THE WEIGHT OF NATURAL NUMBERS

JACOB RICHEY

Define a function w(n) for any natural number n as the sum of the divisors of n divided by n,

w(n) =

i|n i

n

Numbers n with w(n) = 2 are the perfect numbers: numbers weight < 2 are called “deficient,” and those with weight > 2 are called “abundant.” Perfect numbers are quite rare, (the first few are 6, 28, 496, 8128), and most numbers are deficient (but we love them all the same). Some numbers have directly calculable weights: any prime p, for example, has weight 2 p exactly 1+ . We can also directly calculate the weight of squares of primes: w(p2 ) = 1+pp+p . p There are a few natural questions that arise in considering these weights. First, can numbers have arbitrarily large weights, or is there a finite supremum of the set {w(n) : n ∈ N}? Do larger numbers tend to have larger weights? What is the “average” value of the weight of the number, i.e.

limn→∞

n i=1 w (i)

n

Before we answer any of these questions, we first have to be able to pin down an exact form for the weight of a given natural number. Fix an n ∈ N with prime factorization αk 1 α2 n = pα 1 p2 · · · pk . We can write down every divisor of n given the prime factorization: βk 1 the set of divisors of n is exactly S = {pβ 1 · · · pk : 0 ≤ βi ≤ αi ∀i}. Now consider the finite product

P =

k i=1

αi j j =0 pi

αk 1 = (1 + p1 + . . . + pα 1 ) · · · (1 + . . . + pk )

Note that each element of S appears exactly once in this product: in particular, the element βk 1 pβ 1 · · · pk occurs when we take the j = β1 term for i = 1, j = β2 for i = 2, and so on, up to j = βk for i = k . Similarly, each term of the product is an element of S , since each one βk 1 is of the form pβ 1 · · · pk . Therefore, the sum of the divisors of n is exactly this product, so that w(n) can be written as

w(n) =

P n

=
1

k i=1

αi −j j =0 pi

2

JACOB RICHEY

More generally, we can think of w(n) as a product running over all possible primes, i.e.

w(n) =

P n

=

∞ i=1

αi −j j =0 pi

where αi = 0 for all but finitely many i. Note that, in this definition, the pi ’s are the primes themselves, i.e. p1 = 2, p2 = 3, and so on. n is defined, then, by the sequence of αi ’s: this definition is more concise and unambiguous. We can now see directly that, for example, multiplying any integer by another integer yields a number with weight greater than either original integer. Theorem 1: If n, m ∈ N, then w(mn) > w(m).
∞ ai bi Proof: Let m, n be a positive integers with prime factorizations ∞ i=1 pi and i=1 pi respectively, (ai , bi = 0 for all but finitely many i). It is sufficient to show that w(mpk ) > w(m) for any k with ak = 0: since m was arbitrary, we can repeat this process for each of the finitely many factors of n, each time increasing the weight of m as it absorbs a new factor. Using the second definition of w, we have that

w(mpk ) =

∞ i=1

ai +δ (i,k ) −j pi j =0

where δ (i, j ) = 1 iff i = j is the Kronecker delta function. Therefore, w(mpk ) w(m)

=

−a −1 1+...+pk k −a 1+...+pk k

=1+

−a 1+...+pk k

−a −1 pk k

>1

This proves the theorem. This proof also shows us exactly how much the weight is increasing by when we multiply by some prime p: it is exactly p−a−1 1+...+p−a

=

1 p+...+pa+1

=

p−1 pa+2 −p

.

As p or a increase, this number decreases: that is, the amount the weight increases by after multiplying by a prime is less if the prime is large, or if the number of factors of that prime the number had was large. This agrees with our intuition: multiplying by a new factor, one that the number doesn’t have, for example, is going to create a lot of new divisors. If we multiply by a prime the number already has, then we are going to create some divisors the weight has already taken into account. It isn’t necessarily true that the more factors a number has, the larger its weight is, for w(32 ) = 1 + 1/3 + 1/9 = 13/9, but w(2) = 3/2 > 13/9. However, if a number has all the factors of another number with some extra ones tacked on, then it does have a larger

THE WEIGHT OF NATURAL NUMBERS

3

Figure 1.

weight, as Theorem 1 shows. On average, however, the weight of natural numbers tends to increase: figure 1 is a plot of w(n) for 1 ≤ n ≤ 103 . Can weights be arbitrarily large? Looking at powers of fixed primes, the answer is no: for

w(ps) = 1 + p−1 + . . . + p−s =
so that
s+1

1−p−s−1 1−p−1

=

ps+1 −1 , ps+1 −ps

−1 = lims→∞ w(ps) = lims→∞ pps+1− ps

p p−1 .

Note that the sequence {w(1), w(p), w(p2 ), ...} is increasing, so that it is actually bounded p from above by p− . Thus, the sequences of powers are all bounded. But, as we noted, 1 multiplying by factors we already have doesn’t makes us much fatter (increase our weight): what if we take say, the factorial numbers? In this case, taking factorials is a little annoying, since we are working with prime factorizations. It makes more sense to consider the “primorial” numbers, which are easier to deal with in terms of prime factorizations. The primorials are close relatives of factorials: the nth primorial number is simply the product of the first n primes. We will denote it Pn . Then
1 w(Pn ) = (1 + 2 )(1 + 1 3 ) · · · (1 + 1 pn )

So that

limn→∞ w(Pn ) = limn→∞

n i=1 (1

+

1 pn )

>

∞ 1 i=1 pi

> ∞,

4

JACOB RICHEY

i.e. the weights diverge to infinity. Thus, there exist positive integers with arbitrarily large weights. It might be asked whether these primorial numbers are the most “efficient” fat numbers: that is, if for any L ∈ R+ , then the smallest positive integer with weight greater than L is a primorial number. I can’t think of a simple proof of this fact - though it seems to me very likely to be true - so it will be left for the reader. Now let W = {w(n) : n ∈ N}. We can decompose W into countably many disjoint subsets, W = ∪∞ i=1 Wi , where Wi = {w (n) : n = 0 mod pj ∀1 ≤ j ≤ i − 1, and n ≡ 0 mod pi }. The Wi ’s are disjoint, since Wi ∩ Wj = ∅ with i < j WLOG =⇒ w(n) ∈ Wi ∩ Wj has n = 0 mod pi , n ≡ 0 mod pi , a contradiction. The Wi ’s cover W since w(n) ∈ W , pi the least prime factor of n (which exists as n is finite) =⇒ w(n) ∈ Wi . Why is this decomposition interesting? Suppose we pick a weight w = w(n) at “random” from the set W . Then certainly we have a probability 1 of getting some number. But we can also write that probability - 1 - as the sum of the probabilities that w is in each Wi . 1 In particular, the probability that w ∈ W1 is the probability that n ≡ 0 mod 2, which is 2 ; the probability that w ∈ W2 is the probability that n = 0 mod 2 and n ≡ 0 mod 3, which is 1 (1 − 1 )( p ). )( 1 ); in general, the probability that w ∈ Wi is given by (1 − 1 )(1 − 1 ) · · · (1 − pi1 2 3 2 3 −1 i Therefore, we should have that

1=

∞ 1 i=1 pi

i−1 j =1 (1

1 pj ),

where the product is taken to be 1 for i − 1 < j . Mathematica can’t verify this result directly, but a plot graphically does so for us. The convergence is very slow: figure 2 is a plot of the value of this sum taken from 1 to n for 1 ≤ n ≤ 103 . This sum isn’t useful for anything, I just thought it was an interesting application of our formula for w. There may be other interesting decompositions of subsets of N that give similar series by means of a probabilistic consideration, but I haven’t come up with any other one this simple. Now, looking back at figure 1, you may notice that the graph seems to be tending toward a limit. It is, in fact: the number is approximately 1.64, which any good mathematician 2 would recognize as π6 . Theorem 2: The expected value of w(n) is
π2 . 6

Proof: We will calculate the expected value E as a product of the expected values E1 , E2 , ..., 1 that is, the expected where Ei is the expected value of the sum 1 + p + . . . + p1 αi ,
i

weight of the ith-primes-part of n. Note that w(n) = w({αi }i∈N ), and in particular, the αi ’s are independent random variables, as they are the powers of distinct prime factors of n: therefore, the expected value of their product is exactly the product of their expected values. That is, we will have E = ∞ i=1 Ei .

i

THE WEIGHT OF NATURAL NUMBERS
What is Ei explicitly?
1 1 pi pi

5

···

pi −1 pi

=

pi −1 +1 , pk i

The probability that αi = k for some integer k is given by since we must have exactly k factors of pi and no more. In each
i i +1 pk −1 i . k+1 pi −pk i

1 case, the corresponding weight of the ith primes is given by 1 + p + . . . + p1k =

Therefore,

Ei = Ei = Ei =
Note that

∞ k =0

k +1 pi −1 pi −1 +1 pk +1 −pk pk i i i

k +1 ∞ pi −1 k =0 p2k+1 i

∞ 1 k =0 [ pk
i

1 − p2k +1 ]
i

T =

1 pi

+

1 p3 i

+

1 p5 i

...

=⇒ p2 i T − pi = T , so that T (p2 i − 1) = pi , or T =
pi . p2 i −1

Therefore,

Ei = Ei = Ei =
E=

pi pi −1

i − p2p− 1 i

pi (pi +1)−pi p2 i −1 p2 i p2 − i 1
p2 ∞ i 2 i=1 pi −1 .

So E has the form

Again using the formula for the sum of a geometric series (with ratio p2 i ), we can write

E=

∞ i=1 (1

+

1 p2 i

+

1 p4 i

+ . . .)

6

JACOB RICHEY

Now note that this product is exactly equal to the infinite sum
∞ 1 i=1 i2 ,

since any term that appears in the product is the product of infinitely many 1’s and finitely many square prime reciprocals, which itself a reciprocal of a square; and any term that appears in the sum can be written as a product of finitely many prime square reciprocals, and so appears in the product. Therefore these two are equal. But this sum is the sum of 2 the reciprocals of the squares, which is well known to have the value π6 : this proves the theorem.
E-mail address : jacob.f.richey@dartmouth.edu