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A string is wound symmetrically around a circular rod. The string goes exactly
4 times around the rod. The circumference of the rod is 4 cm and its length is 12 cm.
Find the length of the string.
Show all your work.

(It was presented at a meeting of the European Mathematical Society in 2001,
"Reference levels in mathematics in Europe at age16").

Can you solve it? You may want to try before seing the solution.
[I sometimes train olympiad students at my university, so I like such problems].

eq:= 2/Pi*cos(t), 2/Pi*sin(t), 3/2/Pi*t; # The equations of the helix, t in 0 .. 8*Pi:
p:=plots[spacecurve]([eq, t=0..8*Pi],scaling=constrained,color=red, thickness=5, axes=none):
plots:-display(plottools:-cylinder([0,0,0], 2/Pi, 12, style=surface, color=yellow),
                         p, scaling=constrained,axes=none);

VectorCalculus:-ArcLength(<eq>, t=0..8*Pi);



Let's look at the first loop around the rod.
If we develop the corresponding 1/4 of the cylinder, it results a rectangle  whose sides are 4 and 12/4 = 3.
The diagonal is 5 (ask Pythagora why), so the length of the string is 4*5 = 20.


In a recent post, the following inequality was proved with Maple:

(a,b,c,d >= 0).

Here is another direct proof attempt.

s:=minimize(g, [a=0..infinity,b=0..infinity,c=0..infinity]):
length(s);   # huge


So, Maple returns the expression


where r1,r2,r3 are huge expressions containing RootOfs. In order to evaluate them, several hundreds of digits are needed.
The solution seems to be correct, but the question is: may we (mathematically) accept it? What do you think?


eulermac(1/(n*ln(n)^2),n=2..N,1);  #Error
Error, (in SumTools:-DefiniteSum:-ClosedForm) summand is singular in the interval of summation

eulermac(1/(n*ln(n)^2+1),n=2..N,1);  #nonsense



The well known William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition (76th edition)  took place this month.
Here is a Maple approach for two of the problems.

1. For each real number x, 0 <= x < 1, let f(x) be the sum of  1/2^n  where n runs through all positive integers for which floor(n*x) is even.
Find the infimum of  f.
(Putnam 2015, A4 problem)

local n, s:=0;
for n to N do
  if type(floor(n*x),even) then s:=s+2^(-n) fi;
  #if floor(n*x) mod 2 = 0  then s:=s+2^(-n) fi;

plot(f, 0..0.9999);


min([seq(f(t), t=0.. 0.998,0.0001)]);



So, the infimum is 4/7.
Of course, this is not a rigorous solution, even if the result is correct. But it is a valuable hint.
I am not sure if in the near future, a CAS will be able to provide acceptable solutions for such problems.

2. If the function f  is three times differentiable and  has at least five distinct real zeros,
then f + 6f' + 12f'' + 8f''' has at least two distinct real zeros.
(Putnam 2015, B1 problem)

F := f + 6*D(f) + 12*(D@@2)(f) + 8*(D@@3)(f);


We are sugested to consider

g3:=diff(g, x$3);


So, F(x) = k(x) * g3 = k(x) * g'''
g  has 5 distinct zeros implies g''' and hence F have 5-3=2 distinct zeros, q.e.d.


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