Printing not for the Mathematically Challenged

At the Grad School we have one of those fancy printers that are bigger than my Honda Civic. It can do copy, printing, scanning, fax, staples, you name it. Recently I tried to print a one page handout that I needed for class, so I selected 20 copies, pressed print, and proceeded to pack my things to go to class. On the way out the door I stopped by the printer.

To my surprise, there was a stack of copies a mile high. I mean way more than the 20 copies that I printed. I also noticed that they were aligned in little stacks as many printers do to separate successive jobs. Then I noticed that it was still printing my 20 page print job. I quickly got on the front panel and by sheer luck, I was able to cancel the print jobs. Yes, jobs. There were several under my name.

So, I went to class and decided to check it out later. A few days later I figured out what happens. When you print multiple copies, you get that many copies *and* that same many number of jobs. So, if you print n copies you get n*n (n squared) number of copies. Nasty. The job of 20 pages had printed close to 400 pages!

So, now to print a number of copies, I have to solve the following mathematical problem.

Find a set of integers so that sum of their squares equals the number of copies required.

Needless to say, I now print one copy and photocopy the extra ones.

Posted on 10/18/2008



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