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John picked up a notebook and saw that there was a positive real number written on each page.

He
observed that the product of all the numbers was eS/e , where S was the sum of all the numbers. Prove that
S was not an integer, and find the average of the numbers in the notebook.

Answer. Based on the given information, there are finitely many unknown numbers x1 , . . . , xk , where k
is an unknown positive integer. We know that each xi > 0, and that x1 + . . . + xk = S > 0.

Now, the arithmetic mean of the numbers is S/k. So applying the inequality of arithmetic and geometric
means (or using the method of Lagrange multipliers, which is what I myself did originally), we have Sk ≥
Q 1
( xi ) k , with equality if and only if all of the xi are the same. Thus

k  k
Y S
xi ≤ ,
i=1
k

with equality if and only if all of the xi are the same, i.e., if and only if

S
xi = i = 1, . . . , k .
k
S z

Applying elementary calculus to the function z , we then find that

k
Y
xi ≤ eS/e ,
i=1

with equality if and only if each xi = e.

But in John’s case the product was precisely eS/e , which means that in fact each of the numbers must
have been e. Therefore, S = ke, not an integer, and the average of the numbers was e. ♦