Tag Archives: paper

“Second Moments in the Generalized Gauss Circle Problem” (with T. Hulse, C. Ieong Kuan, and A. Walker)

This is joint work with Thomas Hulse, Chan Ieong Kuan, and Alexander Walker. This is a natural successor to our previous work (see their announcements: one, two, three) concerning bounds and asymptotics for sums of coefficients of modular forms.

We now have a variety of results concerning the behavior of the partial sums

$$ S_f(X) = \sum_{n \leq X} a(n) $$

where $f(z) = \sum_{n \geq 1} a(n) e(nz)$ is a GL(2) cuspform. The primary focus of our previous work was to understand the Dirichlet series

$$ D(s, S_f \times S_f) = \sum_{n \geq 1} \frac{S_f(n)^2}{n^s} $$

completely, give its meromorphic continuation to the plane (this was the major topic of the first paper in the series), and to perform classical complex analysis on this object in order to describe the behavior of $S_f(n)$ and $S_f(n)^2$ (this was done in the first paper, and was the major topic of the second paper of the series). One motivation for studying this type of problem is that bounds for $S_f(n)$ are analogous to understanding the error term in lattice point discrepancy with circles.

That is, let $S_2(R)$ denote the number of lattice points in a circle of radius $\sqrt{R}$ centered at the origin. Then we expect that $S_2(R)$ is approximately the area of the circle, plus or minus some error term. We write this as

$$ S_2(R) = \pi R + P_2(R),$$

where $P_2(R)$ is the error term. We refer to $P_2(R)$ as the “lattice point discrepancy” — it describes the discrepancy between the number of lattice points in the circle and the area of the circle. Determining the size of $P_2(R)$ is a very famous problem called the Gauss circle problem, and it has been studied for over 200 years. We believe that $P_2(R) = O(R^{1/4 + \epsilon})$, but that is not known to be true.

The Gauss circle problem can be cast in the language of modular forms. Let $\theta(z)$ denote the standard Jacobi theta series,

$$ \theta(z) = \sum_{n \in \mathbb{Z}} e^{2\pi i n^2 z}.$$


$$ \theta^2(z) = 1 + \sum_{n \geq 1} r_2(n) e^{2\pi i n z},$$

where $r_2(n)$ denotes the number of representations of $n$ as a sum of $2$ (positive or negative) squares. The function $\theta^2(z)$ is a modular form of weight $1$ on $\Gamma_0(4)$, but it is not a cuspform. However, the sum

$$ \sum_{n \leq R} r_2(n) = S_2(R),$$

and so the partial sums of the coefficients of $\theta^2(z)$ indicate the number of lattice points in the circle of radius $\sqrt R$. Thus $\theta^2(z)$ gives access to the Gauss circle problem.

More generally, one can consider the number of lattice points in a $k$-dimensional sphere of radius $\sqrt R$ centered at the origin, which should approximately be the volume of that sphere,

$$ S_k(R) = \mathrm{Vol}(B(\sqrt R)) + P_k(R) = \sum_{n \leq R} r_k(n),$$

giving a $k$-dimensional lattice point discrepancy. For large dimension $k$, one should expect that the circle problem is sufficient to give good bounds and understanding of the size and error of $S_k(R)$. For $k \geq 5$, the true order of growth for $P_k(R)$ is known (up to constants).

Therefore it happens to be that the small (meaning 2 or 3) dimensional cases are both the most interesting, given our predilection for 2 and 3 dimensional geometry, and the most enigmatic. For a variety of reasons, the three dimensional case is very challenging to understand, and is perhaps even more enigmatic than the two dimensional case.

Strong evidence for the conjectured size of the lattice point discrepancy  comes in the form of mean square estimates. By looking at the square, one doesn’t need to worry about oscillation from positive to negative values. And by averaging over many radii, one hopes to smooth out some of the individual bumps. These mean square estimates take the form

\int_0^X P_2(t)^2 dt &= C X^{3/2} + O(X \log^2 X) \\
\int_0^X P_3(t)^2 dt &= C’ X^2 \log X + O(X^2 (\sqrt{ \log X})).

These indicate that the average size of $P_2(R)$ is $R^{1/4}$. and that the average size of $P_3(R)$ is $R^{1/2}$. In the two dimensional case, notice that the error term in the mean square asymptotic has pretty significant separation. It has essentially a $\sqrt X$ power-savings over the main term. But in the three dimensional case, there is no power separation. Even with significant averaging, we are only just capable of distinguishing a main term at all.

It is also interesting, but for more complicated reasons, that the main term in the three dimensional case has a log term within it. This is unique to the three dimensional case. But that is a description for another time.

In a paper that we recently posted to the arxiv, we show that the Dirichlet series

$$ \sum_{n \geq 1} \frac{S_k(n)^2}{n^s} $$


$$ \sum_{n \geq 1} \frac{P_k(n)^2}{n^s} $$

for $k \geq 3$ have understandable meromorphic continuation to the plane. Of particular interest is the $k = 3$ case, of course. We then investigate smoothed and unsmoothed mean square results.  In particular, we prove a result stated  following.


$$\begin{align} \int_0^\infty P_k(t)^2 e^{-t/X} &= C_3 X^2 \log X + C_4 X^{5/2}  \\ &\quad + C_kX^{k-1}  + O(X^{k-2} \end{align}$$

In this statement, the term with $C_3$ only appears in dimension $3$, and the term with $C_4$ only appears in dimension $4$. This should really thought of as saying that we understand the Laplace transform of the square of the lattice point discrepancy as well as can be desired.

We are also able to improve the sharp second mean in the dimension 3 case, showing in particular the following.


There exists $\lambda > 0$ such that

$$\int_0^X P_3(t)^2 dt = C X^2 \log X + D X^2 + O(X^{2 – \lambda}).$$

We do not actually compute what we might take $\lambda$ to be, but we believe (informally) that $\lambda$ can be taken as $1/5$.

The major themes behind these new results are already present in the first paper in the series. The new ingredient involves handling the behavior on non-cuspforms at the cusps on the analytic side, and handling the apparent main terms (int his case, the volume of the ball) on the combinatorial side.

There is an additional difficulty that arises in the dimension 2 case which makes it distinct. But soon I will describe a different forthcoming work in that case.

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The Collatz Conjecture – recent development?

On his site, John D. Cook recently proliferated a paper by Gerhard Opfer that claimed to solve the Collatz Conjecture. The Collatz Conjecture is simple to state:

Collatz (or the 3n + 1 conjecture):
Starting at any number do the following: if n is even, divide by 2; if n is odd, multiply by 3 and add 1.
The conjecture states that no matter what positive integer you start at, you will end up at 1 (the so-called 1-4-2 loop).

At first, I had high hopes for the paper. It seems relatively well-written and was submitted to the Mathematics of Computation, a very respectable journal. I even sent out a brief email about the paper. But the paper is flawed. The problem, I think, can be succinctly summarized by the following: he relies on the assumption that starting with any number $latex n_0$, one will eventually hit a number that is less than $latex n_0$. When stated like this, it seems obvious that there is a problem, but he only relied on that one number (rather than the apparent infinite descent that could follow). The exact problem occurs with his ‘annihilation argument’ on page 11 of the pdf above. He more or less states that one can start at 1 and reach every number by doing a sort of reverse Collatz function (he’s actually a bit wittier than that), but does not prove it.

More commentary can be found on reddit, reddit again, and on math.SE (a question protected by Qiaocho Yuan – go him).

I use this as an intro to a sort of joke that goes around mathematician’s circles. A while back, Sean Carroll wrote up ‘The Alternative-Science Respectability Checklist,’ and it’s awesome. Find it here. It turns out that Scott Aaronson wrote up a similar article, inspired by Sean Carroll, that is titled “Ten Signs a Claimed Mathematical Breakthrough is Wrong.”

His inspiration was the time-old problem that simply stated problems encourage generations up people to attack them, and frequently to think that they have made progress. So he asks :

Suppose someone sends you a complicated solution to a famous decades-old math problem, like P vs. NP. How can you decide, in ten minutes or less, whether the solution is worth reading?

And thus his 10 signs were created. I happen to have heard a few people say that this most recent paper on the Collatz Conjecture only failed three: #6 (The paper jumps into technicalities without presenting a new idea), #8 (The paper wastes lots of space on standard material), and #10 (The techniques just seem too wimpy for the problem at hand). {though perhaps #8 is debateable – some say it’s related to a different convention of writing papers, but I don’t know about any of that}

In my experience, I rely mostly on #1 (it’s not written in $latex TeX$), #4 (it conflicts with some impossibility result), and #7 (it doesn’t build on any previous work). But both of these articles are very funny, though not exactly precise nor entirely true.

Posted in Expository, Humor, Mathematics, Open | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments