From van IJzeren's correspondence to my aunt and uncle
Browsing through letters sent to my late aunt dr H.A. van HerkKluyver, I found the following theorem and proof in a letter from my late brotherinlaw 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 p^{2} – q^{2}, 2pq, p^{2} + q^{2} (See EWD1172.)
(1) For prime p, n^{p} – n 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 a^{2} + b^{2} = c^{2}, there is a multiple of 7 among (a), (b), (a−b), (a+b).
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Proof Because of a^{2} + b^{2} = c^{2}, 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 a^{2} + b^{2} = c^{2}, we observe
7 ⊑ a ∨ 7 ⊑ b ∨ 7 ⊑ ab ∨ 7 ⊑ a+b
≡ { algebra, prime.7 }
7 ⊑ ab(a^{2} – b^{2})
≡ { a := p^{2} – q^{2}, b := 2pq }
7 ⊑ 2(p^{2} – q^{2})pq(p^{4}  2p^{2}q^{2} + q^{4} – 4p^{2}q^{2})
≡ { ¬ 7 ⊑ 2, prime.7, algebra }
7 ⊑ pq(p^{2} – q^{2}) (p^{4}  6p^{2}q^{2} + q^{4})
≡ { modulo calculus }
7 ⊑ pq(p^{2} – q^{2}) (p^{4} + p^{2}q^{2} + q^{4})
≡ { algebra }
7 ⊑ pq(p^{6} – q^{6})
≡ { algebra }
7 ⊑ p^{7}q – pq^{7}
≡ { Fermat's Little Theorem, modulo calculus, prime.7 }
7 ⊑ pq – pq
≡ { 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