The Ulam Spiral (Euler Problem 28)

By Peter Prevos

Ulam Spiral prime numbers

(This article was first published on The Devil is in the Data, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Euler Problem 28 takes us to the world of the Ulam Spiral. This is a spiral that contains sequential positive integers in a square spiral, marking the prime numbers. Stanislaw Ulam discovered that a lot of primes are located along the diagonals. These diagonals can be described as polynomials. The Ulam Spiral is thus a way of generating quadratic primes (Euler Problem 27).

Ulam Spiral (WikiMedia).

Euler Problem 28 Definition

Starting with the number 1 and moving to the right in a clockwise direction a 5 by 5 spiral is formed as follows:

21 22 23 24 25
20 07 08 09 10
19 06 01 02 11
18 05 04 03 12
17 16 15 14 13

It can be verified that the sum of the numbers on the diagonals is 101. What is the sum of the numbers on the diagonals in a 1001 by 1001 spiral formed in the same way?

Proposed Solution

To solve this problem we do not need to create a matrix. This code calculates the values of the corners of a matrix with size n. The lowest number in the matrix with size n is n(n-3)+4. The numbers increase by n-1.

The code steps through all matrices from size 3 to 1001. The solution uses only the uneven sized matrices because these have a centre. The answer to the problem is the sum of all numbers.


Plotting the Ulam Spiral

We can go beyond Euler Problem 28 and play with the mathematics. This code snippet plots all the prime numbers in the Ulam Spiral. Watch the video for an explanation of the patterns that appear along the diagonals.

Ulam Spiral prime numbers.

The code creates a matrix of the required size and fills it with the Ulam Spiral. The code then identifies all primes using the function from Euler Problem 7. A heat map visualises the results.

# Ulam Spiral

The post The Ulam Spiral (Euler Problem 28) appeared first on The Devil is in the Data.

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