# What I Learned from Reading “Gamma: Exploring Euler’s Constant” by Julian Havil: Part 11

The Euler-Mascheroni  constant $\gamma$ is defined by $\gamma = \displaystyle \lim_{n \to \infty} \left( \sum_{r=1}^n \frac{1}{r} - \ln n \right)$.

What I didn’t know, until reading Gamma (page 117), is that there are at least two ways to generalize this definition.

First, $\gamma$ may be thought of as $\gamma = \displaystyle \lim_{n \to \infty} \left( \sum_{r=1}^n \frac{1}{\hbox{length of~} [0,r]} - \ln n \right)$,

and so this can be generalized to two dimensions as follows: $\delta = \displaystyle \lim_{n \to \infty} \left( \sum_{r=2}^n \frac{1}{\pi (\rho_r)^2} - \ln n \right)$,

where $\rho_r$ is the radius of the smallest disk in the plane containing at least $r$ points $(a,b)$ so that $a$ and $b$ are both integers. This new constant $\delta$ is called the Masser-Gramain constant; like $\gamma$, the exact value isn’t known. Second, let $f(x) = \displaystyle \frac{1}{x}$. Then $\gamma$ may be written as $\gamma = \displaystyle \lim_{n \to \infty} \left( \sum_{r=1}^n f(r) - \int_1^n f(x) \, dx \right)$.

Euler (not surprisingly) had the bright idea of changing the function $f(x)$ to any other positive, decreasing function, such as $f(x) = x^a, \qquad -1 \le a < 0$,

producing Euler’s generalized constants. Alternatively (from Stieltjes), we could choose $f(x) = \displaystyle \frac{ (\ln x)^m }{x}$. 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.

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