The Universe of Discourse

Wed, 19 Jan 2022

The squares are kinda Fibonacci-like

I got a cute little surprise today. I was thinking: suppose someone gives you a large square integer and asks you to find the next larger square. You can't really do any better than to extract the square root, add 1, and square the result. But if someone gives you two consecutive square numbers, you can find the next one with much less work. Say the two squares are !!b = n^2!! and !!a = n^2+2n+1!!, where !!n!! is unknown. Then you want to find !!n^2+4n+4!!, which is simply !!2a-b+2!!. No square rooting is required.

So the squares can be defined by the recurrence $$\begin{align} s_0 & = 0 \\ s_1 & = 1 \\ s_{n+1} & = 2s_n - s_{n-1} + 2\tag{$\ast$} \end{align} $$

This looks a great deal like the Fibonacci recurrence:

$$\begin{align} f_0 & = 0 \\ f_1 & = 1 \\ f_{n+1} & = f_n + f_{n-1} \end{align} $$

and I was a bit surprised because I thought all those Fibonacci-ish recurrences turned out to be approximately exponential. For example, !!f_n = O(\phi^n)!! where !!\phi=\frac12(1 + \sqrt 5)!!. And actually the !!f_0!! and !!f_1!! values don't matter, whatever you start with you get !!f_n = O(\phi^n)!!; the differences are small and are hidden in the Landau sign.

Similarly, if the recurrence is !!g_{n+1} = 2g_n + g_{n-1}!! you get !!g_n = O((1+\sqrt2)^n)!!, exponential again. So I was surprised that !!(\ast)!! produced squares instead of something exponential.

But as it turns out, it is producing something exponential. Sort of. Kind of. Not really.


There are a number of ways to explain the appearance of the !!\phi!! constant in the Fibonacci sequence. Feel free to replace this one with whatever you prefer: The Fibonacci recurrence can be written as $$\left[\matrix{1&1\\1&0}\right] \left[\matrix{f_n\\f_{n-1}}\right] = \left[\matrix{f_{n+1}\\f_n}\right] $$ so that $$\left[\matrix{1&1\\1&0}\right]^n \left[\matrix{1\\0}\right] = \left[\matrix{f_{n+1}\\f_n}\right] $$

and !!\phi!! appears because it is the positive eigenvalue of the square matrix !!\sm1,1,1,0!!. Similarly, !!1+\sqrt2!! is the positive eigenvalue of the matrix !!\sm 2,1,1,0!! that arises in connection with the !!g_n!! sequences that obey !!g_{n+1} = 2g_n + g_{n-1}!!.

For !!s_n!! the recurrence !!(\ast)!! is !!s_{n+1} = 2s_n - s_{n-1} + 2!!, Briefly disregarding the 2, we get the matrix form

$$\left[\matrix{2&-1\\1&0}\right]^n \left[\matrix{s_1\\s_0}\right] = \left[\matrix{s_{n+1}\\s_n}\right] $$

and the eigenvalues of !!\sm2,-1,1,0!! are exactly !!1!!. Where the Fibonacci sequence had !!f_n \approx k\cdot\phi^n!! we get instead !!s_n \approx k\cdot1^n!!, and instead of exploding, the exponential part remains well-behaved and the lower-order contributions remain significant.

If the two initial terms are !!t_0!! and !!t_1!!, then !!n!!th term of the sequence is simply !!t_0 + n(t_1-t_0)!!. That extra !!+2!! I temporarily disregarded in the previous paragraph is making all the interesting contributions: $$0, 0, 2, 6, 12, 20, \ldots, n(n-1) \ldots$$ and when you add the !!t_0 + n(t_1-t_0)!! and put !!t_0=0, t_1=1!! you get the squares.

So the squares can be considered a sort of Fibonacci-ish approximately exponential sequence, except that the exponential part doesn't matter because the base of the exponent is !!1!!.

How about that.

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