Amicable numbers are two different numbers so related that the sum of the proper divisors of each is equal to the other number. (A proper divisor of a number is a positive factor of that number other than the number itself. For example, the proper divisors of 6 are 1, 2, and 3.) A pair of amicable numbers constitutes an aliquot sequence of period 2. A related concept is that of a perfect number, which is a number that equals the sum of its own proper divisors, in other words a number which forms an aliquot sequence of period 1. Numbers that are members of an aliquot sequence with period greater than 2 are known as sociable numbers.
For example, the smallest pair of amicable numbers is (220, 284); for the proper divisors of 220 are 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 20, 22, 44, 55 and 110, of which the sum is 284; and the proper divisors of 284 are 1, 2, 4, 71 and 142, of which the sum is 220.
Amicable numbers were known to the Pythagoreans, who credited them with many mystical properties. A general formula by which some of these numbers could be derived was invented circa 850 by the Iraqi mathematician Thābit ibn Qurra (826–901). Other Arab mathematicians who studied amicable numbers are al-Majriti (died 1007), al-Baghdadi (980–1037), and al-Fārisī (1260–1320). The Iranian mathematician Muhammad Baqir Yazdi (16th century) discovered the pair (9363584, 9437056), though this has often been attributed to Descartes. Much of the work of Eastern mathematicians in this area has been forgotten.
Thābit ibn Qurra's formula was rediscovered by Fermat (1601–1665) and Descartes (1596–1650), to whom it is sometimes ascribed, and extended by Euler (1707–1783). It was extended further by Borho in 1972. Fermat and Descartes also rediscovered pairs of amicable numbers known to Arab mathematicians. Euler also discovered dozens of new pairs. The second smallest pair, (1184, 1210), was discovered in 1866 by a then teenage B. Nicolò I. Paganini, having been overlooked by earlier mathematicians.
As of 1946 there were 390 known pairs, but the advent of computers has allowed the discovery of many thousands since then. Exhaustive searches have been carried out to find all pairs less than a given bound, this bound being extended from 108 in 1970, to 1010 in 1986, 1011 in 1993, and to a bound well over that today.
In 2007, there were almost 12,000,000 known amicable pairs.
Rules for generation
While these rules do generate some pairs of amicable numbers, many other pairs are known, so these rules are by no means comprehensive.
Thābit ibn Qurra theorem
It states that if
- p = 3 × 2n − 1 − 1,
- q = 3 × 2n − 1,
- r = 9 × 22n − 1 − 1,
where n > 1 is an integer and p, q, and r are prime numbers, then 2n×p×q and 2n×r are a pair of amicable numbers. This formula gives the pairs (220, 284) for n=2, (17296, 18416) for n=4, and (9363584, 9437056) for n=7, but no other such pairs are known. Numbers of the form 3 × 2n − 1 are known as Thabit numbers. In order for Ibn Qurra's formula to produce an amicable pair, two consecutive Thabit numbers must be prime; this severely restricts the possible values of n.
To establish the theorem, Thâbit ibn Qurra proved nine lemmas divided into two groups. The first three lemmas deal with the determination of the aliquot parts of a natural integer. The second group of lemmas deals more specifically with the formation of perfect, abundant and deficient numbers.
Euler's rule is a generalization of the Thâbit ibn Qurra theorem. It states that if
- p = (2(n - m)+1) × 2m − 1,
- q = (2(n - m)+1) × 2n − 1,
- r = (2(n - m)+1)2 × 2m + n − 1,
where n > m > 0 are integers and p, q, and r are prime numbers, then 2n×p×q and 2n×r are a pair of amicable numbers. Thābit ibn Qurra's theorem corresponds to the case m=n-1. Euler's rule creates additional amicable pairs for (m,n)=(1,8), (29,40) with no others being known. William Dunham in a video  claims that Euler (1750) found 58 such pairs to make all the by then existing pairs 61.
Let (m, n) be a pair of amicable numbers with m<n, and write m=gM and n=gN where g is the greatest common divisor of m and n. If M and N are both coprime to g and square free then the pair (m, n) is said to be regular, otherwise it is called irregular or exotic. If (m, n) is regular and M and N have i and j prime factors respectively, then (m, n) is said to be of type (i, j).
For example, with (m, n) = (220, 284), the greatest common divisor is 4 and so M = 55 and N = 71. Therefore (220, 284) is regular of type (2, 1).
In every known case, the numbers of a pair are either both even or both odd. It is not known whether an even-odd pair of amicable numbers exists, but if it does, the even number must either be a square number or twice one, and the odd number must be a square number. Also, every known pair shares at least one common factor, higher than 1. It is not known whether a pair of coprime amicable numbers exists, though if any does, the product of the two must be greater than 1067. Also, a pair of coprime amicable numbers cannot be generated by Thabit's formula (above), nor by any similar formula.
In 1955, Paul Erdős showed that the density of amicable numbers, relative to the positive integers, was 0.
References in popular culture
- Amicable numbers are featured in the novel The Professor's Beloved Equation by Yoko Ogawa, and in the Japanese film based on it.
- Paul Auster's collection of short stories entitled True Tales of American Life contains a story ('Mathematical Aphrodisiac' by Alex Galt) in which amicable numbers play an important role.
- Amicable numbers are featured briefly in the novel The Stranger House by Reginald Hill.
- Amicable numbers are mentioned in the French novel The Parrot's Theorem by Denis Guedj.
- Amicable numbers are featured in the visual novel Rewrite (visual novel).
Amicable numbers satisfy and which can be written together as . This can be generalized to larger tuples, say , where we require
- Main article: sociable number
Sociable numbers are a cyclic lists of numbers such that each number is the sum of the proper divisors of the preceding number. For example are sociable numbers of order 4.
- Betrothed numbers (quasi-amicable numbers)
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- Sprugnoli, Renzo (27 September 2005). "Introduzione alla matematica: La matematica della scuola media" (PDF) (in Italian). Universita degli Studi di Firenze: Dipartimento di Sistemi e Informatica. p. 59. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
- Jan Munch Pedersen Known Amicable Pairs
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- An Evening with Leonhard Euler - YouTube
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Amicable Numbers.|
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