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I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

  1. Feb 20, 2013 #1
    Hi there,

    I recently discovered a formula for the nth term that works for any finite sequence of numbers. I was just wondering whether a formula has already been discovered, and if not, how and where I should publish it.

    To give you an example of what i mean:

    one formula for the nth term of any sequence with two numbers is:
    (Un)=(u1)+((u2)-(u1))(n-1)

    I've tried googling a formula but have come up with nothing. I asked my maths teacher and he didn't know either. He recommended that I consider publishing it.

    (I'm worried that if I post the formula on this website, someone might steal it and I won't get credit for its discovery (if it is in fact my discovery). I'd also like your opinion on this.)

    Thanks.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2013 #2

    jbunniii

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    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    This isn't a formula for an arbitrary sequence, only an arithmetic progression, i.e. one which adds a fixed number at each step, such as 3, 8, 13, 18, 23, 28, ... Of course it's well known, almost trivial. Most high school algebra books mention it at some point.

    There can't be any formula for predicting an element of a general sequence in terms of the other elements. Proof: I'll tell you the other elements, you tell me what number your formula predicts for the remaining one, and I'll spoil your day by picking a different number.
     
  4. Feb 20, 2013 #3
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    I used this formula as an example as I knew it was very well known. You're right when you say that you can pick a different number. If you're given any sequence of numbers and asked to find the next number (and the sequence isn't defined as arithmetic, geometric, etc.), you can give any number and you will still be correct, provided that you have a formula to back it up.
     
  5. Feb 20, 2013 #4

    jbunniii

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    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    My point is that your formula can't work for all possible sequences. So what class of sequences does it work for?
     
  6. Feb 21, 2013 #5

    pwsnafu

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    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    Sounds like polynomial interpolation.

    You can always find such a formula: see Newton polynomial.
     
  7. Feb 21, 2013 #6

    CompuChip

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    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    Or I can write down a formula stating that the elements of the sequence are equal to the N numbers that I gave you for n <= N and to some arbitrary other sequence not matching your prediction for n > N.

    Anyhow, I think we are now misinterpreting the question. For example, I can give you {1, 1} as the first two elements. How will you know if I'm talking about {1, 1, 1, 1, 1}, {1, 1, 2, 3, 5} or {1, 1, 2, 2, 3}?
     
  8. Feb 21, 2013 #7
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    From what I can see, there's no real point publishing what I've found. So I'm going to post my formula here.

    The formula takes the form of the binomial expansion, where:

    un= (u-1)0/0! + (u-1)1*(n-1)/1! + (u-1)2*(n-1)(n-2)/2! + (u-1)3*(n-1)(n-2)(n-3)/3! + ...

    you then need to expand the sequence and replace un with un+1 (for example u3 gets replaced with u4. Only "un" gets replaced by un)

    This will give you:

    un= u1 + (u2-u1)(n-1)+(u3-2u2+u1)(n-1)(n-2)/2 + (u4-3u3+3u2-u1)(n-1)(n-2)(n-3)/6 + ...

    Which works for any given sequence of numbers.

    I'm not sure whether this is the same as what you guys have posted.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2013
  9. Feb 21, 2013 #8

    micromass

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    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    Sorry man, you were beaten by the 6 year old Gauss: http://www.education2000.com/demo/demo/botchtml/arithser.htm [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  10. Feb 21, 2013 #9
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    the issue isn't with the formula, it's with the number of numbers in the sequence. As I said, this gives a formula for the nth term for any sequence where only the first two terms are given. Of course, a sequence with only two terms could be arithmetic, or geometric, or something else altogether. With the information given, it's impossible to determine the next term, but a formula for the nth term can be found.
     
  11. Feb 21, 2013 #10
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    it doesn't have to be an arithmetic series. The formula that I displayed in my first post isn't the one that I'm talking about. The formula that you've shown isn't a formula for the nth term, at least not that I can see.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  12. Feb 21, 2013 #11
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    Sequences, by definition, are infinite.

    Also "impossible to determine the next term" but somehow you can find the nth term? What about n=3?
     
  13. Feb 21, 2013 #12
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    Sorry, my formula was wrong because I expanded (u-1)3 wrong. It's corrected now.
     
  14. Feb 21, 2013 #13
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    That's more of a problem with sequences in general. You can say that about any sequence. For example, how would know, with absolute certainty, if {1,2,4,8} leads to {1,2,4,8,16,32} from the formula 2n or {1,2,4,8,15,26} as my formula states (by stopping to input values at a point such that it is a cubic. In actual fact, you could say that it is a quintic and put whatever values you want in.)
     
  15. Feb 21, 2013 #14

    pwsnafu

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    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    This is what I think you are claiming:

    We have some finite list of numbers, for example {1,3,5,7,11,13}. We substitutes these numbers into the expression I quoted, u1 = 1, u2 = 3, etc. Then the right hand side is some expression in the variable n. If we set n = 3, for example, the right hand side evaluates to 5.

    Is this correct? Are you claiming anything more? Why did your teacher suggest you should publish?
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2013
  16. Feb 21, 2013 #15
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    Let me rephrase, it's impossible to determine what is the intended next term, or intended formula for the nth term (except by luck) because there is an infinite number of terms that could take the place of n=3. Essentially, there is no need to do any calculations when determining the next term, since any answer is correct. This kind of makes questions like "Ex [2] The next term of 5, 11, 17, 23,... is ________." (http://www.math-magic.com/sequences/next_term.htm) pointless, unless it is explicitly stated to be an arithmetic or geometric, etc. sequence. One example where you could put in any answer is "The next term of 2, 5, 14, 41,... is _______." Does this mean that examiners can't mark these questions incorrect? I'd like to know.

    I also said that you can find "A" formula, rather "the intended" formula
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2013
  17. Feb 21, 2013 #16

    pwsnafu

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    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    In mathematics? There is no wrong answer.

    In an IQ test? It's to test whether you can identify patterns so there is a right answer.
     
  18. Feb 21, 2013 #17
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    This is all I'm claiming. When he said that he suggested that I publish, I think he was talking generally, as I spend alot of time thinking about stuff like this. He didn't look into too much detail when I showed him either. He didn't actually check up on whether it was real or not either, he just didn't know off of the top of his head, so I probably shouldn't have put that in. Is this basically the same thing as polynomial interpolation/linear interpolation/newton polynomial? Did they have a general formula?
     
  19. Feb 21, 2013 #18
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    These type of questions came up in my igcse exam. They were phrased similarly to the ones I posted. I remember one of them gave a sequence of 5 or 6 numbers, and then asked for the next term and a formula for the nth term. It was something like 3*((2^n)-1). However my sequence would also have given the correct number. As for the ones that didn't ask for the next number, would I have been incorrect if I didn't give the intended answer, but explained why it still works?
     
  20. Feb 21, 2013 #19
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finite_difference

    I just found this. The segment on Newton Series is pretty much exactly the formula that I put down, just phrased a little differently. I'm going to have to concede that Newton beat me to it.
     
  21. Feb 21, 2013 #20
    Re: I discovered a formula for the nth term of any sequence of numbers

    I didn't understand the formulas on the Wikipedia page that you posted here, but now I do. I see that this discussion could have ended a lot sooner.
     
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