Ethical questions: Answers from computer programs

I can solve many of the problems involving integers with quick computer programs. But submitting the answer just feels wrong. Do you think that it is ethical, or fair, to post an answer if you don't understand the solution?

What about if you solve it with a formula but you had to go to your textbook to find the formula? Or searched on the web? Anyone who has access to this site can also google "Sum of fourth powers" or whatever formula is needed.

My personal comfort zone is information that I can understand and could remember next month without looking it up again. But there are online resources which I will not name that make some of these things too easy.

The FAQ states "The problems are designed to be solvable with pencil, paper, and human reasoning. In physics problems, using a calculator is encouraged to arrive at a correct decimal answer. For mathematics problems, featured solutions that use computer programs will only be accepted if you can justify why there was no error in your computation. In general, if you find yourself wanting to brute force an answer with a computer, there is probably a more elegant way to go about it that you are not seeing. "

I can usually justify that there was no error in my computation. I'm good at this stuff, and I know how to deal with most of the differences between real math and computer numbers, such as rounding and floating-point numbers not quite being zero.

Note by Peter Lynn
5 years, 1 month ago

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I believe that using the internet to find formulas that you know exist but don't know exactly is okay. Those are resources that are and should be available to you. But if you are taking a shortcut and listing out all possible situations with a computer or evaluating a complex expression using something like WolframAlpha, that's more cheating, and the computer is doing a lot of the work and not you.

Bob Krueger - 5 years, 1 month ago

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agreed with Bob :)

Riya Gupta - 5 years, 1 month ago

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My gut reaction agrees with Bob too, which is why I have three unsolved questions last week to which I know the answer. Got the answers with a computer.

On the other hand, the FAQ that I quoted seems to permit computer-derived answers. Should that, perhaps, be changed? Or should we all accept the rules as they are? The inconsistency bothers me.

Peter Lynn - 5 years ago

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In the end it is your decision.

Bob Krueger - 5 years ago

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