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Source: The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 120, No. 7 (AugustSeptember 2013),

pp. 642-645

Published by: Mathematical Association of America

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.4169/amer.math.monthly.120.07.642

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NOTES

Edited by Sergei Tabachnikov

2

Daniele Ritelli

dx dy

Z Z

,

0 0 (1 + y)(1 + x 2 y)

we give another solution to the Basel Problem

X 1 2

(2) = = .

n=1

n2 6

X 1 2

= , (1)

n=1

n2 6

has been proved in many different ways. In this note, we focus on the derivation of

(1), taking advantage of the nice interplay between a double integral and a geometric

series, as has appeared in several articles on this subject [1, 5, 3]. As Sir Michael

Atiyah declared in an interview [8]:

Any good theorem should have several proofs, the more the better. For two rea-

sons: usually, different proofs have different strengths and weaknesses, and they

generalize in different directions: they are not just repetitions of each other. . . .

We find that there is always something worthy of attention in a new proof of a known

result. Here, we provide a proof that uses a rational function with the lowest degree

among the functions used in different proofs of the same kind.

The author who inaugurated this approach was Apostol [1], inspired by Beukers

paper [2], where the double integral

1 1

dx dy

Z Z

(2)

0 0 1 xy

was used to prove the irrationality of (2). Apostol, instead, evaluated (2) in two ways:

first, by expanding 1/(1 x y) into a geometric series, and then with a change of

variables corresponding to the rotation of the coordinate axes through the angle /4

http://dx.doi.org/10.4169/amer.math.monthly.120.07.642

MSC: Primary 40A25

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radians. By equating the expression so obtained, the value of (2) is found. It is worth

noting that for the second evaluation, we have to compute the elaborate integrals

1/ 2

1 u

Z

I1 = arctan du

0 2 u2 2 u2

and

2

!

1 2u

Z

I2 = arctan du,

1/ 2 2 u2 2 u2

and Kolk is similar [3]. They expand 1/(1 x 2 y 2 ) into a geometric series to obtain

the (2) series, after which they introduce the two-dimensional trigonometric changes

of variables

sin u sin v

x= , y= ,

cos v cos u

to evaluate the double integral. The proof of Hirschhon [6] stems from the double

inequality

2

a a 4n+2

< 2 (arctan a)2 , for 0 < a < 1, (3)

X

2 arctan <

1 + 1 a2 n=0

(2n + 1)2

inequality with regard again to the function f (x, y) = 1/(1 x 2 y 2 ). To obtain (3),

two integrals of f (x, y) over two different regions of the plane are computed. All

these approaches have in common the need to remove a singularity at the point (1, 1)

of the integrand. Our proof is inspired by [5], where another definite integral

1

+

x

Z Z

dx dy (4)

0 0 (1 + x 2 )(1 + x 2 y2)

is computed, first by integrating with respect to x and then with respect to y, and vice

versa. The same integral is considered in the probabilistic proof given in [7], where

integral (4) comes from the product of two positive Cauchy random variables. The

proof of [5], as well our proof, uses functions with no singularity in the domain of

integration, so we can consider that in same sense these proofs are simpler. Moreover,

our proof uses a lower-degree rational function than the one used in [5].

Our starting point, as with most of the papers on this subject, is that (1) is equiva-

lent to

X 1 2

= . (5)

n=0

(2n + 1)2 8

In our proof we will show (5) starting from the double integral

dx dy

Z Z

. (6)

0 0 (1 + y)(1 + x 2 y)

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If we integrate (6) first with respect to x and then to y, we find that

1

dx

1 arctan( y x) x=

Z Z Z

dy = dy

0 1+y 0 1 + x2y 0 1+y y x=0

dy

Z

=

2 0 y(1 + y)

2u 2

Z

= du = , (7)

2 0 u(1 + u 2 ) 2

where we used the change of variable y = u 2 in the last step. Reversing the order of

integration yields

Z

dy 1 1 x2

Z Z Z

dx = dy dx

0 0 (1 + y)(1 + x 2 y) 0 1x

2

0 1+y 1 + x2y

1 1 ln x

Z Z

= ln dx = 2 dx. (8)

0 1 x 2 x 2

0 x 2 1

ln x 2

Z

dx = . (9)

0 x2 1 4

Now split the integration domain in (9) between [0, 1] and [1, ) and change the

variable x = 1/u in the second integral, so that

1

ln x ln x

ln x

Z Z Z

dx = dx + dx

0 x2 1 0 x2 1 1 x2 1

1 1

ln x ln u

Z Z

= dx + du. (10)

0 x 1

2

0 u2 1

1

ln x 2

Z

dx = . (11)

0 x2 1 8

Equation (5) now follows, expanding, as in [5], the denominator of the integrand on

the left-hand side of (11) into a geometric series and using the Monotone Convergence

Theorem (see [4, pp. 9596]). Thus, we have:

1 1 + 1

ln x ln x

Z Z Z

(x 2n ln x) dx.

X

dx = dx = (12)

0 x2 1 0 1 x2 n=0 0

1 1 Z 1

x 2n+1 x 2n 1

Z

2n

(x ln x) dx = ln x + dx = , (13)

0 2n + 1 0 0 2n + 1 (2n + 1)2

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so that considering (13), we can write (12) as

1 +

ln x 1

Z X

dx = , (14)

0 x 1

2

n=0

(2n + 1)2

REFERENCES

1. T. Apostol, A proof that Euler missed: Evaluating (2) the easy way, Math. Intelligencer 5 (1983) 5960,

available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF03026576.

2. F. Beukers, A note on the irrationality of (2) and (3), Bull. London Math. Soc. 11 (1979) 268272,

available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1112/blms/11.3.268.

3. F. Beukers, E. Calabi, J.A.C. Kolk, Sums of generalized harmonic series and volumes, Nieuw Arch. Wisk.

11 (1993) 217224.

4. M. Capinski, E. Kopp, Measure, Integral and Probability, second edition, Springer, New York, 2004.

2

5. J.D. Harper, Another simple proof of 1 + 212 + 312 + = 6 , Amer. Math. Monthly 110 (2003) 540541,

available at http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3647912.

2

6. M.D. Hirschhon, A simple proof that (2) = 6 , Math. Intelligencer 22 (2011) 8182, available at http:

//dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00283-011-9217-4.

2

7. L. Pace, Probabilistically proving that (2) = 6 , Amer. Math. Monthly 118 (2011) 641643, available at

http://dx.doi.org/10.4169/amer.math.monthly.118.07.641.

8. M. Raussen, C. Skau, Interview with Michael Atiyah and Isadore Singer, Notices Amer. Math. Soc. 52

(2005) 225233.

daniele.ritelli@unibo.it

for the Birthday Problem

Matthias Arnold and Werner Gla

Abstract. We approximate the probability for at least k = 2 or 3 of n persons having the same

birthday if we ignore leap years and assume that each day is equally likely. Although there are

exact formulas available in the literature, a possible drawback to using them in the classroom

is that these formulas are comparatively cumbersome. As an alternative, we suggest an easily

computable approximation that still provides a close fit. Furthermore, the approximation al-

lows an easy answer to the question of how many people are needed, so that the probability of

at least two or three of them having the same birthday exceeds a given value.

The famous birthday problem is concerned with the probability of matching birthdays

in a randomly selected group of people. Most students are surprised to learn that the

probability for at least one match exceeds 0.5 if more than 22 persons are involved.

Numerous authors generalize the birthday problem to, for example, more than two

http://dx.doi.org/10.4169/amer.math.monthly.120.07.645

MSC: Primary 62E17, Secondary 41A10

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