Factorial is important function widely used in combinatorial formulas.
Unfortunately there is no easy way to calculate factorials.
Factorial of number n is denoted n! and is equal 1*2*...*n.
In this chapter log means base 10 log.
Factorials of small numbers
First of all, for n<7 it is easy just to remember their factorials:
If n<16 I believe the easiest way to calculate factorial is to use
chain multiplication: begin with 6! and multiply it consequently
by the growing integers. You can skip multiplying by 10 and you can group
multiplicands (for example 12!=6!*(63=7*9)*(88=8*11)*120) can be
performed with only 2 slide moves.
Factorial of big numbers (B,C,CI,D,L)
The following assumes that your L scale is located on stator (some
rules have it on slide). This is not "simple" operation at all:
it requires 3 slide movements and 2 value transfers from scale to scale.
But it is the simplest way to calculate factorial I know, and factorial is
very important function so it is included here.
The calculations are based on a Stirling formula:
n! ~ √(2πn)*(n/e)n
- Put e=2.718 on scale C over n on scale D.
- Read fractional part from L under 1C. (This is fractional part of log(n/e)
- Add integer part that is dc(n)-1 if you moved slide to the right
and dc(n)-2 if you moved slide to the left.
- Place the cursor on that number on scale D.
- Place n on scale CI under cursor.
- Read value under 1CI from D.
- Set fractional part (if distinguishable) of the result on scale L
with a cursor, value on scale D have dc=integer part+1.
- If the fractional part was beyond slide rule accuracy just add 0.5*dc(n)
to the result you get in step 6 and it will be the order of magnitude for
the factorial, otherwise continue.
- Place 0.399 on scale CI under cursor. (0.399=1/√(2π)
-- you can always look it up with cursor if you do not remember it)
- Read n! under n on scale B from scale D.
When to apply last 2 steps?
When the fractional part becomes undistinguishable? It depends
on the accuracy of your slide rule and your scale reading skills. For me
and my rule all numbers greater than 200 are integer. So, I will take it as
an upper bound for expression n*log(n/e) after which the last 2 steps
shouldn't be applied.
The equation n*log(n/e)=200 could not be solved in closed form in
elementary functions, but fortunately it can be solved approximately with
slide rule. (See Equations chapter for
generalization of this method towards other types of equations.)
Now place (right) index of CI over 200 on scale D.
With this layout D represents n (ranging 100 .. 200), L represents
log(n) (ranging 2.0 .. 2.3) and CI represents 200/n (ranging 2..1).
log(n)=200/n+0.434 <=> log(n)-200/n=0.434
With cursor lookup values on scales CI and L that when subtracted give
0.434 as a result. It may be easier to match value on L that equal
0.434+value on C.
Trying CI=1.6: CI+0.434=2.34; L=2.1
Trying CI=1.5: CI+0.434=1.93; L=2.124
The result is between above two values. After couple more tries find
CI=1.58; CI+0.434=2.13; L=2.106 (that is exact enough) and read
value n=127 on scale D.
This means that for n>127 we can only estimate the order of magnitude
for the factorial using this method.