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Sequences Generated by Polynomials

E. F. Cornelius Jr. and Phill Schultz


1. INTRODUCTION. For which integer sequences of length n is there a polynomial (of arbitrary degree) having integer coefcients whose sequence of values ( f (1), . . . , f (n )) equals the given sequence? The restriction to integer coefcients signicantly limits the sequences of integers that can be generated in this way by polynomials. For example, there is no polynomial with integral coefcients which will generate the sequence (1, 0, 0) because if f (x ) is such a polynomial, then (x 2)(x 3) is a factor of f (x ) and hence (1 2)(1 3) = 2 divides f (1), a contradiction. On the other hand, the sequence (1, 0, 1) is generated by the polynomial (x 2)2 . It is easy to see that each sequence of length 1 is the image f (1) of a constant polynomial and each sequence (a , b) of length two is ( f (1), f (2)) for the linear polynomial f (x ) = (b a )x + (2a b). In fact we shall see that most nite sequences cannot be generated by polynomials, but many can. Denote by Zn the set of all integer sequences of length n , by Z[x ] the set of all polynomials with integer coefcients and by Z[x ]n the set of all polynomials in Z[x ] of degree < n . Let Pn denote the set of all a = (a1 , . . . , an ) Zn for which there exists some f (x ) Z[x ] such that f (1) = a1 , f (2) = a2 , . . . , f (n ) = an . We call sequences in Pn polynomial sequences, and the object of this paper is to characterize polynomial sequences. 2. POLYNOMIAL SEQUENCES. Let a = (a1 , . . . , an ) Zn . Then the Lagrange Interpolation Theorem produces a polynomial
n a (x )

=
j =1

aj
i=j

x i j i

of degree n 1 for which ( a (1), . . . , a (n )) = (a1 , . . . , an ), the given sequence. To see why this is so, note that a (x ) is a sum of n terms, each of which is a polynomial of degree n 1. In evaluating a (k ), where k is an integer between 1 and n , each term except the k th has a factor x k , so evaluates to 0. The k th term evaluates to ak i =k (k i )/(k i ) = ak , as required. The polynomial a (x ) may have degree < n 1 because the terms of degree n 1 in different summands may cancel. The objection, of course, is that the coefcients of a (x ) are rationals which need not be integers. We rst show the somewhat surprising result that a sequence a = (a1 , . . . , an ) is in Pn if and only if the polynomial a (x ) determined by the Lagrange Interpolation Theorem has integral coefcients, which implies that a has a unique generating polynomial of degree n 1. Theorem 2.1. Let a = (a1 , a2 , . . . , an ) Zn . Then a Pn if and only if a (x ) Z[x ]n . Furthermore, a (x ) is the unique polynomial of degree < n with real coefcients that generates a. Proof. Suppose that a Pn and let f (x ) Z[x ] satisfy f ( j ) = a j for j = 1, . . . , n . Let pn (x ) = (x 1)(x 2) (x n ), a polynomial of degree n satisfying pn (i ) = 0 154 c
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for i = 1, 2, . . . , n . By the division algorithm, f (x ) = q (x ) pn (x ) + r (x ) for unique q (x ) Z[x ] and r (x ) Z[x ]n . Evaluating both sides of this equation at 1, 2, . . . , n shows that r (x ) generates a. This means that r (x ) and a (x ) are both polynomials with rational coefcients of degree < n which agree at n different points. Hence they are identical. The converse is trivial. Moreover, for any real polynomial g (x ) of degree < n , if g (i ) = ai for all i = 1, 2, . . . , n , then g (x ) agrees with a (x ) at n points, so g (x ) = a ( x ). We can now identify those sequences a which satisfy the condition of Theorem 2.1. In order to do this, it is convenient to express a (x ) as a linear combination of the polynomials p j (x ) introduced in the proof of Theorem 2.1; that is, p0 (x ) = 1 and p j (x ) = (x 1)(x 2) (x j ) for all j 1. We shall also need the following lower triangular n n rational matrices: 1. An has (i , j )-entry ij for all i , j = 0, 1, . . . , n 1, where ij = 0 if i < j . An is well known as Pascals matrix [1]. As shown in [1], and as is easily checked, An is invertible with lower triangular inverse (ai j ) where ai j = (1)i + j ij . 2. Cn has (i , j )-entry (i ) j for all i , j = 0, 1, . . . , n 1. Here, (i ) j is the falling factorial dened by i (i 1) (i j + 1) if i j 1 (i ) j = 1 if j = 0 0 if i < j . Note that p j (i + 1) = (i ) j . 3. Dn is the diagonal matrix whose j th diagonal entry is j ! for j = 0, 1, . . . , n 1. Since (i ) j = ij j !, Cn = An Dn .
1 1 1 4. Bn is Cn = Dn An = (bi j ) where

bi j =

(1)i + j i i! j

(1)i + j j !(i j )!

for all i j and bi j = 0 for i < j . For example, in the case n 1 0 1 1 1 1 B5 = 21 1 6 2 1 1 24 6 = 5 we have 0 0 1 2
1 4 1 2

0 0 0 1 6
1 6

0 0 0 , 0
1 24

1 1 C5 = 1 1 1

0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 . 3 6 6 0 4 12 24 24

Lemma 2.2. Let a = (a1 , a2 , . . . , an ) be a sequence of n integers. Let L a (x ) = b0 p0 (x ) + b1 p1 (x ) + + bn1 pn1 (x ) where
k

bk =
j =0

(1)k + j a j +1 j ! (k j )!

for k = 0, . . . , n 1. Then L a (x ) = February 2008]

a ( x ).

NOTES

155

Proof. By Theorem 2.1, a (x ) is the unique polynomial with real coefcients and degree < n generating a. Thus it sufces to show that L a ( j ) = a j for 1 j n . Let b be the sequence (b0 , b1 , . . . , bn1 ) written as a column vector. Express a as a column vector so that by denition, Bn a = b. Now let pn (x ) be the row vector ( p0 (x ), p1 (x ), . . . , pn1 (x )). A routine multiplication shows that L a (x ) = pn (x )b. Since the i th row of Cn is pn (i + 1), it follows that ( L a (1), L a (2), . . . , L a (n ))T = Cn b = Cn Bn a = a. Thus for all i = 1, 2, . . . , n , L a (i ) = ai as required. Notice that in Lemma 2.2, if the coefcients of a (x ) are integers, then in particular bn1 , which is the coefcient of x n1 , is an integer. But then bn2 , which is the coefcient of x n2 in the polynomial L a (x ) bn1 pn1 (x ), is also an integer. Similar reasoning shows that bi is an integer for all i = 0, . . . , n 1. Corollary 2.3. Let f (x ) Z[x ]n . Then there are unique integers b0 , b1 , . . . , bn1 such that f (x ) = b0 p0 (x ) + b1 p1 (x ) + + bn1 pn1 (x ). Proof. Let a be the integer sequence ( f (1), f (2), . . . , f (n )). Then f (x ) and L a (x ) are both polynomials of degree < n which agree at n points. Hence they are identical. In order to nd necessary and sufcient conditions for L a (x ) and hence in Z[x ], we use the characterization of Lemma 2.2.
a (x )

to be

Corollary 2.4. Let a Zn . Then a is a polynomial sequence if and only if for all k = 0, 1, . . . , n 1,
k

bk =
j =0

(1)k + j a j +1 j ! (k j )!

is an integer. Proof. The result follows immediately from Lemma 2.2, since cients if and only if L a (x ) does.
a (x )

has integer coef-

For example, for any sequence a Zn , Lemma 2.2 states that b0 = a1 and b1 = a2 a1 , so the condition of Corollary 2.4 that b0 and b1 be integers is vacuous. On the other hand, b2 = a1 /2 a2 + a3 /2, so the Corollary explains once again why (1, 0, 1) is a polynomial sequence but (1, 0, 0) is not. Another application of Lemma 2.2 shows that if a Zn , then some integral multiple of a is generated by a polynomial in Z[x ]n . Theorem 2.5. Let a = (a1 , . . . , an ) Zn . Then (n 1)! a = ((n 1)! a1 , . . . , (n 1)! an ) Pn . Moreover, (n 1)! is the least positive integer for which this is true for every sequence of length n. Proof. Denote the sequence (n 1)!a by (a1 , a2 , . . . , an ) and let b0 , b1 , . . . , bn1 be the corresponding sequence of coefcients dened in Lemma 2.2. 156 c
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Note that for all j and k satisfying 0 j k n 1, k ! = j ! (k j )! kj so that k ! and hence (n 1)! is a multiple of j ! (k j )!. Hence by Corollary 2.4 each bk is an integer, so (n 1)! a Pn . To see that this result is the best possible, consider the sequence a = (1, 0, . . . , 0). Then for all k = 0, . . . , n 1, bk = (1)k / k ! and in particular, bn1 = (1)n1 . (n 1)!

Hence the least positive integer m such that m a is generated by an integral polynomial is m = (n 1)!. 3. FINITE ABELIAN GROUPS. Recall that every non-zero nite abelian group G is isomorphic to Z/ n 1 Z Z/ n 2 Z Z/ n m Z for unique positive integers m and n i > 1 such that each n i except n m is a multiple of n i +1 [3, Theorem 9.3]. This expression is called the Smith Normal Form of G . For example, Z/6Z Z/3Z is a Smith Normal Form decomposition of Z/3Z Z/3Z Z/2Z, but the latter is not in Smith Normal Form. The sequence (n 1 , n 2 , . . . , n m ) is called the Smith Invariant of the group G . Notice that the order of G is |G | = n 1 n 2 n m . Moreover, n 1 is the exponent of G ; that is, the least positive integer m for which ma = 0 for all a G . Let us see how this is related to the polynomial sequence problem. Let v : Z[x ] Zn denote the valuation map dened by v( f (x )) = ( f (1), f (2), . . . , f (n )) for each f (x ) Z[x ]. The function v is an additive homomorphism with image Pn and kernel the set of polynomials in Z[x ] for which f (1) = f (2) = = f (n ) = 0. The First Fundamental Homomorphism Theorem [3, Theorem 13.3] states that Pn is isomorphic to the factor group Z[x ]/ ker v . We show now that Pn is also isomorphic to Z[x ]n . Theorem 3.1. With the notation above, the homomorphism v restricts to an isomorphism of Z[x ]n onto Pn . Proof. Since every f (x ) ker v vanishes at each of x = 1, 2, . . . , n , by the Divisor Theorem [3, Theorem 31.1], f (x ) = pn (x )q (x ) for some q (x ) Z[x ]. Hence ker v is the ideal of Z[x ] generated by pn (x ). By the division algorithm, every g (x ) Z[x ] has a unique decomposition as g (x ) = pn (x )q (x ) + r (x ) for some r (x ) Z[x ]n . Hence Z[x ]n is a complementary summand in Z[x ] to ker v . Thus v restricted to Z[x ]n is an isomorphism onto Pn . It follows that Pn is a subgroup of the free abelian group Zn of the same rank n , and we wish to characterise the factor group Zn / Pn . First recall that we have shown in Theorem 2.5 that for every a Zn , (n 1)!a Pn , and (n 1)! is the least positive integer for which this is true for every a. This means that G = Zn / Pn is a nitely generated torsion abelian group of exponent (n 1)!. Hence G is a nite abelian group, so it remains only to describe the Smith Normal Form of G . We rst deal with the cases n = 1 or 2. We have seen that in fact Z1 = P1 and 2 Z = P2 , so that Z1 / P1 and Z2 / P2 are trivial. This is in accordance with the fact that 0! = 1! = 1. Thus we shall assume from now on that n 3. February 2008]
NOTES

157

By Corollary 2.3, the n polynomials { p0 (x ), p1 (x ), . . . , pn1 (x )} form a free basis for the free abelian group Z[x ]n . Since the valuation map v : Z[x ]n Pn is an isomorphism, it follows that the images {v( p j (x )) : j = 0, . . . , n 1} form a free basis for Pn . Recall from the remarks preceding Lemma 2.2 that the elements of this basis are the columns of the matrix Cn . For j = 0, . . . , n 1, let e( j ) be the j th column of An . We have seen that An is invertible with integral inverse, so {e( j ) : j = 0, . . . , n 1} forms a free basis for Zn . Note that since Cn = An Dn , we have v( p j (x )) = j !e( j ) for j = 0, . . . , n 1. We proceed to establish the following relationship: Theorem 3.2. Zn / Pn = Z/2!Z Z/3!Z Z/(n 1)!Z. Proof. For each j = 0, 1, . . . , n 1, the j th basis element v( p j (x )) of Pn is a multiple j !e( j ) of the j th basis element of Zn . Such bases are called stacked bases [2], and it is not hard to see that e(1) e(n 1) Zn e(0) . = Pn 0! e(0) 1! e(1) (n 1)! e(n 1) The rst two summands, isomorphic to Z/0! Z and Z/1! Z respectively, are trivial, leaving the required n 2 proper summands. Corollary 3.3. Zn / Pn is a nite abelian group with Smith Normal Form Z/(n 1)! Z Z/3! Z Z/2! Z and Smith Invariant ((n 1)!, . . . , 3!, 2!). Thus |Zn / Pn | =
n 1 i =2

i !.

One way of viewing this last result heuristically is that an integer sequence of length n chosen at random has probability only 1/ k of being a polynomial sequence, where 1 k = in= 2 i !. More precisely, for each N > 0, let Prob( N ) be the probability that an integer sequence drawn uniformly at random from among all integer sequences in [ N , N ] is generated by a polynomial. Then as N tends to innity, Prob( N ) tends to 1 1/ in= 2 i !.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. The authors wish to thank Professor Rodney Forcade of Brigham Young University for his kind assistance, and the M ONTHLY referees, who have improved the exposition.

REFERENCES
1. G. S. Call and D. J. Velleman, Pascals matrices, this M ONTHLY 100 (1993) 372376. 2. J. M. Cohen and H. Gluck, Stacked bases for modules over principal ideal domains, Journal of Algebra 14 (1970) 493505. 3. J. B. Fraleigh, A First Course in Abstract Algebra, Addison Wesley, Reading, MA, 1967. College of Engineering and Science, University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit, MI 48221-3038 efcornelius@comcast.net School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Australia 6009 schultz@maths.uwa.edu.au

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