Author Archives: Brent

About Brent

Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Hendrix College. Functional programmer, mathematician, teacher, pianist, follower of Jesus.

More sums of three cubes

About six months ago I wrote about the recent discovery that 33 can be written as the sum of three cubes. At that time, the only remaining number less than 100 whose status was still unknown was 42. And just … Continue reading

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A combinatorial proof: the story so far

In my last post I reintroduced this seemingly odd phenomenon: Start with consecutive integers and raise them all to the th power. Then repeatedly take pairwise differences (i.e. subtract the first from the second, and the second from the third, … Continue reading

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A combinatorial proof: reboot!

More than seven years ago I wrote about a curious phenomenon, which I found out about from Patrick Vennebush: if you start with a sequence of consecutive th powers, and repeatedly take pairwise differences, you always end up with , … Continue reading

Posted in arithmetic, combinatorics, proof | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

PIE: proof by counting

Recall the setup: we have a universal set and a collection of subsets , , , and so on, up to . PIE claims that we can compute the number of elements of that are in none of the (that … Continue reading

Posted in combinatorics, pattern, proof | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

PIE: proof by algebra

In my previous post I stated a very formal, general form of the Principle of Inclusion-Exclusion, or PIE.1 In this post I am going to outline one proof of PIE. I’m not going to give a completely formal proof, because … Continue reading

Posted in combinatorics, induction, pattern, proof | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Formal PIE

I’ve been talking informally about the Principle of Inclusion-Exclusion but I realized it would be useful to state it more formally before proceeding to some proofs. The only problem is that a fully formal statement of PIE has a lot … Continue reading

Posted in combinatorics, pattern | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Have a piece of PIE

Commenter Stuart LoPresti gave a very nice analysis answering the questions at the end of my last post. And indeed, the punchline is that the answers are very similar to the answers to the post before that. PIE If we … Continue reading

Posted in pattern, probability | Tagged , | 6 Comments