In an earlier post, Ξ had mentioned a question from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire that made reference to “a famous “pyramid” of numbers that starts with the number one on top”. The intended answer was “Pascal’s Triangle” (my emphasis).
That got me wondering what a three dimensional analogue of the Pascal Triangle might look like.
Today we’ll explore a Pascal-like construction of a square pyramid. The top-most point on the pyramid will be assigned the value 1. As we move down the pyramid, let’s assign each point a value by taking the sum of the 4 terms directly above and adjacent to each point.
If you think about the 4 outer faces, each point along a face only has two points that lie above it. Thus if we restrict our attention just to one outer face, our construction is identical to the two dimensional Pascal triangle, and for each face we should get the familiar binomial coefficients.
One can describe how a given entry depends on those above it: If we let f(n, a, b) be the entry in the nth layer down from the top, in row a and column b, then the entries that lie above will be in layer n-1, their row will be a or a-1, and their column will be b or b-1. Thus
f (n, a, b) = f(n-1, a-1,b-1) + f(n-1, a, b-1) + f(n-1, a-1, b) + f(n-1, a, b)
with f(0,0,0)=1, and f understood to be zero if any of the parameters get out of range (e.g. if a or b > n, or is negative).
Numerically, we get the following pattern (for 0 ≤ n ≤ 6):
For example, the entries in the fifth layer are:
Each entry appears to be the product of the first entry in its row, with the first entry in its column. Since we know the row and column values are binomial coefficients, we conjecture that .
To prove this, we start by verifying that when n=0, the product of the binomial coefficients is equal to 1. Proceeding inductively, we assume that the result holds for n-1, and we compute f(n,a,b):
QED by induction; each entry in Pascal’s Square Pyramid is a product of two binomial coefficients, and is equal to the sum of the four terms immediately above it.
Coming up: Tetrahedral pyramids (2/3); Sierpinski’s Pascal Pyramid (3/3)