Harmonic series


The harmonic series is a widely studied mathematical series that arises from the harmonic sequence, which consists of the reciprocals of positive integers. In this article, we will explore the properties of this series, discuss its convergence behavior, examine its divergent nature, and shed light on its mathematical significance.

Definition and Form of the Harmonic Series

The harmonic series is defined as the sum of the reciprocals of positive integers. It takes the form $$\sum_{n=1}^\infty \frac{1}{n} = 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/4 + ….$$

Divergence of the Harmonic Series

The harmonic series is a remarkable example of a divergent series. As the series progresses, the terms gradually decrease but never reach zero. Consequently, the sum of a such series grows indefinitely, meaning it does not converge to a finite value.

Proof of Divergence:

We start by proving classical results on sequences. If a sequence $(u_n)_n$ is increasing and has no upper bound. Then $\lim_{n\to+\infty}u_n=+\infty$. In fact, by assumption for any $M>0$, there exist $N\in \mathbb{N}$ such that $u_N>M$. Now by the fact that $(u_n)_n$ is increasing, for any $n>N$ we have $u_n\ge u_N>M$. This is exactly the definition of $\lim_{n\to \infty}u_n=+\infty$.

Now we shall use this result to prove that the following harmonic series satisfies $$ \sum_{n=1}^{+\infty} \frac{1}{n}=+\infty.$$ To this end, we select $$ H_n=1+\frac{1}{2}+\cdots+\frac{1}{n}=\sum^{n}_{k=1}\frac{1}{k},\qquad (n\ge 1).$$ Clearly, we have $H_{n+1}-H_n=\frac{1}{n}>0$. Thus $(H_n)_n$ is strictly increasing. According to the above result to prove that $\lim_{n\to+\infty}H_n=+\infty,$ it suffices to show that the sequence has no upper bound. By contradiction, assume that this sequence has an upper bound. Then it is a convergent sequence. Thus, there exists a real number $\ell$ such that $H_n \to \ell,$ as $n\to\infty$. So that $H_{2n}\to \ell$ as $n\to \infty,$ and then $H_{2n}-H_n\to 0$ as $n\to\infty$. On the other hand, we have $$ H_{2n}-H_n=\sum_{k=n+1}^{2n} \frac{1}{k}\ge \sum_{k=n+1}^{2n} \frac{1}{2n}=\frac{1}{2}.$$ Now by letting $n\to\infty,$ we obtain $0\ge \frac{1}{2},$ a contradiction.

Alternative proofs of the divergence

The divergence of the harmonic series can be demonstrated using various methods. One approach is to employ the integral test, which establishes a connection between the series and the integral of the corresponding function. Integrating the function $f(x) = 1/x $ from 1 to $\infty$ yields the natural logarithm of infinity, $\lim_{x\to+\infty}\ln(x)$, which diverges. Since the integral diverges, the series diverges as well.

Another method to prove the divergence of the harmonic series is by employing the comparison test. By comparing this series to a known divergent series, such as the series of natural numbers, it can be shown that the terms of the harmonic series grow at least as fast as the terms of the divergent series. Hence, the series must also diverge.

Partial Sums and Divergence Rate

The partial sums of the harmonic series grow logarithmically. Specifically, the nth partial sum, denoted as $H_n$, is approximately equal to the natural logarithm of n, denoted as $\ln(n)$. As n increases, the growth of $H_n$ becomes slower and eventually approaches infinity.

Mathematical Significance

The harmonic series has profound implications in various mathematical contexts, such as number theory and calculus. Some notable aspects include:

  1. Infinitely Many Primes: The divergence of the harmonic series plays a crucial role in proving that there are infinitely many prime numbers. Euler’s proof, utilizing the divergence of this series, demonstrates that the sum of the reciprocals of prime numbers diverges.
  2. Harmonic Mean: The harmonic mean is a statistical measure derived from the harmonic series. It provides a way to calculate the average of a set of numbers when their reciprocals are considered. The harmonic mean is particularly useful when dealing with rates, ratios, and inversely proportional quantities.
  3. Zeta Function: The harmonic series is intimately connected to the Riemann zeta function. The Riemann zeta function provides valuable insights into number theory and has connections to prime numbers and the distribution of their reciprocals.

Conclusion: The harmonic series, formed by summing the reciprocals of positive integers, stands as a paradigmatic example of a divergent series. Its divergence is well-established through various mathematical proofs, highlighting its fundamental properties and importance in mathematical analysis. This famous series finds applications in number theory,

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