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is geometric, because each successive term can be obtained by multiplying the previous term by 1/2.
Geometric series are among the simplest examples of infinite series with finite sums, although not all of them have this property. Historically, geometric series played an important role in the early development of calculus, and they continue to be central in the study of convergence of series. Geometric series are used throughout mathematics, and they have important applications in physics, engineering, biology, economics, computer science, queueing theory, and finance.
The terms of a geometric series form a geometric progression, meaning that the ratio of successive terms in the series is constant. This relationship allows for the representation of a geometric series using only two terms, r and a. The term r is the common ratio, and a is the first term of the series. As an example the geometric series given in the introduction,
may simply be written as
- , with and .
The following table shows several geometric series with different start terms and common ratios:
|Start term, a||Common ratio, r||Example series|
|4||10||4 + 40 + 400 + 4000 + 40,000 + ···|
|9||1/3||9 + 3 + 1 + 1/3 + 1/9 + ···|
|7||1/10||7 + 0.7 + 0.07 + 0.007 + 0.0007 + ···|
|3||1||3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + ···|
|1||−1/2||1 − 1/2 + 1/4 − 1/8 + 1/16 − 1/32 + ···|
|3||–1||3 − 3 + 3 − 3 + 3 − ···|
The behavior of the terms depends on the common ratio r:
- If r is between −1 and +1, the terms of the series approach zero in the limit (becoming smaller and smaller in magnitude), and the series converges to a sum. In the case above, where r is 1/2, the series converges to 1.
- If r is greater than one or less than minus one the terms of the series become larger and larger in magnitude. The sum of the terms also gets larger and larger, and the series has no sum. (The series diverges.)
- If r is equal to one, all of the terms of the series are the same. The series diverges.
- If r is minus one the terms take two values alternately (for example, 2, −2, 2, −2, 2,... ). The sum of the terms oscillates between two values (for example, 2, 0, 2, 0, 2,... ). This is a different type of divergence and again the series has no sum. See for example Grandi's series: 1 − 1 + 1 − 1 + ···.
The sum of a geometric series is finite as long as the absolute value of the ratio is less than 1; as the numbers near zero, they become insignificantly small, allowing a sum to be calculated despite the series containing infinitely many terms. The sum can be computed using the self-similarity of the series.
Consider the sum of the following geometric series:
This series has common ratio 2/3. If we multiply through by this common ratio, then the initial 1 becomes a 2/3, the 2/3 becomes a 4/9, and so on:
This new series is the same as the original, except that the first term is missing. Subtracting the new series (2/3)s from the original series s cancels every term in the original but the first,
A similar technique can be used to evaluate any self-similar expression.
For , the sum of the first n terms of a geometric series is
where a is the first term of the series, and r is the common ratio. One can derive the formula for the sum, s, as follows:
As n goes to infinity, the absolute value of r must be less than one for the series to converge. The sum then becomes
When a = 1, this can be simplified to
the left-hand side being a geometric series with common ratio r.
The formula also holds for complex r, with the corresponding restriction, the modulus of r is strictly less than one.
Proof of convergence
Since (1 + r + r2 + ... + rn)(1−r)
= ((1-r) + (r - r2) + (r2 - r3) + ... + (rn - rn+1))
-r) + (r - r2) + (r2 - r3) + ... + (rn - rn+1))
= 1−rn+1 and rn+1 → 0 for | r | < 1.
Convergence of geometric series can also be demonstrated by rewriting the series as an equivalent telescoping series. Consider the function,
So S converges to
A repeating decimal can be thought of as a geometric series whose common ratio is a power of 1/10. For example:
The formula for the sum of a geometric series can be used to convert the decimal to a fraction,
The formula works not only for a single repeating figure, but also for a repeating group of figures. For example:
Note that every series of repeating consecutive decimals can be conveniently simplified with the following:
That is, a repeating decimal with repeat length n is equal to the quotient of the repeating part (as an integer) and 10n - 1.
Archimedes' quadrature of the parabola
Archimedes' Theorem states that the total area under the parabola is 4/3 of the area of the blue triangle.
Archimedes determined that each green triangle has 1/8 the area of the blue triangle, each yellow triangle has 1/8 the area of a green triangle, and so forth.
Assuming that the blue triangle has area 1, the total area is an infinite sum:
The first term represents the area of the blue triangle, the second term the areas of the two green triangles, the third term the areas of the four yellow triangles, and so on. Simplifying the fractions gives
This is a geometric series with common ratio 1/4 and the fractional part is equal to
The sum is
For example, the area inside the Koch snowflake can be described as the union of infinitely many equilateral triangles (see figure). Each side of the green triangle is exactly 1/3 the size of a side of the large blue triangle, and therefore has exactly 1/9 the area. Similarly, each yellow triangle has 1/9 the area of a green triangle, and so forth. Taking the blue triangle as a unit of area, the total area of the snowflake is
The first term of this series represents the area of the blue triangle, the second term the total area of the three green triangles, the third term the total area of the twelve yellow triangles, and so forth. Excluding the initial 1, this series is geometric with constant ratio r = 4/9. The first term of the geometric series is a = 3(1/9) = 1/3, so the sum is
Thus the Koch snowflake has 8/5 of the area of the base triangle.
The convergence of a geometric series reveals that a sum involving an infinite number of summands can indeed be finite, and so allows one to resolve many of Zeno's paradoxes. For example, Zeno's dichotomy paradox maintains that movement is impossible, as one can divide any finite path into an infinite number of steps wherein each step is taken to be half the remaining distance. Zeno's mistake is in the assumption that the sum of an infinite number of finite steps cannot be finite. This is of course not true, as evidenced by the convergence of the geometric series with .
This, however, is not a complete resolution to Zeno's dichotomy paradox. Strictly speaking, unless we allow for time to move in reverse, where the step size begins with and approaches zero as a limit, this infinite series would otherwise have to begin with an infinitesimally small step. Treating infinitesimals in this way is typically not something which is rigorously defined mathematically, outside of Nonstandard Calculus. So, while it is true that the entire infinite summation yields a finite number, we can not create a simple ordering of the terms when starting from an infinitesimal, and therefore we can not adequately describe the first step of any given action.
For example, suppose that a payment of $100 will be made to the owner of the annuity once per year (at the end of the year) in perpetuity. Receiving $100 a year from now is worth less than an immediate $100, because one cannot invest the money until one receives it. In particular, the present value of $100 one year in the future is $100 / (1 + ), where is the yearly interest rate.
Similarly, a payment of $100 two years in the future has a present value of $100 / (1 + )2 (squared because two years' worth of interest is lost by not receiving the money right now). Therefore, the present value of receiving $100 per year in perpetuity is
which is the infinite series:
This is a geometric series with common ratio 1 / (1 + ). The sum is the first term divided by (one minus the common ratio):
For example, if the yearly interest rate is 10% ( = 0.10), then the entire annuity has a present value of $100 / 0.10 = $1000.
This sort of calculation is used to compute the APR of a loan (such as a mortgage loan). It can also be used to estimate the present value of expected stock dividends, or the terminal value of a security.
Geometric power series
The formula for a geometric series
By differentiating the geometric series, one obtains the variant
Similarly obtained are:
- 0.999... – Alternative decimal expansion of the number 1
- Asymptote – In geometry, limit of the tangent at a point that tends to infinity
- Divergent geometric series
- Generalized hypergeometric function
- Geometric progression
- Neumann series
- Ratio test
- Root test
- Series (mathematics) – Infinite sum
Specific geometric series
- Grandi's series: 1 − 1 + 1 − 1 + ⋯
- 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + ⋯
- 1 − 2 + 4 − 8 + ⋯
- 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + ⋯
- 1/2 − 1/4 + 1/8 − 1/16 + ⋯
- 1/4 + 1/16 + 1/64 + 1/256 + ⋯
- A geometric series is a unit series (the series sum converges to one) if and only if |r| < 1 and a + r = 1 (equivalent to the more familiar form S = a / (1-r) = 1 when |r| < 1). Therefore, an alternating series is also a unit series when -1 < r < 0 and a + r = 1 (for example, common scale a = 1.7 and common ratio r = -0.7).
- The terms of a geometric series are also the terms of a generalized Fibonacci sequence (Fn = Fn-1 + Fn-2 but without requiring F0 = 0 and F1 = 1) when a geometric series common ratio r satisfies the constraint 1 + r = r2, which according to the quadratic formula is when the common ratio r equals the golden ratio (i.e., common ratio r = (1 ± √5)/2).
- The only geometric series that is a unit series and also has terms of a generalized Fibonacci sequence has the golden ratio as its common scale a and the conjugate golden ratio as its common ratio r (i.e., a = (1 + √5)/2 and r = (1 - √5)/2). It is a unit series because a + r = 1 and |r| < 1, it is a generalized Fibonacci sequence because 1 + r = r2, and it is an alternating series because r < 0.
- Abramowitz, M. and Stegun, I. A. (Eds.). Handbook of Mathematical Functions with Formulas, Graphs, and Mathematical Tables, 9th printing. New York: Dover, p. 10, 1972.
- Arfken, G. Mathematical Methods for Physicists, 3rd ed. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, pp. 278–279, 1985.
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History and philosophy
- C. H. Edwards, Jr. (1994). The Historical Development of the Calculus, 3rd ed., Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-94313-8.
- Swain, Gordon and Thomas Dence (April 1998). "Archimedes' Quadrature of the Parabola Revisited". Mathematics Magazine. 71 (2): 123–30. doi:10.2307/2691014. JSTOR 2691014.
- Eli Maor (1991). To Infinity and Beyond: A Cultural History of the Infinite, Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-02511-7
- Morr Lazerowitz (2000). The Structure of Metaphysics (International Library of Philosophy), Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-22526-7
- Carl P. Simon and Lawrence Blume (1994). Mathematics for Economists, W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-95733-4
- Mike Rosser (2003). Basic Mathematics for Economists, 2nd ed., Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-26784-7
- Edward Batschelet (1992). Introduction to Mathematics for Life Scientists, 3rd ed., Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-09648-3
- Richard F. Burton (1998). Biology by Numbers: An Encouragement to Quantitative Thinking, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-57698-7
- "Geometric progression", Encyclopedia of Mathematics, EMS Press, 2001 
- Weisstein, Eric W. "Geometric Series". MathWorld.
- Geometric Series at PlanetMath.org.
- Peppard, Kim. "College Algebra Tutorial on Geometric Sequences and Series". West Texas A&M University.
- Casselman, Bill. "A Geometric Interpretation of the Geometric Series". Archived from the original (Applet) on 2007-09-29.
- "Geometric Series" by Michael Schreiber, Wolfram Demonstrations Project, 2007.