Sunday, October 5, 2014

Closed Under Means

Here's a nice little problem from the 13th All Soviet Union Mathematics Olympiad.
Given a set of real numbers \(S\) containing 0 and 1 that's closed under finite means, show that it contains all rational numbers in the interval \(\left[0,1\right]\).
This isn't a difficult problem, but there's a particularly nice solution.

First observe that if \(x\in S\) then both \(\frac{x}{4}\) and \(\frac{3x}{4}\) are in \(S\); average \(\{0,x\}\) to get \(\frac{x}{2}\), average \(\{0, \frac{x}{2}\}\) to get \(\frac{x}{4}\), average \(\{\frac{x}{2}, x\}\) to get \(\frac{3x}{4}\).

We could show any rational number \(\frac{m}{n}\) with \(1\leq m < n\) is in \(S\) if we had \(n\) distinct elements from \(S\) that summed to \(m\). Let's exhibit one.

Start with an array with \(m\) 1s on the left, \(n-m\) 0s on the right. Repeatedly replace adjacent \(x,y\) values with \(\frac{3(x+y)}{4}, \frac{(x+y)}{4}\), where either \(x=1,y\neq1\) or \(x\neq 0, y=0\), until there is one 0 and one 1 left. We can do this in exactly \(n-2\) steps, each resulting number is guaranteed to be in \(S\) by the above note, and each number is guaranteed to be distinct by construction!


\(\frac{1}{3}: \left[1,0,0\right] \to \left[\frac{3}{4},\frac{1}{4},0\right] \)

\(\frac{2}{5}: \left[1,1,0,0,0\right] \to \left[1,\frac{3}{4},\frac{1}{4},0,0\right] \to \left[1,\frac{3}{4},\frac{3}{16},\frac{1}{16},0\right] \)

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