A is the matrix
a b c d e f g h idet A = 0 and the cofactor of each element is its square (for example the cofactor of b is fg - di = b2). Show that all elements of A are zero.
a2e2 - b2d2 = (ei - fh)(ai - cg) - (fg - di)(ch - bi) = (ae - bd) i2 + (cd - af) hi + (bf - ce) gi = (g3 + h3 + i3) i = 0, since 0 = det A = g3 + h3 + i3. Hence ae = ±bd. Similarly cd = ±af, bf = ±ce. Multiplying the three equations together we get abcdef = - abcdef unless at least one of the equations has a plus sign. In the first case, at least one of a, b, c, d, e, f is zero. In the second case, the element corresponding to the cofactor is zero - for example ae = bd implies i2 = 0 and hence i = 0. So either a member of the first two rows is zero, or a member of the last row is zero.
wlog we may assume a = 0. That implies b or d = 0 also. [Note that if, for example, i was the zero element, then we would have ei = ±fh, by an argument similar to that above and hence f or h = 0). If b = 0, then since a3 + b3 + c3 = 0, we have also c = 0. Similarly, if d = 0, then g = 0. So we now have a complete row or column zero. But now the square of any other element is a linear combination of elements in the that row or column and hence zero. Suppose, for example, a = b = c = 0. Then g2 = bf - ce = 0, and similarly for the other five elements.
Comment. This is surprisingly hard.
7th Putnam 1947
© John Scholes
5 Mar 2002