In which we study convergents, and make sense of infinite continued fractions.
- Definition of convergents, and of sequences and .
- Lemma 58: For , we have . We proved this by induction, using the fact that .
- Lemma 59: For , we have . This was an easy induction using Lemma 58.
- Lemma 60: If , , …, are all integers, then and are coprime integers. This was a straightforward consequence of Lemma 59.
- Proposition 61: We have as . We derived and used the useful formula that and noted that as .
- Lemma 62: We have for all , and so we also have for . In the course of proving Proposition 61, we showed that , and then we found upper and lower bounds for .
Understanding today’s lecture
You could pick some irrational numbers and compute their continued fractions. Try to avoid using a calculator (that is, try to do it exactly) if you possibly can. What are their convergents?
The usual selection. Hardy and Wright (An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers) and Baker (A concise introduction to the theory of numbers) both discuss Diophantine approximation via continued fractions, and have some nice material going beyond the topics that we’ll see in lectures.
Preparation for Lecture 20
We’ve seen that continued fractions give a sequence of rational numbers that converge to a given real number (namely the convergents). Next time we’ll consider these as rational approximations of that real number. I suggest that you compute some convergents (for some examples that we haven’t seen in lectures), to see whether they give good approximations. How do they compare with the rational approximations arising from truncating decimal expansions?
Next time we’ll see that in some sense the best rational approximations come from continued fractions. You could usefully think about how we might formulate that result in a precise way (and, of course, how we might prove it).
We are then going to turn our attention to the Diophantine equation (where is a fixed integer that isn’t a square, and where we are looking for integer solutions and ). Can you find some solutions when or , for example? It would be good to get a feeling for whether there are no solutions, some but only finitely many solutions, or infinitely many solutions, for different values of .
(And what happens to the equation when is a square? Why have I ruled out that case above?)