1984 AIME Problems/Problem 8

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The equation $z^6+z^3+1=0$ has complex roots with argument $\theta$ between $90^\circ$ and $180^\circ$ in the complex plane. Determine the degree measure of $\theta$.

Solution 1

We shall introduce another factor to make the equation easier to solve. If $r$ is a root of $z^6+z^3+1$, then $0=(r^3-1)(r^6+r^3+1)=r^9-1$. The polynomial $x^9-1$ has all of its roots with absolute value $1$ and argument of the form $40m^\circ$ for integer $m$ (the ninth degree roots of unity). Now we simply need to find the root within the desired range that satisfies our original equation $x^6 + x^3 + 1 = 0$.

This reduces $\theta$ to either $120^{\circ}$ or $160^{\circ}$. But $\theta$ can't be $120^{\circ}$ because if $r=\cos 120^\circ +i\sin 120^\circ$, then $r^6+r^3+1=3$. (When we multiplied by $r^3 - 1$ at the beginning, we introduced some extraneous solutions, and the solution with $120^\circ$ was one of them.) This leaves $\boxed{\theta=160}$.

Solution 2

The substitution $y=z^3$ simplifies the equation to $y^2+y+1 = 0$. Applying the quadratic formula gives roots $y=-\frac{1}{2}\pm \frac{\sqrt{3}i}{2}$, which have arguments of $120$ and $240,$ respectively. This means $\arg(z) = \frac{120 \; \text{or} \;240}{3} + \frac{360n}{3}$, and the only one between 90 and 180 is $\boxed{\theta=160}$.

See also

1984 AIME (ProblemsAnswer KeyResources)
Preceded by
Problem 7
Followed by
Problem 9
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All AIME Problems and Solutions
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