Aliquot sequences

Speaker: Carl Pomerance

Date: Fri, Oct 2, 2020

Location: Zoom, PIMS, University of Calgary

Conference: The Unsolved Problems Conference: Celebrating the living legacy of the mathematics of Richard Guy

Subject: Mathematics, Number Theory

Class: Scientific


These are sequences formed by iterating the sum-of-proper-divisors function. For example: 12, 16, 15, 9, 4, 3, 1, 0. Of interest since Pythagoras, who remarked on the fixed point 6 (a perfect number) and the 2-cycle 220, 284 (an amicable pair), aliquot sequences were also one of Richard Guy's favorite subjects. The Catalan--Dickson conjecture asserts that every aliquot sequence is bounded (either terminates at zero or becomes periodic), while the Guy--Selfridge counter-conjecture asserts that many aliquot sequences diverge to infinity. It is interesting that Guy and Selfridge would make such a claim since no aliquot sequence is known to diverge, though the numerical evidence is certainly suggestive. The first case in doubt is the sequence beginning with 276. This talk will survey what's known about the problem and give evidence for and against the two countervailing views.