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GENERALIZATION OF

COLLATZ CONJECTURE

By Hariharan Seshadri
GENERALIZATION OF COLLATZ CONJECTURE

Abstract
The Collatz problem, also known as the 3𝑥 + 1 problem, states that every positive
integer approaches one on iterating the Collatz function [1], defined as: -
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𝑥 𝑖𝑓 𝑥 𝑖𝑠 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑛
𝑓(𝑥) = { 2
3𝑥 + 1 𝑖𝑓 𝑥 𝑖𝑠 𝑜𝑑𝑑
Many attempts have been undertaken to generalize the Collatz function. One
important result in this is ‘The Undecidability of the Generalized Collatz Problem’,[2]
which states that there is no generalization that can decide whether an arbitrary
Collatz-like function (𝑎𝑥 + 𝑏: 𝑎, 𝑏 ∈ 𝑄) converges to one or not.
The objective of this paper is to establish a generalized Collatz function that would
not be affected by the undecidability result. This is done by defining the Collatz
function differently.

Generalization
The Collatz Conjecture states that every positive integer approaches one on iterating
the Collatz function. The problem of generalization comes when we try to look for
a function that approaches one all the time. However, if we look for a generalization
that approaches some number that is related to the generalization itself, then we can
find a fruitful generalization that does not suffer the undecidability.
In order to generalize the Collatz problem, let us consider a new function, 𝑔(𝑥),
defined as follows: -
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𝑥 𝑖𝑓 𝑥 𝑖𝑠 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑛 (𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑎, 𝑏 ∈ 𝑁)
𝑔(𝑥) = { 2
𝑎𝑥 + 𝑏 𝑖𝑓 𝑥 𝑖𝑠 𝑜𝑑𝑑
With this, the Collatz conjecture can be modified into – every positive integer
approaches the constant term 𝑏 on iterating the 𝑔(𝑥) function. Clearly, the Collatz
Conjecture is a subset of this statement.
Since not all values of 𝑎 and 𝑏 satisfy this statement, we need to find a specific form
or relation between 𝑎 and 𝑏 such that the above statement is obeyed. For this, 20
values of 𝑎 and 𝑏 each (i.e., all combinations between 𝑎 = 1 𝑡𝑜 20 and 𝑏 = 1 𝑡𝑜 20)
were tested with 20 values of 𝑥 and computationally tested, and the following result
was obtained: -

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GENERALIZATION OF COLLATZ CONJECTURE

a b

1 1

2 2

3 1

3 3

3 9

4 4

6 2

6 6

6 18

8 8

12 4

12 12

16 16
Table: 𝑎 and 𝑏 values that reach 𝑏 on iterating the 𝑔(𝑥) function
From the above values and all values of this kind, we observe the following
behaviour: -
1. All accepted expressions are of the form, 2𝑎 3𝑏 𝑥 + 2𝑚 3𝑛 , where 𝑎, 𝑏, 𝑚, 𝑛 ∈ 𝑊.
2. Both 𝑎 and 𝑏 values are of the same parity with one divisible by the other.
3. The difference of co-prime forms of 𝑎 and 𝑏 is divisible by 2.
4. If a Collatz-like expression, 𝑎𝑥 + 𝑏, reaches 𝑏 after finite cycles of iterations,
then (2𝑛 𝑎)𝑥 + (2𝑛 )𝑏 where 𝑛 ∈ 𝑁, also reaches 𝑏 after finite cycles of iterations.
With these conditions in mind, the following flowchart can be constructed to decide
whether a given expression, 𝑎𝑥 + 𝑏, iterates to 𝑏 or not.

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GENERALIZATION OF COLLATZ CONJECTURE

START

Given expression is of
the form 2𝑎 3𝑏 𝑥 + 2𝑚 3𝑛 , False REJECTED
where 𝑎, 𝑏, 𝑚, 𝑛 ∈ 𝑊

True

Both 2𝑎 3𝑏 and 2𝑚 3𝑛 False REJECTED


are of the same parity
True

The difference of the co-


False REJECTED
prime forms of 2𝑎 3𝑏 and
2𝑚 3𝑛 is divisible by 2
True

2𝑎 3𝑏 is divisible by False REJECTED


2𝑚 3𝑛 or vice-versa
True

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GENERALIZATION OF COLLATZ CONJECTURE

True 2𝑎 3𝑏 and 2𝑚 3𝑛 False


are co-primes

Co-prime form of
True False
expression is
𝑘
3 𝑥 + 1, 𝑘 ∈ {0,1}

ACCEPTED REJECTED

The HCF of 2𝑎 3𝑏 and


True False
2𝑚 3𝑛 is of the form,
2𝑝 3𝑞 , 𝑝 ∈ 𝑊, 𝑞 ∈ {0,1}

REJECTED
True 𝑎 𝑏 𝑚 𝑛 False
2 3 =2 3

ACCEPTED q=0 q=1

Co-prime form of Co-prime form of


True False True False
expression is expression is
𝑘
3 𝑥 + 1, 𝑘 ∈ {0,1} 3𝑘 𝑥 + 1, 𝑘 ∈ {0,1}

ACCEPTED REJECTED ACCEPTED


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GENERALIZATION OF COLLATZ CONJECTURE

Let us work out an example to understand this. Consider the expression, 3𝑥 + 9.


Following the flowchart, we can say that
• 3𝑥 + 9 is of the form 2𝑎 3𝑏 𝑥 + 2𝑚 3𝑛 , where 𝑎, 𝑏, 𝑚, 𝑛 ∈ 𝑊.
• 3 and 9 are of the same parity.
• The co-prime forms of 3 and 9 are 1 and 3, respectively. 1 − 3 = −2, divisible
by 2.
• 9 is divisible by 3.
• 3 and 9 are not co-primes.
• The HCF of 3 and 9 is 3 = 20 31.
• 3≠9
• 3 is raised to the power 1
• The co-prime form of expression, 𝑥 + 3, is not of the form, 3𝑘 𝑥 + 1, 𝑘 ∈ {0,1}.
As a result of the flowchart, we can conclude that the expression, 3𝑥 + 9, reaches 9
after finite iterations.
This method is also helpful in eliminating expressions that do not satisfy the required
condition.
Note: The co-prime form of the expression should be of the form, 𝑎𝑘 𝑥 + 𝑏, 𝑘 ∈
{0,1}, such that 𝑎 and 𝑏 are prime numbers (or 1) which are ±1 away from another
prime number (or 1) such that 𝑎 ≥ 𝑏. This is what has been stated as 3𝑘 𝑥 + 1, 𝑘 ∈
{0,1}, which is the only possible expression.
This entire flowchart can be condensed into the following condition: -
Collagen Condition (Collatz Generalization)
𝑥⁄
2 if 𝑥 ≡ 0 (mod 2)
𝜇(𝑥) = { 𝑎 𝑏 (1−𝑏)𝑚𝑜𝑑 𝑛
2 3 {3 2 𝑥 + 3𝑛𝑏 } if 𝑥 ≡ 1 (mod 2)

where 𝑎, 𝑛 ∈ 𝐖, 𝑥 ∈ 𝐍 and 𝑏 ∈ {0,1}

With this condition, we can generalize the Collatz Conjecture as: -


Collagen Conjecture:
Every positive integer approaches the constant term of the 𝜇(𝑥) function, 2𝑎 3𝑏(𝑛+1) ,
on iterating the function for finite number of cycles.

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GENERALIZATION OF COLLATZ CONJECTURE

References
1. “Collatz Problem”, http://mathworld.wolfram.com/CollatzProblem.html

2. Stuart A. Kurtz and Janos Simon, “The Undecidability of the Generalized


Collatz Problem”, http://people.cs.uchicago.edu/~simon/RES/collatz.pdf

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