Archive for Le Monde

art brut

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , on June 25, 2016 by xi'an

Le Monde puzzle [#965]

Posted in Kids, R with tags , , , on June 14, 2016 by xi'an

A game-related Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

Starting with a pile of 10⁴ tokens, Bob plays the following game: at each round, he picks one of the existing piles with at least 3 tokens, takes away one of the tokens in this pile, and separates the remaining ones into two non-empty piles of arbitrary size. Bob stops when all piles have identical size. What is this size and what is the maximal number of piles?

First, Bob can easily reach a decomposition that prevents all piles to be of the same size: for instance, he can start with a pile of 1 and another pile of 2. Looking at the general perspective, an odd number of tokens, n=2k+1, can be partitioned into (1,1,2k-1). Which means that the decomposition (1,1,…,1) involving k+1 ones can always be achieved. For an even number, n=2k, this is not feasible. If the number 2k can be partitioned into equal numbers u, this means that the sequence 2k-(u+1),2k-2(u+1),… ends up with u, hence that there exist m such that 2k-m(u+1)=u or that 2k+1 is a multiple of (u+1). Therefore, the smallest value is made of the smallest factor of 2k+1. Minus one. For 2k=10⁴, this value is equal to 72, while it is 7 for 10³. The decomposition is impossible for 2k=100, since 101 is prime. Here are the R functions used to check this analysis (with small integers, if not 10⁴):

solvant <- function(piles){
 if ((length(piles)>1)&((max(piles)==2)||(min(piles)==max(piles)))){
   while (piles[i]<3)

disolvant <- function(piles){
 while (min(sol)<max(sol))

resolvant <- function(piles){
 for (t in 1:piles){
 if (length(sol)>maxle){

Le Monde puzzle [#964]

Posted in Books, Kids, R with tags , , on June 2, 2016 by xi'an

A not so enticing Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

Find the minimal value of a five digit number divided by the sum of its digits.

This can formalised as finding the minimum of N/(a+b+c+d+e) when N writes abcde. And solved by brute force. Using a rough approach to finding the digits of a five-digit number, the question can be easily solved as

for (i in 1e4:1e5){
 pres=i/sum((i %% 10^{5:1})) %/% 10^{4:0})
 if (pres<pris){

which returns N=10999 as its solution. (The solution for six digits is 10999.) The mathematical solution as provided in the newspaper certainly sounded more exciting.

Le Monde puzzle [#960]

Posted in Kids, R with tags , , , , , on April 28, 2016 by xi'an

An arithmetic Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

Given an integer k>1, consider the sequence defined by F(1)=1+1 mod k, F²(1)=F(1)+2 mod k, F³(1)=F²(1)+3 mod k, &tc. [With this notation, F is not necessarily a function.] For which value of k is the sequence the entire {0,1,…,k-1} set?

This leads to an easy brute force resolution, for instance writing the R function

crkl<-function(k) return(unique(cumsum(1:(2*k))%%k))

where 2k is a sufficient substitute for ∞. Then the cases where the successive images of 1 visit the entire set {0,1,…,k-1} are given by

> for (i in 2:550) if (length(crkl(i))==i) print(i)
[1] 2
[1] 4
[1] 8
[1] 16
[1] 32
[1] 64
[1] 128
[1] 256
[1] 512

which suspiciously looks like the result that only the powers of 2 k=2,2²,2³,… lead to a complete exploration of the set {0,1,…,k-1}. Checking a few series in the plane back from Warwick, I quickly found that when k is odd, (1) the sequence is of period k and (2) there is symmetry in the sequence, which means it only takes (k-1)/2 values. For k even, there is a more complicated symmetry, with the sequence being of period 2k, symmetric around its two middle values, and taking the values 1,2,..,1+k(2k+1)/4,..,1+k(k+1)/2. Those values cannot cover the set {0,1,…,k-1} if two are equal, which means an i(i+1)/2 congruent to zero modulo k, hence equal to k. This is clearly impossible when k is a power of 2 because i and i+1 cannot both divide a power of 2. I waited for the published solution as of yesterday’s and the complete argument was to show that when N=2p, the corresponding sequence [for N] is made (modulo p) of the sequence for p plus the same sequence translated by p. The one for N is complete only if the one for p is complete, which by recursion eliminates all cases but the powers of 2…

Le Monde puzzle [#959]

Posted in Kids, R with tags , , , on April 20, 2016 by xi'an

Another of those arithmetic Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

Find an integer A such that A is the sum of the squares of its four smallest dividers (including1) and an integer B such that B is the sum of the third poser of its four smallest factors. Are there such integers for higher powers?

This begs for a brute force resolution checking the integers until a solution appears. The only exciting part is providing the four smallest factors but a search on Stack overflow led to an existing R function:

FUN <- function(x) {
    x <- as.integer(x)
    div <- seq_len(abs(x))
    return(div[x %% div == 0L])

(which uses the 0L representation I was unaware of) and hence my R code:

 while ((stop)&(I<1e6)){
  if (length(dive)>3)

But this code only seems to work for n=2 as produces A=130: it does not return any solution for the next value of n… As shown by the picture below, which solely exhibits a solution for n=2,5, A=17864 (in the second case), there is no solution less than 10⁶ for n=3,4,6,..9. So, unless I missed a point in the question, the solutions for n>2 are larger if they at all exist.

lemonde959A resolution got published yesterday night in Le Monde  and (i) there is indeed no solution for n=3 (!), (ii) there are solutions for n=4 (1,419,874) and n=5 (1,015,690), which are larger than the 10⁶ bound I used in the R code, (iii) there is supposedly no solution for n=5!, when the R code found that 17,864=1⁵+2⁵+4⁵+7⁵… It is far from the first time the solution is wrong or incomplete!

Le Monde puzzle [#958]

Posted in Books, Kids, R with tags , , , on April 11, 2016 by xi'an

A knapsack Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

Given n packages weighting each at most 5.8kg for a total weight of 300kg, is it always possible to allocate these packages  to 12 separate boxes weighting at most 30kg each? weighting at most 29kg each?

This can be checked by brute force using the following R code

#generate packages
while (sum(paca)<300){ 


#check if they can be partitioned into 
#12 groups of weight less than 30 
#random allocation 
for (i in 1:12){ 
#wrong allocation 
 while (max(content)>30){
  while (k==i){

repeatedly and could not find an endless while loop. (Empty boxes sometimes lead to negative contents, hence my fix setting negative contents to zero.) But neither did I find an issue when the upper bound on the weight is 29kg… So it is either possible or rarely impossible! The R code immediately gets stuck when setting the bound at 25kg.

After reading the solution of April 13 in Le Monde, it appears that there is a counter example for the 29kg limit, namely 60 packages weighting 4.91kg plus one package weighting 5.4kg, since the first 60 packages fit inside 12 boxes and the last one is left out.

Le Monde puzzle [#956]

Posted in Kids, R with tags , , , on April 5, 2016 by xi'an

A Le Monde mathematical puzzle with little need of R programming but ending up being rather fascinating:

Does there exist a function f from N to N such that (i) f is (strictly) increasing, (ii) f(n)≥n, and (iii) f²(n)=f(f(n))=3n?

Indeed, the three constraints imply (a) f²(0)=0, hence that that f(0)=0, (b) f(1)=2 as it can be neither 1 (else f²(1) would be equal to 1, not to 3) nor 3 (else f(3)=f²(1)=3 would contradict both f(3)>f(1) and f²(3)=9), and thus (c) f(2)=f²(1)=3. Those three two initial values are actually sufficient to determine all subsequent values of f(n) as there are exactly three possible values between f²(n)=3n and f²(n+1)=3(n+1)=3n+3. (Kind of shaky argument, I must say, but each time an integer n has no antecedent in the previous f(m)’s, there are exactly two possible and successive values for two indeterminate f(n)’s… The resolution in Le Monde [published this afternoon] starts from the observation that f(3p)=2 3p and thus that f(2 3p)=3p+1, which leaves a single possible image for the values in between 3p and 2 3p.) It however provides no discussion whatsoever on the maths behind this freak function.lemonde956To plot the above function, I used the R code below:

 for (i in 2:N){
 #anc for antecedent, f(anc)=i
 #no antecedent
  if (length(anc)==0){
   u=1; anc=which(vals==i-1)}
  if (length(anc)==0){
   u=2; anc=which(vals==i-2)}

The graph has many interesting features, one of which that explains why I did not plot the axes, namely that it is somewhat self-reproducing, in that the plot for N=10³ has the same pattern as the plot for N=10⁵, with a few long linear parts around the line y=√3x (since f is essentially an integer-valued version of √3x). Each linear part is about 3 times longer than the earlier one, with slopes of b=1 and b=3 alternating.

While the resolution is obvious for f²(n)=4n, since f(n)=√4n=2n, there is no single resolution when f²(n)=5n. (Maybe there is one if instead the third condition is that f⁴(n)=5n… A new puzzle for the reader.)


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