, 1093) → 1111 (11, 101)
31713 (3, 11, 31^2) → 15951 (3, 13, 409)
34943 (83, 421) → 505 (5, 101)
48484 (2^2, 17, 23, 31) → 48284 (2^2, 12071)
57375 (3^3, 5^3, 17) → 54945 (3^3, 5, 11, 37)
95259 (3, 113, 281) → 33333 (3, 41, 271)
99099 (3^2, 7, 11^2, 13) → 94549 (7, 13, 1039)
158851 (7, 11, 2063) → 39293 (prime)
262262 (2, 7, 11, 13, 131) → 269962 (2, 7, 11, 1753)
569965 (5, 11, 43, 241) → 196691 (11, 17881)
1173711 (3, 7, 11, 5081) → 777777 (3, 7^2, 11, 13, 37)

Note how s(656) = 646 and s(646) = 434. There’s an even longer sequence in base-495:

33 → 55 → 77 → 99 → [17][17] → [19][19] → [21][21] → [43][43] → [45][45] → [111][111] → [193][193] → [195][195] → [477][477] (b=495) (c=13)
1488 (2^4, 3, 31) → 2480 (2^4, 5, 31) → 3472 (2^4, 7, 31) → 4464 (2^4, 3^2, 31) → 8432 (2^4, 17, 31) → 9424 (2^4, 19, 31) → 10416 (2^4, 3, 7, 31) → 21328 (2^4, 31, 43) → 22320 (2^4, 3^2, 5, 31) → 55056 (2^4, 3, 31, 37) → 95728 (2^4, 31, 193) → 96720 (2^4, 3, 5, 13, 31) → 236592 (2^4, 3^2, 31, 53)

I also tried looking for n whose s(n) mirrors n. But they’re hard to find in base-10. The first example is this:

498906 (2, 3^3, 9239) → 609894 (2, 3^2, 31, 1093)

498906 mirrors 609894, because the digits of each run in reverse to the digits of the other. Base-9 does better for mirror-sums, clocking up four in the same range of integers:

42 → 24 (base=9)
38 (2, 19) → 22 (2, 11)
402 → 204 (base=9)
326 (2, 163) → 166 (2, 83)
4002 → 2004 (base=9)
2918 (2, 1459) → 1462 (2, 17, 43)
5544 → 4455 (base=9)
4090 (2, 5, 409) → 3290 (2, 5, 7, 47)

Base-11 does better still, clocking up eight in the same range:

42 → 24 (base=11)
46 (2, 23) → 26 (2, 13)
2927 → 7292 (base=11)
3780 (2^2, 3^3, 5, 7) → 9660 (2^2, 3, 5, 7, 23)
4002 → 2004 (base=11)
5326 (2, 2663) → 2666 (2, 31, 43)
13772 → 27731 (base=11)
19560 (2^3, 3, 5, 163) → 39480 (2^3, 3, 5, 7, 47)
4[10]7[10]9 → 9[10]7[10]4 (base=11)
72840 (2^3, 3, 5, 607) → 146040 (2^3, 3, 5, 1217)
6929[10] → [10]9296 (base=11)
100176 (2^4, 3, 2087) → 158736 (2^4, 3, 3307)
171623 → 326171 (base=11)
265620 (2^2, 3, 5, 19, 233) → 520620 (2^2, 3, 5, 8677)
263702 → 207362 (base=11)
414790 (2, 5, 41479) → 331850 (2, 5^2, 6637)

Note that 42 mirrors its factor-sum in both base-9 and base-11. But s(42) = 24 in infinitely many bases, because when 42 = 2 x prime, s(42) = 1 + 2 + prime. So (prime-1) / 2 will give the base in which 24 = s(42). For example, 2 x 11 = 22 and 22 = 42 in base (11-1) / 2 or base-5. So s(42) = 1 + 2 + 11 = 14 = 2 x 5 + 4 = 24[b=5]. There are infinitely many primes, so infinitely many bases in which s(42) = 24.

Base-10 does better for mirror-sums when s(n) is re-defined to include n itself. So s(69) = 1 + 3 + 23 + 69 = 96. Here are the first examples of all-factor mirror-sums in base-10:

69 (3, 23) → 96 (2^5, 3)
276 (2^2, 3, 23) → 672 (2^5, 3, 7)
639 (3^2, 71) → 936 (2^3, 3^2, 13)
2556 (2^2, 3^2, 71) → 6552 (2^3, 3^2, 7, 13)

In the same range, base-9 now produces one mirror-sum, 13 → 31 = 12 (2^2, 3) → 28 (2^2, 7). Base-11 produces no mirror-sums in the same range. Base behaviour is eccentric, but that’s what makes it interesting.