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Sum Constructions

Sum Constructions

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Published by Jacob Richey
Sum Constructions
Sum Constructions

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Published by: Jacob Richey on Dec 09, 2012
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SUM CONSTRUCTIONS
JACOB RICHEY
This investigation comes out of the following Purdue Problem of the Week (Problem 6,Fall 2012):For which numbers
r
(0
,
1) is
{
k
r
k
:
is a subset of the non-negative integers
}
=[0
,
11
r
]?The question only attracted my eye because it suggests an interesting generalization of the“unit fractions” problem I’ve been working on for some time: instead of considering onlysums of unit fractions, why not try to form a general theory of sum constructions? Thatis, given a set of positive reals, which reals can be written as a (perhaps infinite) sum of those numbers?The Purdue POW question is not so hard to answer: the two sets are equal for any
r
[1
/
2
,
1), and unequal for any
r <
1
/
2. To prove the former, first note that for any
r
[
12
,
1) and
n
N
,
i
=
n
+1
r
i
=
r
n
+1
1
r
r
n
, since
r
n
+1
1
r
r
n
r
1
r
r
12
. (1)That is, each term is less than or equal to the sum of all the remaining terms (past thatone). Now fix
x
[0
,
11
r
],
>
0, and pick
so that
r
n
1
r
<
n >
. This last choiceis possible since lim
n
→∞
r
n
1
r
= 0. Now approach
x
greedily - that is, take at each stepthe largest possible
r
k
so that the remainder
x
r
k
1
r
k
2
...
is non-negative. Oneissue presents itself: what if we are going along greedily, when suddenly we can’t getto
x
, even if we take all the remaining terms? If this did happen, i.e.
such that
x
r
k
1
...
r
k
1
 j
=
k
+1
r
 j
<
0 and
x
r
k
1
...
r
k
1
r
k
<
0, then we wouldhave
r
k
>
 j
=
k
+1
r
 j
, which contradicts (1). This issue - where any term of a sequenceexceeds the sum of all the terms past it - will come into play later.It remains to show that we can come within
of 
x
: if the greedy algorithm on
x
terminatesin finitely many steps then we are done. So suppose it never terminates: then consider theexpansion out to
k
, so that the remainder satisfies
x
r
k
1
...
r
k
 j
=
+1
r
 j
=
r
+1
1
r
<
r
1
r
=
, the desired result.Therefore, we can converge on any
x
using a base
r
[1
/
2
,
1). To see that any
r <
1
/
2doesn’t work, we need only produce a single unconstructable point. We have already donethe work for this: for in this case, each term in the sequence is
greater 
than the sum of 
1
 
2 JACOB RICHEY
Figure 1.
Blue:
11
r
; Red:
1
2
r
(1
r
)
3
; Green = Blue - Redall the remaining terms, so that the issue we conisdered above will actually occur. Forexample, given
r <
1
/
2, the entire interval (
r
1
r
,
1) is not constructable, since for any
x
inthat interval, 1 is too big, but all of the remaining terms together are still too small.A natural question arises: which numbers
x
[0
,
11
r
] can be constructed, given
r <
1
/
2?It is easier to first show a (surprisingly) large set of numbers which are not constructible;to do so, we’ll use a generalization of the issue we discovered in answering the problem of the week.For, the interval (
r
1
r
,
1) is completely inconstructible - similarly, the intervals (
r
2
1
r
,r
)
,
(
r
3
1
r
,r
2
),or in general, all the intervals (
r
i
+1
1
r
,r
i
) are not constructable. Together, all these intervalsgive us
i
=0
r
i
r
i
+1
1
r
=
11
r
i
=0
(
r
i
2
r
i
+1
) =
1
2
r
(1
r
)
2
of unconstructable length.But wait: there’s more! We can generalize further: the intervals (1 +
r
2
1
r
,
1 +
r
)
,
(1 +
r
+
r
3
1
r
,
1 +
r
+
r
2
), or in general, (1 +
r
+
...
+
r
k
1
+
r
k
+1
1
r
,
1 +
r
+
...
+
r
k
) are allnot constructable by similar reasoning. These two methods can be combined, so that ingeneral, for any
i
0
,k
1, the interval (
r
i
+
...
+
r
i
+
k
2
+
r
i
+
k
1
r
,r
i
+
...
+
r
i
+
k
1
) cannotbe constructed. It is easy to see that each of these intervals is non-empty; to see that theyare all disjoint is slightly harder. Both are left as exercises for the reader.Together, these intervals give us a total unconstructable length of:
L
=
k
=1
i
=0
(
i
+
k
1
 j
=
i
r
 j
i
+
k
2
 j
=
i
r
 j
r
i
+
k
1
r
)
L
=
k
=1
i
=0
(
r
i
r
i
+
k
1
r
r
i
r
i
+
k
1
1
r
r
i
+
k
1
r
)
 
SUM CONSTRUCTIONS
3
L
=
11
r
k
=1
i
=0
(
r
i
+
k
1
2
r
i
+
k
1
r
)
L
=
11
r
k
=1
r
k
1
i
=0
(
r
i
2
r
i
+1
)
L
=
1
2
r
(1
r
)
2
k
=1
r
k
1
L
=
1
2
r
(1
r
)
3
So there is a significant part of [0
,
11
r
] that is not constructible. (Plots of the constructibleand unconstructible length are given in figure 1.) What about what is left over? Iseverything not in one of these intervals constructible? We can prove a result about the setof numbers that are constructible, though first we need a lemma:
Lemma:
For any
r
(0
,
1
/
2), if a number
x
is constructible by geometric terms in
r
, thenthe construction must be greedy, and hence unique.
Pf:
Suppose there exists
x
=
n
=1
r
s
n
that isn’t a greedy construction, i.e.
n,
n j
=1
r
s
j
x
and 
n
1
 j
=1
r
s
j
+
r
s
n
1
x
. Then
x
=
 j
=1
r
s
j
=
n
1
 j
=1
r
s
j
+
 j
=
n
r
s
j
n
1
 j
=1
r
s
j
+
 j
=0
r
s
n
+
 j
<
n
1
 j
=1
r
s
j
+
r
s
n
1
x
by assumption; then
x < x
, a contradiction.
Now we can prove the main theorem:
Theorem:
For any
r
(0
,
1
/
2), the set
=
{
k
r
k
:
is a subset of the non-negativeintegers
}
contains no open intervals.
Pf:
Suppose there was an interval
, and fix
x
. If 
x
has finite construction,
x
=
r
 p
1
+
...
+
r
 p
n
, pick
N > n
so that
x
+
r
; then nothing in the non-empty interval(
x
+
r
+1
1
r
,x
+
r
)
is constructible. For, by the lemma, any number
y
in this intervalmust have construction beginning with
y
=
r
 p
1
+
...
+
r
 p
n
+
r
+1
+
r
+2
+
...
, the greedyconstruction. This value is exactly the left endpoint; and any additional
r
k
we add will begreater than or equal to
r
, taking us out of the interval.If 
x
has an infinite construction,
x
=
 j
=1
r
s
j
, we divide into two cases.

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