IBM Research | Ponder This | February 2013 solutions
Skip to main content

February 2013

<<January February March>>


When preparing the challenge this month, I made a small mistake that made the question much easier than intended.

Here is the solution, as I derived it:

Let y^2 be a k-digits-long number, giving us 10^k x^2 + y^2 = z^2.

Write z=10^k a + b and we get

10^k x^2 + y^2 = (10^k a + b)^2 = 10^k a(10^k a+ 2b) + b^2.

So, b^2=y^2 (mod 10^k). Here I made the mistake of concluding that b=y.


Those who want to try to solve a more difficult version of the question, can stop here and ponder a little on solving this version.

My mistake was, of course, that b can be -y mod(10^k), which lends itself to several trivial solutions like

x = 5 * 10^(k-1) - 1; y = 10^k -1; and z = 5 * 10^(2 * k-1) - 10^k + 1.

If we continue with the assumption that b=y, we get

x^2 = a^2 10^k + 2ya

so y = (x^2-a^2 10^k) / 2a.

For every k and a, we can compute x as ceil(a*sqrt(10^k)) and check whether the resulting y is divisible by 2a.

The fact that sqrt(10^37) is surprisingly close to an integer (~3162277660168379331.99889) gives us, for k=37, many possible solutions. Choosing a=463 gives us the intended solution of

x=1464134556657959630716

y=1619999831463380856

z=4630000000000000000001619999831463380856


János Kramár and Andreas Stiller sent us a solution with y=1, where one can solve Pell's equation: 10*x^2 + 1 = z^2 and get:

x=44101535838578367767701517414261786147419230399948898912033566977281348406767427039616458154500555609301871792239537197062035119616191426015391050131988492071587920645046734772112341070906349353550324660996677696009221202338336

y=1

z=139461301561451525695691667071742666259644328693387043194785898131383963733064589327602699959968509145992213260946921467365082720725567556648743873803852310099994956836260701173999664267548159260952703090632330767251579838305281

Jan Fricke also used Pell's equation to get to a solution with 60,503 digits.


If you have any problems you think we might enjoy, please send them in. All replies should be sent to: webmster@us.ibm.com