From van IJzeren's correspondence to my aunt and uncle

Browsing through letters sent to my late aunt dr H.A. van Herk-Kluyven, I found the following theorem and proof in a letter from my late brother-in-law mr dr J.van IJzeren. the theorem is surprising but not interesting; this note is devoted to its proof because it is an elementary and very convincing illustration of the use of the device of the General Solution (which I promoted in EWD1155).

The proof uses two theorems.

(0) A Pythagorean triple that is relatively prime, can be written as p2q2, 2pq, p2 + q2 (See EWD1172.)

(1) For prime p, npn is a multiple of p. (Known as "Fermat's Little Theorem", see EWD740.)

The theorem to be proved here —as said: surprising but not interesting— is

(2) For any Pythagorean triple, i.e. with a2 + b2 = c2, there is a multiple of 7 among (a), (b), (ab), (a+b).

*
*
*

Proof Because of a2 + b2 = c2, any factor shared by 2 of the numbers is shared by the 3rd, and hence we can restrict ourselves to a, b, c that are relatively prime. We shall do so in what follows.

With ⊑ denoting "divides" and p,q providing (see (0)) the parameters for the General Solution of a2 + b2 = c2, we observe

  7 ⊑ a ∨ 7 ⊑ b ∨ 7 ⊑ a-b ∨ 7 ⊑ a+b
≡   { algebra, prime.7 }
  7 ⊑ ab(a2b2)
≡   { a := p2q2, b := 2pq }
  7 ⊑ 2(p2q2)pq(p4 - 2p2q2 + q4 – 4p2q2)
≡   { ¬ 7 ⊑ 2, prime.7, algebra }
  7 ⊑ pq(p2q2) (p4 - 6p2q2 + q4)
≡   { modulo calculus }
  7 ⊑ pq(p2q2) (p4 + p2q2 + q4)
≡   { algebra }
  7 ⊑ pq(p6q6)
≡   { algebra }
  7 ⊑ p7qpq7
≡   { Fermat's Little Theorem, modulo calculus, prime.7 }
  7 ⊑ pqpq
≡   { 7 ⊑ 0 }
  true.

I don't think I could have proved this theorem without the introduction of p and q.

Austin, 11 January 2002

prof.dr. Edsger W. Dijkstra
Department of Computer Sciences
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712 – 1188 USA