Problems & Puzzles: Conjectures

Conjecture 37. The Tutescu's Conjecture

For sure you already know the Kempner function μ(n), defined as the minimal m value such that n divides m!

Tutescu (1996) conjectures that μ(n)≠ μ(n+1), for all n.

Eric Weisstein (Mar, 2004)has verified the validity of this conjecture up to n=109.

Questions: Prove the validity of the Tutescu's conjecture or find a counter-example.

T. D. Noe sent the following two contributions on September 2004:

1) Carlos, though I do not have an answer for you, I do have some progress to report. I will write the function as mu(n). You can change it to Greek if you like.

We are looking for a counterexample. However, instead of testing mu(n) for each n, we examine a set of n such that mu(n) = M for some fixed M, and determine whether there are consecutive numbers in that set. The advantage of this approach is that it provides a systematic way of testing very large numbers. No counterexamples have been found yet. The algorithm is outlined below. We can provide a Mathematica program to anyone interested.

Recall that the value of mu(n) is determined from the prime factorization of n. Basically, there is a prime power p^e such that p^e | n and mu(n) = mu(p^e). Hence, to find all the numbers n such that mu(n) = M, we can concentrate on computing all the prime powers such that mu(p^e) = M. The number of such prime powers is the same as the number of prime factors of M, counting multiplicity. The primes p appearing in the prime powers are merely the prime factors of M. Only the exponents e must be computed. For example, when M = 60, the four prime powers are 2^55, 2^56, 3^28, and 5^14.

If M = mu(n) = mu(n+1), then we can factor n and n+1 as

(1) n = x p^a and n+1 = y q^b

for two different prime powers p^a and q^b with gcd(x,p) = gcd(y,q) = 1, M = mu(p^a) = mu(q^b), mu(x) <= M, and mu(y) <= M. Eliminating n from (1) shows that we need to solve the linear Diophantine equation

(2) y q^b - x p^a = 1

for x and y. Because p^a and q^b are known, and gcd(p^a,q^b) = 1, the extended Euclidean algorithm can be used to compute a basic solution x0 and y0. The family of all solutions is x = x0 + k*q^b and y = y0 + k*p^a for any integer k. The valid values of k range from -M!/(p^a q^b) to M!/(p^a

q^b) -- which can be huge! We used -10^6 < k < 10^6. After computing x and y for some k, we check that gcd(x,p) = gcd(y,q) = 1, mu(x) <= M, and

mu(y) <= M. If we find an x and y that meets all these conditions, then a counterexample has been found. Rather than compute mu(x) and mu(y) exactly (by factoring x and y), we merely check that x | M! and y | M!, which is much faster than factoring.

Note that equation (2) must be solved for all pairs of prime powers associated with M. For M = 60, there are five pairs: (2^55,3^28), (2^55,5^14), (2^56,3^28), (2^56,5^14), and (3^28,5^14).

Observe that when M is prime, or a power of a prime, no values of n satisfy M = mu(n) = mu(n+1).

>What is your personal opinion about the absolute validity of the
>Conjecture? According to your approach you do not devise any theoretical
>proof on its favor, but computationally, could it be disapproved
>someday soon?

I still have an open mind about the conjecture: I'm not sure whether it is true or false. However, if my computer does not find a counterexample soon, then I will believe that the conjecture is true.


After doing extensive calculations using the approach I outlined, I am fairly sure that the conjecture is true.

2) Here is another conjecture:

T. D. Noe's Conjecture:

mu(k) never equals mu(k+6).

I have checked this to 10^7.






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