Questions tagged [co.combinatorics]

Enumerative combinatorics, graph theory, order theory, posets, matroids, designs and other discrete structures. It also includes algebraic, analytic and probabilistic combinatorics.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
184 votes
3 answers
94k views

Issue UPDATE: in graph theory, different definitions of edge crossing numbers - impact on applications?

QUICK FINAL UPDATE: Just wanted to thank you MO users for all your support. Special thanks for the fast answers, I've accepted first one, appreciated the clarity it gave me. I've updated my torus ...
139 votes
65 answers
34k views

Important formulas in combinatorics

Motivation: The poster for the conference celebrating Noga Alon's 60th birthday, fifteen formulas describing some of Alon's work are presented. (See this post, for the poster, and cash prizes offered ...
138 votes
32 answers
11k views

Conceptual reason why the sign of a permutation is well-defined?

Teaching group theory this semester, I found myself laboring through a proof that the sign of a permutation is a well-defined homomorphism $\operatorname{sgn} : \Sigma_n \to \Sigma_2$. An insightful ...
  • 52.6k
117 votes
4 answers
7k views

What do the stable homotopy groups of spheres say about the combinatorics of finite sets?

The Barratt-Priddy-Quillen(-Segal) theorem says that the following spaces are homotopy equivalent in an (essentially) canonical way: $\Omega^\infty S^\infty:=\varinjlim~ \Omega^nS^n$ $\mathbb{Z}\...
  • 21.1k
111 votes
7 answers
7k views

Is the set $ AA+A $ always at least as large as $ A+A $?

Let $A$ be a finite set of real numbers. Is it always the case that $|AA+A| \geq |A+A|$? My first instinct is that this is obviously true, and there is a one-line proof which I am foolishly ...
110 votes
15 answers
88k views

Sum of 'the first k' binomial coefficients for fixed $N$

I am interested in the function $$f(N,k)=\sum_{i=0}^{k} {N \choose i}$$ for fixed $N$ and $0 \leq k \leq N $. Obviously it equals 1 for $k = 0$ and $2^{N}$ for $k = N$, but are there any other ...
  • 1,178
104 votes
5 answers
9k views

integral of a "sin-omial" coefficients=binomial

I find the following averaged-integral amusing and intriguing, to say the least. Is there any proof? For any pair of integers $n\geq k\geq0$, we have $$\frac1{\pi}\int_0^{\pi}\frac{\sin^n(x)}{\...
97 votes
11 answers
15k views

Why do Bernoulli numbers arise everywhere?

I have seen Bernoulli numbers many times, and sometimes very surprisingly. They appear in my textbook on complex analysis, in algebraic topology, and of course, number theory. Things like the criteria ...
97 votes
3 answers
5k views

Why do combinatorial abstractions of geometric objects behave so well?

This question is inspired by a talk of June Huh from the recent "Current Developments in Mathematics" conference. Here are two examples of the kind of combinatorial abstractions of geometric ...
  • 19.9k
96 votes
17 answers
116k views

Google question: In a country in which people only want boys [closed]

Hi all! Google published recently questions that are asked to candidates on interviews. One of them caused very very hot debates in our company and we're unsure where the truth is. The question is: ...
  • 1,087
90 votes
5 answers
4k views

Can a row of five equilateral triangles tile a big equilateral triangle?

Can rotations and translations of this shape perfectly tile some equilateral triangle? I originally asked this on math.stackexchange where it was well received and we made some good progress. Here's ...
81 votes
4 answers
7k views

Wanted: a "Coq for the working mathematician"

Sorry for a possibly off-topic question -- there are four StackExchange subs each of which could be construed as the proper place for this question, and I've just picked the one I'm most familiar with....
79 votes
9 answers
7k views

What are some examples of interesting uses of the theory of combinatorial species?

This is a question I've asked myself a couple of times before, but its appearance on MO is somewhat motivated by this thread, and sigfpe's comment to Pete Clark's answer. I've often heard it claimed ...
  • 1,520
79 votes
6 answers
4k views

Does every polyomino tile R^n for some n?

This is a question posed by Adam Chalcraft. I am posting it here because I think it deserves wider circulation, and because maybe someone already knows the answer. A polyomino is usually defined to ...
79 votes
10 answers
8k views

Existence of a zero-sum subset

Some time ago I heard this question and tried playing around with it. I've never succeeded to making actual progress. Here it goes: Given a finite (nonempty) set of real numbers, $S=\{a_1,a_2,\dots, ...
74 votes
4 answers
6k views

What is the amplituhedron?

The paper ”Scattering Amplitudes and the Positive Grassmannian” by Nima Arkani-Hamed, Jacob L. Bourjaily, Freddy Cachazo, Alexander B. Goncharov, Alexander Postnikov, and Jaroslav Trnka, introduces ...
  • 23.8k
73 votes
11 answers
24k views

Does War have infinite expected length?

My question concerns the (completely deterministic) card game known as War, played by seven-year-olds everywhere, such as my son Horatio, and sometimes also by others, such as their fathers. The ...
71 votes
8 answers
14k views

What is Lagrange Inversion good for?

I am planning an introductory combinatorics course (mixed grad-undergrad) and am trying to decide whether it is worth budgeting a day for Lagrange inversion. The reason I hesitate is that I know of ...
67 votes
7 answers
13k views

Identifying poisoned wines

The standard version of this puzzle is as follows: you have $1000$ bottles of wine, one of which is poisoned. You also have a supply of rats (say). You want to determine which bottle is the poisoned ...
67 votes
6 answers
7k views

How to recognise that the polynomial method might work

A couple of days ago I was at a nice seminar given by Christian Reiher, during which he told us about a short proof of the following special case of a theorem of Olson. Theorem. Let $(a_1,b_1),\dots,(...
  • 27.9k
66 votes
5 answers
16k views

What is a chess piece mathematically?

Historically, the current "standard" set of chess pieces wasn't the only existing alternative or even the standard one. For instance, the famous Al-Suli's Diamond Problem (which remained ...
66 votes
1 answer
4k views

(Approximately) bijective proof of $\zeta(2)=\pi^2/6$?

Given $A,B\in {\Bbb Z}^2$, write $A \leftrightarrows B$ if the interior of the line segment $AB$ misses ${\Bbb Z}^2$. For $r>0$, define $S_r:=\{ \{A, B\} \mid A,B\in {\Bbb Z}^2,\|A\|<r,\|B\|<...
65 votes
2 answers
3k views

Function that produces primes

For any $n\geq 2$ consider the recursion \begin{align*} a(0,n)&=n;\\ a(m,n)&=a(m-1,n)+\operatorname{gcd}(a(m-1,n),n-m),\qquad m\geq 1. \end{align*} I conjecture that $a(n-1,n)$ is always ...
63 votes
1 answer
4k views

How to be rigorous about combinatorial algorithms?

1. The question This may be the worst question I've ever posed on MathOverflow: broad, open-ended and likely to produce heat. Yet, I think any progress that will be made here will be extremely useful ...
61 votes
19 answers
11k views

Generalizations of the four-color theorem

The four color theorem asserts that every planar graph can be properly colored by four colors. The purpose of this question is to collect generalizations, variations, and strengthenings of the four ...
60 votes
7 answers
6k views

Euler-Maclaurin formula and Riemann-Roch

Let $Df$ denote the derivative of a function $f(x)$ and $\bigtriangledown f=f(x)-f(x-1)$ be the discrete derivative. Using the Taylor series expansion for $f(x-1)$, we easily get $\bigtriangledown = ...
  • 12.8k
60 votes
4 answers
2k views

Flipping coins on a budget

A coin is flipped $n$ times and you win if it comes up heads at least $k$ times. The coin is unusual in that you're allowed to pick the probability $p_i$ that it comes up heads on the $i$th flip, ...
59 votes
1 answer
2k views

Which region in the plane with a given area has the most domino tilings?

I just finished teaching a class in combinatorics in which I included a fairly easy upper bound on the number of domino tilings of a region in the plane as a function of its area. So this led to ...
56 votes
7 answers
24k views

Is the Jaccard distance a distance?

Wikipedia defines the Jaccard distance between sets A and B as $$J_\delta(A,B)=1-\frac{|A\cap B|}{|A\cup B|}.$$ There's also a book claiming that this is a metric. However, I couldn't find any ...
  • 1,295
55 votes
1 answer
3k views

Intersecting family of triangulations

Let $\cal T_n$ be the family of all triangulations on an $n$-gon using $(n-3)$ non-intersecting diagonals. The number of triangulations in $\cal T_n$ is $C_{n-2}$ the $(n-2)$th Catalan number. Let $\...
  • 23.8k
54 votes
3 answers
7k views

cube + cube + cube = cube

The following identity is a bit isolated in the arithmetic of natural integers $$3^3+4^3+5^3=6^3.$$ Let $K_6$ be a cube whose side has length $6$. We view it as the union of $216$ elementary unit ...
  • 48.5k
54 votes
4 answers
12k views

Connectivity of the Erdős–Rényi random graph

It is well-known that if $\omega=\omega(n)$ is any function such that $\omega \to \infty$ as $n \to \infty$, and if $p \ge (\log{n}+\omega) / n$ then the Erdős–Rényi random graph $G(n,p)$ is ...
53 votes
4 answers
4k views

How many square roots can a non-identity element in a group have?

Let $G$ be a finite group. Let $r_2\colon G \to \mathbb{N}$ be the square-root counting function, assigning to each $g\in G$ the number of $x\in G$ with $x^2=g$. Perhaps surprisingly, $r_2$ does not ...
  • 765
53 votes
3 answers
5k views

Number of elements in the set $\{1,\cdots,n\}\cdot\{1,\cdots,n\}$

Let $A_n=\{a\cdot b : a,b \in \mathbb{N}, a,b\leq n\}$. Are there any estimates for $|A_n|$? Will it be $o(n^2)$?
53 votes
10 answers
8k views

The "sensitivity" of 2-colorings of the d-dimensional integer lattice

Consider the $d$-dimensional integer lattice, $Z^d$. Call two points in $Z^d$ "neighbors" if their Euclidean distance is 1 (i.e., if they differ by 1 on exactly one coordinate). Let $C$ be a two-...
52 votes
2 answers
17k views

Is there winning strategy in Tetris ? What if Young diagrams are falling?

Question 1 Is there a winning strategy (algorithm to play infinitely) in Tetris, or is there a sequence of bricks which is impossible to pack without holes? Consider generalized Tetris with Young ...
52 votes
2 answers
8k views

Walsh Fourier transform of the Möbius function

This question is related to this previous question where I asked about ordinary Fourier coefficients. ##Special case: is Möbius nearly orthogonal to Morse ! Harold Calvin Marston Morse (24 March 1892 ...
52 votes
1 answer
5k views

Why are there 1024 Hamiltonian cycles on an icosahedron?

Fix one edge $e$ of the graph (1-skeleton) of an icosahedron. By a computer search, I found that there are 1024 Hamiltonian cycles that include $e$. [But see edit below re directed vs. undirected!] ...
51 votes
8 answers
5k views

What are the external triumphs of matroid theory?

As a relatively new abstraction, matroids clearly enjoy a rich theory unto themselves and also offer a viewpoint that suggests interesting analogies and clarifies aspects of the foundations of ...
51 votes
2 answers
5k views

The "square root" of a graph?

The number $f(n)$ of graphs on the vertex set $\{1,\dots,n\}$, allowing loops but not multiple edges, is $2^{{n+1\choose 2}}$, with exponential generating function $F(x)=\sum_{n\geq 0} 2^{{n+1\choose ...
50 votes
37 answers
6k views

Structures that turn out to exhibit a symmetry even though their definition doesn't

Sometimes (often?) a structure depending on several parameters turns out to be symmetric w.r.t. interchanging two of the parameters, even though the definition gives a priori no clue of that symmetry. ...
50 votes
19 answers
13k views

Linear algebra proofs in combinatorics?

Simple linear algebra methods are a surprisingly powerful tool to prove combinatorial results. Some examples of combinatorial theorems with linear algebra proofs are the (weak) perfect graph theorem, ...
50 votes
8 answers
3k views

Puzzle on deleting k bits from binary vectors of length 3k

Consider all $2^n$ different binary vectors of length $n$ and assume $n$ is an integer multiple of $3$. You are allowed to delete exactly $n/3$ bits from each of the binary vectors, leaving vectors ...
50 votes
4 answers
10k views

Do there exist chess positions that require exponentially many moves to reach?

By "chess" here I mean chess played on an $n\times n$ board with an unbounded number of (non-king) pieces. Some care is needed if you want to generalize some of the subtler rules of chess to an $n\...
50 votes
2 answers
3k views

vector balancing problem

I believe the solution posted to the arXiv on June 17 by Marcus, Spielman, and Srivastava is correct. This problem may be hard, so I don't expect an off-the-cuff solution. But can anyone suggest ...
  • 39.1k
50 votes
0 answers
2k views

On the first sequence without triple in arithmetic progression

In this Numberphile video (from 3:36 to 7:41), Neil Sloane explains an amazing sequence: It is the lexicographically first among the sequences of positive integers without triple in arithmetic ...
49 votes
15 answers
10k views

Strengthening the induction hypothesis

Suppose you are trying to prove result $X$ by induction and are getting nowhere fast. One nice trick is to try to prove a stronger result $X'$ (that you don't really care about) by induction. This ...
48 votes
12 answers
7k views

Combinatorial results without known combinatorial proofs

Stanley likes to keep a list of combinatorial results for which there is no known combinatorial proof. For example, until recently I believe the explicit enumeration of the de Brujin sequences fell ...
48 votes
6 answers
6k views

Is there an "elegant" non-recursive formula for these coefficients? Also, how can one get proofs of these patterns?

Not sure if this is a "good" question for this forum or if it'll get panned, but here goes anyway... Consider this problem. I've been trying to find a formula to expand the "regular iteration" of "...
48 votes
0 answers
2k views

Does every triangle-free graph with maximum degree at most 6 have a 5-colouring?

A very specific case of Reed's Conjecture Reed's $\omega$,$\Delta$, $\chi$ conjecture proposes that every graph has $\chi \leq \lceil \tfrac 12(\Delta+1+\omega)\rceil$. Here $\chi$ is the chromatic ...

1
2 3 4 5
192