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- The term harmonic number has multiple meanings. For other meanings, see harmonic number (disambiguation).

In mathematics, the n-th harmonic number is the sum of the reciprocals of the first n natural numbers:

- $H\_n=\; 1+frac\{1\}\{2\}+frac\{1\}\{3\}+cdots+frac\{1\}\{n\}$

- $=sum\_\{k=1\}^n\; frac\{1\}\{k\}.$

This also equals n times the inverse of the harmonic mean of these natural numbers.

Harmonic numbers were studied in antiquity and are important in various branches of number theory. They are sometimes loosely termed harmonic series, are closely related to the Riemann zeta function, and appear in various expressions for various special functions.

An integral representation is given by Euler:

- $H\_n\; =\; int\_0^1\; frac\{1\; -\; x^n\}\{1\; -\; x\},dx.$

This representation can be easily shown to satisfy the recurrence relation by the formula

- $int\_0^1\; x^n,dx\; =\; frac\{1\}\{n\; +\; 1\},$

and then

- $x^\{n\}\; +\; frac\{1\; -\; x^n\}\{1\; -\; x\}\; =\; frac\{1\; -\; x^\{n+1\}\}\{1\; -\; x\}$

inside the integral.

H_{n} grows about as fast as the natural logarithm of n. The reason is that the sum is approximated by the integral

- $int\_1^n\; \{1\; over\; x\},\; dx$

whose value is ln(n). More precisely, we have the limit:

- $lim\_\{n\; to\; infty\}\; H\_n\; -\; ln(n)\; =\; gamma$

(where γ is the Euler-Mascheroni constant $0.5772156649dots$), and the corresponding asymptotic expansion:

- $H\_n\; =\; gamma\; +\; ln\{n\}\; +\; frac\{1\}\{2\}n^\{-1\}\; -\; frac\{1\}\{12\}n^\{-2\}\; +\; frac\{1\}\{120\}n^\{-4\}\; +\; mathcal\{O\}(n^\{-6\})$

- $H\_alpha\; =\; int\_0^1frac\{1-x^alpha\}\{1-x\},dx$

- $H\_\{1/2\}\; =\; 2\; -2ln\{2\},$

- $H\_\{1/3\}\; =\; 3-frac\{pi\}\{2sqrt\{3\}\}\; -frac\{3\}\{2\}ln\{3\}$

- $H\_\{1/4\}\; =\; 4-frac\{pi\}\{2\}\; -\; 3ln\{2\}$

- $H\_\{1/6\}\; =\; 6-frac\{pi\}\{2\}sqrt\{3\}\; -2ln\{2\}\; -frac\{3\}\{2\}ln(3)$

- $H\_\{1/8\}\; =\; 8-frac\{pi\}\{2\}\; -\; 4ln\{2\}\; -\; frac\{1\}\{sqrt\{2\}\}\; left\{pi\; +\; ln(2\; +\; sqrt\{2\})\; -\; ln(2\; -\; sqrt\{2\})right\}$

- $sum\_\{n=1\}^infty\; z^n\; H\_n\; =$

where $ln(z)$ is the natural logarithm. An exponential generating function is

- $sum\_\{n=1\}^infty\; frac\; \{z^n\}\{n!\}\; H\_n\; =$

where $mbox\{Ein\}(z)$ is the entire exponential integral. Note that

- $mbox\; \{Ein\}(z)\; =\; mbox\{E\}\_1(z)\; +\; gamma\; +\; ln\; z\; =$

where $Gamma\; (0,z)$ is the incomplete gamma function.

The harmonic numbers appear in several calculation formulas, such as the digamma function:

- $psi(n)\; =\; H\_\{n-1\}\; -\; gamma.,$

This relation is also frequently used to define the extension of the harmonic numbers to non-integer n. The harmonic numbers are also frequently used to define γ, using the limit introduced in the previous section, although

- $gamma\; =\; lim\_\{n\; rightarrow\; infty\}\{left(H\_n\; -\; lnleft(n+\{1\; over\; 2\}right)right)\}$

converges more quickly.

In 2002 Jeffrey Lagarias proved that the Riemann hypothesis is equivalent to the statement that

- $sigma(n)\; le\; H\_n\; +\; ln(H\_n)e^\{H\_n\},$

See also Watterson estimator, Tajima's D, coupon collector's problem.

- $H\_\{n,m\}=sum\_\{k=1\}^n\; frac\{1\}\{k^m\}.$

Note that the limit as n tends to infinity exists if $m\; >\; 1$.

Other notations occasionally used include

- $H\_\{n,m\}=\; H\_n^\{(m)\}\; =\; H\_m(n).$

The special case of $m=1$ is simply called a harmonic number and is frequently written without the superscript, as

- $H\_n=\; sum\_\{k=1\}^n\; frac\{1\}\{k\}.$

In the limit of $nrightarrow\; infty$, the generalized harmonic number converges to the Riemann zeta function

- $lim\_\{nrightarrow\; infty\}\; H\_\{n,m\}\; =\; zeta(m).$

The related sum $sum\_\{k=1\}^n\; k^m$ occurs in the study of Bernoulli numbers; the harmonic numbers also appear in the study of Stirling numbers.

A generating function for the generalized harmonic numbers is

- $sum\_\{n=1\}^infty\; z^n\; H\_\{n,m\}\; =$

where $mbox\{Li\}\_m(z)$ is the polylogarithm, and $|z|<1$. The generating function given above for $m=1$ is a special case of this formula.

- $int\_a^1\; frac\; \{1-x^s\}\{1-x\}\; dx\; =$

which holds for general complex-valued s, for the suitably extended binomial coefficients. By choosing a=0, this formula gives both an integral and a series representation for a function that interpolates the harmonic numbers and extends a definition to the complex plane. This integral relation is easily derived by manipulating the Newton series

- $sum\_\{k=0\}^infty\; \{s\; choose\; k\}\; (-x)^k\; =\; (1-x)^s,$

which is just the Newton's generalized binomial theorem. The interpolating function is in fact just the digamma function:

- $psi(s+1)+gamma\; =\; int\_0^1\; frac\; \{1-x^s\}\{1-x\}\; dx$

where $psi(x)$ is the digamma, and $gamma$ is the Euler-Mascheroni constant. The integration process may be repeated to obtain

- $H\_\{s,2\}=-sum\_\{k=1\}^infty\; frac\; \{(-1)^k\}\{k\}\; \{s\; choose\; k\}\; H\_k.$

- Arthur T. Benjamin, Gregory O. Preston, Jennifer J. Quinn, A Stirling Encounter with Harmonic Numbers, (2002) Mathematics Magazine, 75 (2) pp 95-103.
- Donald Knuth. The Art of Computer Programming, Volume 1: Fundamental Algorithms, Third Edition. Addison-Wesley, 1997. ISBN 0-201-89683-4. Section 1.2.7: Harmonic Numbers, pp.75–79.
- Ed Sandifer, How Euler Did It -- Estimating the Basel problem (2003)
- Peter Paule and Carsten Schneider, Computer Proofs of a New Family of Harmonic Number Identities, (2003) Adv. in Appl. Math. 31(2), pp. 359-378.
- Wenchang CHU, A Binomial Coefficient Identity Associated with Beukers' Conjecture on Apery Numbers, (2004) The Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, 11, #N15.

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Last updated on Wednesday August 13, 2008 at 13:56:14 PDT (GMT -0700)

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Last updated on Wednesday August 13, 2008 at 13:56:14 PDT (GMT -0700)

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