What I Learned from Reading “Gamma: Exploring Euler’s Constant” by Julian Havil: Part 9

When teaching students mathematical induction, the following series (well, at least the first two or three) are used as typical examples:

1 + 2 + 3 + \dots + n = \displaystyle \frac{n(n+1)}{2}

1^2 + 2^2 + 3^2 + \dots + n^2 = \displaystyle \frac{n(n+1)(2n+1)}{6}

1^3 + 2^3 + 3^3 + \dots + n^3 = \displaystyle \frac{n^2(n+1)^2}{4}

1^4 + 2^4 + 3^4 + \dots + n^4 = \displaystyle \frac{n(n+1)(2n+1)(3n^2+3n-1)}{30}

What I didn’t know (Gamma, page 81) is that Johann Faulhaber published the following cute result in 1631 (see also Wikipedia): If k is odd, then

1^k + 2^k + 3^k + \dots + n^k = f_k(n(n+1)),

where f_k is a polynomial. For example, to match the above examples, f_1(x) = x/2 and f_3(x) = x^2/4. Furthermore, if k is even, then

1^k + 2^k + 3^k + \dots + n^k = (2n+1) f_k(n(n+1)),

where again f_k is a polynomial. For example, to match the above examples, f_2(x) = x/6 and f_3(x) = x(3x-1)/30.

green line

When I researching for my series of posts on conditional convergence, especially examples related to the constant \gamma, the reference Gamma: Exploring Euler’s Constant by Julian Havil kept popping up. Finally, I decided to splurge for the book, expecting a decent popular account of this number. After all, I’m a professional mathematician, and I took a graduate level class in analytic number theory. In short, I don’t expect to learn a whole lot when reading a popular science book other than perhaps some new pedagogical insights.

Boy, was I wrong. As I turned every page, it seemed I hit a new factoid that I had not known before.

In this series, I’d like to compile some of my favorites — while giving the book a very high recommendation.

Leave a comment

4 Comments

  1. Julian Havil

     /  October 9, 2016

    Dear John,
    I am delighted that you have seen fit to concentrate your blog on several aspects of Gamma. Thank you for your interest and I do hope that your readers gain some pleasure from your submissions regarding this intriguing number and the mathematics associated with it.

    Best wishes, Julian Havil

    Reply
    • Thanks for taking the time to write. As I’m not a professional book reviewer, the hardest part about writing this series for me was sharing some of the wonderful tidbits in your book without plagiarizing. My hope is that this series did not do that.

      Reply
  2. Julian Havil

     /  October 10, 2016

    Dear John,
    Thank you for this concern, but this is not an issue.
    Best wishes,
    Julian

    Reply
  1. What I Learned by Reading “Gamma: Exploring Euler’s Constant” by Julian Havil: Index | Mean Green Math

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