In base 10, or decimal, we use the digits from 0 to 9 to represent any positive integer. In base 2, or binary, we use the digits from 0 to 1 to do the same. An integer is called a repunit (repeated unit) if it can be written in some base using only the digit 1. Find all $n,p>0$ such that a binary repunit with $n$ digits is equal (in value) to a decimal repunit with $p$ digits. Prove your answer.
  1. What is the value of $2222_3$ in base $10?$
  2. Let $a$ be a number in base $b$ with digits $a_na_{n-1}\ldots a_0.$ Show that $a \equiv a_0 \mod b.$

Which values of $n$ and $p$ work and which don’t?

Are there any constraints relating $n$ and $p?$

More specifically, pay attention to the number of digits used to express a number in base $2$ compared to in base $10.$

You should have found that $n=p=1$ is a solution. If there are other solutions, could you try to establish a lower bound on $p?$

Are any other solutions? Could you prove your hypothesis?

How can you mathematically express that “a binary repunit with $n$ digits is equal in value to a decimal repunit with $p$ digits”?

… as an equality of two geometric series?

Have you tried simplifying and rearranging the expression into a form which you can apply your constraints to get a contradiction?

We can easily see that $n=p=1$ works. What about other values? We can also see that $n>p,$ since any number greater than $1$ needs more binary digits than base $10$ digits to be represented.

By inspection it’s also clear that $p=2,3$ would not work since those are the decimal repunits $11$ and $111,$ neither of which are equal to any binary repunits. The closest are $111_2=8$ and $1111111_2=127.$ Therefore $p>3.$

The original condition can be written as $\sum_{i=0}^{n-1}2^i=\sum_{i=0}^{p-1}10^i,$ which gives $2^n-1=$ ${(10^p-1) \over 9}.$ We can rearrange this to get $9\cdot2^{n-p}-5^p=2^{3-p}.$

Together with the above conditions, $n>p$ and $p>3,$ we get a contradiction, since $2^{3-p}$ is a rational less than 1 and $9\cdot2^{n-p}-5^p$ is an integer. Therefore $n=p=1$ is the only solution.