Problem: Let $a_1\dots a_k$ be integers in $Z_{n}$ such that $n=k(k-1)+1$ and that the list of differences $a_i-a_j \bmod n$ is unique to $i,j$ (for $i\neq j$). Such a set exists for $k=1\dots6,8$. No such set exists for $k=7$? (Verified by exhaustive search, but I can't figure out why that case would be different. Is it possible there's an error in my code?)

Does anyone have a quick idea or a short proof of why $k=7, n=43$ would be different? Alternatively, some larger-context work that subsumes this problem and will let me figure out why $n=7$ doesn't work?

Some properties of the $a_i$: The order doesn't matter, so you might as well list them in increasing order. The set of differences has to equal every number between 1 and $n-1$ exactly once, so there will be an equivalent of any valid set that has a $0$ and a $1$. The set of differences is equivalent under rotation of the $a_i$ by addition $\bmod n$ (by design), so pick the one that starts $0,1$ as the class representative. The $a_i$ can also be represented by the $b_i$ where $b_i=a_{i+1}-a_i$. In this case the $b_i$ form a partition of $n$ with all partial sums of sequences in order of the $b_i$ being unique. The $b_i$ are equivalent under rotation of order or flipping the order, but not in otherwise reordering. (IE, the difference list $[1,2,3,4]$ is equivalent to $[1,4,3,2]$ but not $[1,4,2,3]$.)

Background: I was doing an analysis of a card game involving restricted pairs, and found some interesting properties for sets of $n=k(k-1)+1$ symbols, taken $k$ at a time, where each two sets of $k$ symbols have exactly one pair in common.

One thing I found was that I could create a maximal set using a partition slicing strategy. But I wanted to create a pattern $(a_1 \dots a_k)$ that I could simply increment around the modulus $n$ to create every possible $k-$set. What I found was that for $k=1\dots 8, k\neq 7$, I could have at least two such patterns (removing multiples via various equivalencies). However, I have been unable to find one for $k=7$, even with an exhaustive code-based search of the $[43]^7$ vector space.

perfect difference setswhat you are after? $\endgroup$ – Seva Aug 3 '18 at 7:40