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SHES 2303 MATHEMATICS IN BIOLOGY
1
Limits of Sequences of Numbers
Let us consider a sequence of n numbers {an } = {a1 , a2 , a3 , · · · , an }. For example, if an = n, then {an } is just the sequence of positive integers from 1 to n. We are interested in the behaviour of an when n becomes large. Here are some examples: an = n becomes arbitrarily large as n tends to inﬁnity; the sequence {an } is therefore divergent. On the other hand, if an = 1/n2 , which tends to 0 (a constant) as n tends to

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{an } = {a1 , a2 , a3 , · · · , an }.

For example, if an = n, then {an } is just the sequence of positive integers from 1 to n.

We are interested in the behaviour of an when n becomes large. Here are some examples:

an = n becomes arbitrarily large as n tends to infinity; the sequence {an } is therefore

divergent. On the other hand, if an = 1/n2 , which tends to 0 (a constant) as n tends to

infinity, then the sequence {an } is convergent.

1 1 1 n+1 1

1, − , , − , · · · , (−1) ,

2 3 4 n

convergent or divergent?

SOLUTION. As n gets larger, the fractional part gets smaller, with its sign oscillating

between +1 and -1. It manages to converge to 0 as n tends to infinity. ♣

finding infinite sums. If a sequence is divergent, then the sum of all the elements in this

divergent sequence must also be infinite. On the other hand, if a sequence is convergent,

the sum of all the elements in this convergent sequence may or may not be finite. The

infinite sum of {an } is generally called an infinite series. It is defined as the limit of the

sum of {an } (the partial sum). For example, suppose an = (1/2)n−1 . The sum of all n

terms in {an } is therefore

n i−1

X 1 1 1 1

Sn = =1+ + 2 + · · · n−1 .

i=1

2 2 2 2

∞ i−1

X 1

lim Sn = ,

n→∞

i=1

2

1

The geometric series warrants special attention because it appears very often in math-

ematical work. In a general, we write a geometric series as

∞

X

2 n−1

a + ar + ar + · · · + ar + ··· = arn−1 ,

n=1

where a and r are fixed real numbers, with a 6= 0 and r can either be positive or negative.

For |r| ≥ 1, this series diverges, since the nth term increases as n increases. For |r| < 1,

the series converges to a/(1 − r). The proof is left as an exercise.

nite Series

When we have an infinite series, we are usually concerned with two issues: does it

converge? and if it converges, what is its sum? A test for divergence uses the simple fact

that if a series converges, limn→∞ an must

P be 0.2 So if the latter is not 0 or does not exist,

then the series diverges. For example, ∞ n=1 n diverges because n 2

→ ∞. Also,

∞

X −n

,

n=1

n + 1

∞

X

(−1)n+1 ,

n=1

While we can prove divergence by showing that the limit of the nth term as n → ∞

does not exist, or is nonzero, we cannot prove convergence by simply noting that the

limit of the nth term is 0. The latter is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for

convergence. To check convergence, we can use several tests, not all of which will be

covered here.

∞

X Z ∞

an ≤ C + f (x)dx,

n=N N

of x for all x ≥ N . Because of this, the series and the integral converge or diverge together.

2

EXAMPLE 3. The sum ∞

X 1

,

n=1

n2

converges because

∞ Z ∞

X 1 1

2

<1+ dx.

n=1

n 1 x2

(sketch a graph to show this) The value of the integral is 1, so we know that the sum on

the left-hand side must be less than 2 (i.e. it converges to some value less than 2). It can

be shown using advanced calculus that the exact value is π 2 /6 ≈ 1.644. ♣

X 1

,

n=1

n

diverges because

∞ Z ∞

X 1 1

<1+ dx.

n=1

n 1 x

Since the integral is ∞, the series diverges. ♣

P Test: P

a) If an ≤ cn and Pcn converges, thenP an converges.

b) If an ≥ dn and dn diverges, then an diverges.

∞

X 1

= 1,

n=1

2n

The series ∞

X 1

,

n=1

n!

converges, and must be less than 1 (the true value is e − 1 as we shall see later). ♣

3

EXAMPLE 6. Check if the following series converges or not:

∞

X 3

√ .

n=1

n+ n

√

SOLUTION. Write an = 3/(n + n), and choose dn = 3/(n + n) = 3/(2n). Clearly,

dn > an . Now,

∞

X 3

,

n=1

2n

diverges (see Example 4). This implies that

∞

X 3

√ ,

n=1

n+ n

Have you ever wondered how values of like e and log 0.5 are computed? It turns out that

there is a nice theory that allows us to compute such values to any degree of accuracy

that we need.

over some interval with a as an interior point. We call the following series

∞

X f (k) (a) f 00 (a) f (n) (a)

(x − a)k = f (a) + f 0 (a)(x − a) + (x − a)2 + · · · + (x − a)n + · · · ,

k=0

k! 2! n!

the Taylor expansion of f (x) about a. The Maclaurin series generated by f is just the

Taylor series with a = 0.

√

EXAMPLE 7. Suppose we have f (x) = x. To find the Taylor series generated by f

about a = 1, we need to find the nth derivative of f . Now, we know that

1

f 0 (x) = √

2 x

1

f 00 (x) = −

2 · 2x3/2

3

f 000 (x) =

2 · 2 · 2x5/2

3·5

f (4) (x) = −

2 · 2 · 2 · 2x5/2

4

By induction, we know that

(2n − 3)!!

f (n) (x) = (−1)n+1 ,

2n x(2n−3)/2

for n = 2, 3 . . ., where (2n − 3)!! = (2n − 3)(2n − 5) · · · 3 · 1. We can therefore write the

required Taylor series as

∞

√ 1 X (2k − 3)!!

x = 1 + (x − 1) + (−1)k+1 k (2k−3)/2 (x − 1)k .

2 k=2

2 k!x

√

Suppose we wish to find 1.01. You have already learned how to do this using linearisa-

tion. Actually,

√ the latter is a special case of using only the first two terms of the Taylor

series of x to approximate the true value. The higher order terms can be ignored √ be-

k k

cause (x − 1) = 0.01 ≈ 0. The so-called first order Taylor approximation of 1.01 is

therefore 1.005. The true value is 1.004988 (to 6 decimal places). ♣

In many cases, it is sufficient to just use the Maclaurin series. Below is a list of

Maclaurin series for very commonly encountered functions, from which several other

more series can be derived. You should try to confirm their correctness using Taylor

expansion.

∞

1 X

= 1 + x + x2 + · · · + xn + · · · = xn ; |x| < 1

1−x n=0

∞

x2 xn X xn

ex = 1 + x + + ··· + + ··· = ;

2! n! n=0

n!

∞

x3 x5 x2n+1 X x2n+1

sin x = x − + − · · · + (−1)n + ··· = (−1)n (−1)n .

3! 5! (2n + 1)! n=0

(2n + 1)!

∞

1 X

= 1 − x + x2 − · · · + (−1)n xn + · · · = (−1)n xn ;

1+x n=0

∞

x2 x3 n−1 x

n

n x

n+1 X

n−1 x

n

log(1 + x) = x − + − · · · + (−1) + (−1) + ··· = (−1) ,

2 3 n n+1 n=0

n

which is valid for −1 < x ≤ 1. We can construct Maclaurin series for other functions by

appropriately applying integration or differentiation operation on the three basic expan-

sions given above. These are given as exercises in the tutorial.

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