Simple things can sometimes baffle advanced minds. If you take a number, reverse its digits, add the result to the original number, then repeat all that, will you eventually get a palindrome? (I.e., a number, like 343 or 27172, that reads the same in both directions.) Many numbers do seem to produce palindromes sooner or later. Here are 195 and 197:

195 + 591 = 786 + 687 = 1473 + 3741 = 5214 + 4125 = 9339 (4 steps)

197 + 791 = 988 + 889 = 1877 + 7781 = 9658 + 8569 = 18227 + 72281 = 90508 + 80509 = 171017 + 710171 = 881188 (7 steps)

But what about 196? Well, it starts like this:

196 + 691 = 887 + 788 = 1675 + 5761 = 7436 + 6347 = 13783 + 38731 = 52514 + 41525 = 94039 + 93049 = 187088 + 880781 = 1067869 + 9687601 = 10755470 + 7455701 = 18211171 + 17111281 = 35322452 + 25422353 = 60744805 + 50844706 = 111589511 + 115985111 = 227574622 + 226475722 = 454050344 + 443050454 = 897100798 + 897001798 = 1794102596 + 6952014971 = 8746117567 + 7657116478 = 16403234045 + 54043230461 = 70446464506 + 60546464407 = 130992928913 + 319829299031 = 450822227944 + 449722228054 = 900544455998…

And so far, after literally years of computing by mathematicians, it hasn’t produced a palindrome. It seems very unlikely it ever will, but no-one can prove this and say that 196 is, in base 10, a Lychrel number, or a number that never produces a palindrome. In other words, a simple thing has baffled advanced minds.

I don’t know whether it can baffle advanced minds, but here’s another simple mathematical technique: sum all the digits of a number, then add the result to the original number and repeat. How long before a palindrome appears in this case? Sum it and see:

10 + 1 = 11

12 + 3 = 15 + 6 = 21 + 3 = 24 + 6 = 30 + 3 = 33 (5 steps)

13 + 4 = 17 + 8 = 25 + 7 = 32 + 5 = 37 + 10 = 47 + 11 = 58 + 13 = 71 + 8 = 79 + 16 = 95 + 14 = 109 + 10 = 119 + 11 = 130 + 4 = 134 + 8 = 142 + 7 = 149 + 14 = 163 + 10 = 173 + 11 = 184 + 13 = 197 + 17 = 214 + 7 = 221 + 5 = 226 + 10 = 236 + 11 = 247 + 13 = 260 + 8 = 268 + 16 = 284 + 14 = 298 + 19 = 317 + 11 = 328 + 13 = 341 + 8 = 349 + 16 = 365 + 14 = 379 + 19 = 398 + 20 = 418 + 13 = 431 + 8 = 439 + 16 = 455 + 14 = 469 + 19 = 488 + 20 = 508 + 13 = 521 + 8 = 529 + 16 = 545 (45 steps)

14 + 5 = 19 + 10 = 29 + 11 = 40 + 4 = 44 (4 steps)

15 + 6 = 21 + 3 = 24 + 6 = 30 + 3 = 33 (4 steps)

16 + 7 = 23 + 5 = 28 + 10 = 38 + 11 = 49 + 13 = 62 + 8 = 70 + 7 = 77 (7 steps)

17 + 8 = 25 + 7 = 32 + 5 = 37 + 10 = 47 + 11 = 58 + 13 = 71 + 8 = 79 + 16 = 95 + 14 = 109 + 10 = 119 + 11 = 130 + 4 = 134 + 8 = 142 + 7 = 149 + 14 = 163 + 10 = 173 + 11 = 184 + 13 = 197 + 17 = 214 + 7 = 221 + 5 = 226 + 10 = 236 + 11 = 247 + 13 = 260 + 8 = 268 + 16 = 284 + 14 = 298 + 19 = 317 + 11 = 328 + 13 = 341 + 8 = 349 + 16 = 365 + 14 = 379 + 19 = 398 + 20 = 418 + 13 = 431 + 8 = 439 + 16 = 455 + 14 = 469 + 19 = 488 + 20 = 508 + 13 = 521 + 8 = 529 + 16 = 545 (44 steps)

18 + 9 = 27 + 9 = 36 + 9 = 45 + 9 = 54 + 9 = 63 + 9 = 72 + 9 = 81 + 9 = 90 + 9 = 99 (9 steps)

19 + 10 = 29 + 11 = 40 + 4 = 44 (3 steps)

20 + 2 = 22

I haven’t looked very thoroughly at this technique, so I don’t know whether it throws up a seemingly unpalindromizable number. If it does, I don’t have an advanced mind, so I won’t be able to prove that it is unpalindromizable. But an adaptation of the technique produces something interesting when it is represented on a graph. This time, if s > 9, where s = digit-sum(n), let s = digit-sum(s) until s <= 9 (i.e, s < 10, the base). I call this the condensed digit-sum:

140 + 5 = 145 + 1 = 146 + 2 = 148 + 4 = 152 + 8 = 160 + 7 = 167 + 5 = 172 + 1 = 173 + 2 = 175 + 4 = 179 + 8 = 187 + 7 = 194 + 5 = 199 + 1 = 200 + 2 = 202 (15 steps)

Here, for comparison, is the sequence for 140 using uncondensed digit-sums:

140 + 5 = 145 + 10 = 155 + 11 = 166 + 13 = 179 + 17 = 196 + 16 = 212 (6 steps)

When all the numbers (including palindromes) created using condensed digit-sums are shown on a graph, they create an interesting pattern in base 10 (the x-axis represents n, the y-axis represents n, n1 = n + digit-sum(n), n2 = n1 + digit-sum(n1), etc):

(Please open images in a new window if they fail to animate.)

And here, for comparison, are the patterns created by uncondensed digit-sums in base 2 to 10: