Pre-RMO training; a statement and its converse; logic and plane geometry

I hope the following explanation is illuminating to my readers/students:

How to prove that two lines are parallel ? (Note that we talk of parallel lines only when they lie in the same plane; on the other hand: consider the following scenario — your study table and the floor on which it stands. Let us say you draw a straight line AB on your study table and another line PQ on the floor on which the study table is standing; then, even though lines AB and PQ never meet, we do not say that they are parallel because they lie in different planes. Such lines are called skew lines. They are dealt with in solid geometry or 3D geometry or vector spaces).

Coming back to the question — when can we say that two lines are parallel?


Suppose that a transversal crosses two other lines.

1) If the corresponding angles are equal, then the lines are parallel.
2) If the alternate angles are equal, then the lines are parallel.
3) If the co-interior angles are supplementary, then the lines are parallel.


Let us first consider the following statements:

A transversal is a line that crosses two other lines. If the lines crossed by a transversal are parallel, then the corresponding angles are equal; if the lines crossed by a transversal are parallel, then the alternate interior angles are equal; if the lines crossed by a transversal are parallel, then the co-interior angles are supplementary.

The statements given below are the converses of the statement given in the above paragraph; meaning that they are formed from the former statements by reversing the logic. For example:

STATEMENT: If the lines are parallel then the corresponding angles are equal.

CONVERSE: If the corresponding angles are equal, then the lines are parallel.

Pairs such as these, a statement and its converse, occur routinely through out mathematics, and are particularly prominent in geometry. In this case, both the statement and its converse are true. It is important to realize that a statement and its converse are, in general, quite different. NEVER ASSUME THAT BECAUSE A STATEMENT IS TRUE, SO ITS CONVERSE IS ALSO TRUE. For example, consider the following:

STATEMENT: If a number is a multiple of 4, then it is even.
CONVERSE: If a number is even, then it is a multiple of 4.

The first statement is clearly true. But, let us consider the number 18. It is even. But 18 is not a multiple of 4. So, the converse is not true always.

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STATEMENT: If you catch a wave, then you will be happy.
CONVERSE: If you are happy, then you will catch a wave.

Many people would agree with the first statement, but everyone knows that its converse is plain silly — you need skill to catch waves.

Thus, the truth of a statement has little to do with its converse. Separate justifications (proofs) are required for the converse and its statements.

Nalin Pithwa.

Reference: (I found the above beautiful, simple, lucid explanation in the following text): ICE-EM, year 7, book 1; The University of Melbourne, Australian Curriculum, Garth Gaudry et al.

In bubbles, she sees a mathematical universe: Abel Laureate, Prof Karen Uhlenbeck

I was just skimming the biography “A Beautiful Mind” by Sylvia Nasar, about the life of mathematical genius, John Nash, Economics Nobel Laureate (and later Abel Laureate)…

Some math wisdom came to my mind: Good mathematicians look for analogies between theorems but the very best of them look for analogies within analogies; I was reading the following from the biography of John Nash: …It was the great HUngarian-born polymath John von Neumann who first recognized that social behaviour could be analyzed as games. Von Neumann’s 1928 article on parlour games was the first successful attempt to derive logical and mathematical rules about rivalries. Just as Blake saw the universe in a grain of sand, great scientists have often looked for clues to vast and complex problems in the small, familiar phenomena of daily life. Isaac Newton reached insights about the heavens by juggling wooden balls. Einstein contemplated a boat paddling upriver. Von Neumann pondered the game of poker.


And, read how first woman Abel Laureate, genius mathematician Prof Karen Uhlenbeck sees a mathematical universe in bubbles…

Hats off to Prof Karen Uhlenbeck and NY Times author, Siobhan Roberts!!

What is the kind of concentration required for RMO INMO IMO and IITJEE Advanced Mathematics?

Laser like concentration is a pre-requisite to genuinely creative work in math, computer science, or any other field, like chess and music. Let me illustrate a story of John Nash Jr. (Nobel Laureate, Economics, Abel Laureate genius mathematician): (Reference: A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar, Chapter 5 Genius):

KAI LAI CHUNG, a mathematics instructor who had survived the horrors of the Japanese conquest of his native China, was surprised to see the door of the Professors’ Room standing ajar.  It was usually locked. Kai Lai liked to stop by on the rare occasions when it was open and nobody was about. It had the feel of an empty church, no longer imposing and intimidating as it was in the afternoons when it was crowded with mathematical luminaries, but simply a beautiful sanctuary.

The light in the west common room filtered through thick stained-glass windows inlaid with formulae: Newton’s law of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. At the far end, like an altar, was a massive stone fireplace. On one side was a carving of a fly confronting
the paradox of the MObius band. MObius had given a strip of paper a half twist and connected the ends, creating a seemingly impossible object: a surface with only one side. Kai Lai especially liked to read the whimsical inscription over the fire-place, Einstein’s expression of faith in science, “Der Herr Gott ist raffiniert aber Boshaft ist Er nicht,” which he took to mean that “the Lord is subtle but not malicious.”

On this particular fall morning, as he reached the threshold of the half-open door, Kai Lai stopped abruptly. A few feet away, on the massive table that dominated the room, floating among a sea of papers, sprawled a beautiful dark-haired young man. He lay on his back staring up at the ceiling as if he were outside on a lawn under an elm looking up at the sky through the leaves, perfectly relaxed, motionless, obviously lost in thought, arms folded behind his head. He was whistling softly. Kai Lai recognized the distinctive profile immediately. It was the new graduate student from West Virginia. A trifle shocked and a little embarrassed,
Kai Lai backed away from the door and hurried away before Nash could see or hear him.


Nalin Pithwa

Prof. Tim Gowers’ on recognising countable sets

Thanks Dr. Gowers’. These are invaluable insights into basics. Thanks for giving so much of your time.

Prof. Tim Gowers’ on functions, domains, etc.

Thanks a lot Prof. Gowers! Math should be sans ambiguities as far as possible…!

I hope my students and readers can appreciate the details in this blog article of Prof. Gowers.

Nalin Pithwa