After Centuries, a Simple Math Problem Gets an Exact Solution

Here’s a simple feeling Problem: Imagine a circular fence enclosing an acre of grass. If you tie a goat inside a fence, how long do you need a rope to allow the animal to reach about half an acre?

It sounds like high school geometry, but mathematicians and mathematics enthusiasts have been solving this problem in various forms for over 270 years. And when they successfully solve some versions, the goat-in-the-circle puzzle refuses to yield anything but fuzzy, incomplete answers.

Even after this time, “no one knows the exact answer to the original root problem,” said Mark Neverson, a mathematician at the US Naval Academy. “The solution is only given approx.”

But earlier this year, a German mathematician named Ingo Ulisk Finally progressed, What is believed to be the first precise solution to the problem – although it also comes in a vague, reader-unfriendly form.

“This is the first clear expression I know of [for the length of the rope], “Said Michael Harrison, a mathematician at Carnegie Mellon University.” It’s definitely an advance. “

Of course, this will not advance textbooks or revolutionize the research of mathematics, occupying Ulkis, as this problem is a different one. “It is not linked to other problems or embedded within a mathematical theory.” But such fun puzzles are also possible to spawn new mathematical ideas and help researchers come up with novel approaches to other problems.

In (and out)

The first such problem was published in the 1748 issue of the London-based periodical. The Ladies Diary: Or, The Woman’s Almanac-A publication that promises to introduce “new improvements in arts and sciences, and many special details.”

The original scenario includes “a horse tied to feed in a Gentlemen’s Park”. In this case, the horse is tied outside a circular fence. If the length of the rope is the same as the perimeter of the fence, what is the maximum area at which the horse can feed? This version was later classified as an “external problem”, as it concerned grazing, rather than outside.

An answer appeared in Diary1749 edition of. It was “furnished by Mr. Heath, who relied on a table of tests and logarithms,” among other resources, to reach his conclusion.

Heath’s answer — 76,257.86 square yards for 160 yards of rope — was an estimate rather than an exact solution. To illustrate the difference, consider the equation X2 – 2 = 0. One can get an approximate numerical answer, X = 1.4142, but it is not satisfactory as an exact or exact solution, X = √2.

This problem was repeated in the first issue in 1894 American mathematical monthly, As an early grader-in-a-fence problem (this time without any reference to farm animals). This type is classified as an internal problem and becomes more challenging than its external counterpart, Ullisch explained. In the external problem, you start with the radius of the circle and the length of the rope and calculate the area. You can solve it through integration.

“Reversing this process – starting with a given field and asking what input results in this field – is much more involved,” Ullisch said.

In the decades that followed, Monthly The published variation on the internal problem, which consisted mainly of horses (and in at least one case, mules) rather than goats, was circular, square, and elliptical in shape. But in the 1960s, for mysterious reasons, goats began to displace horses in grazing-problem literature – despite the fact that the goat, according to mathematician Marshall Fraser, “could be very independent.”

Goats in high dimensions

In 1984, Fraser got creative, taking the problem out of the flat, rustic area and over-expanding area. that Solved How long a rope needs to be allowed to graze exactly half the amount of a goat nDimensional area as n Goes to infinity. Meyerson saw a logical flaw in the argument and Fraser’s mistake corrected After that year, but reached the same conclusion: infinity as n, the ratio of the radius of the sphere to the radius reaches ius2.