Möbius inversion formula
A large generalization of this formula applies to summation over an arbitrary locally finite partially ordered set, with Möbius' classical formula applying to the set of the natural numbers ordered by divisibility: see incidence algebra.
Statement of the formula
The classic version states that if g and f are arithmetic functions satisfying
where μ is the Möbius function and the sums extend over all positive divisors d of n (indicated by in the above formulae). In effect, the original f(n) can be determined given g(n) by using the inversion formula. The two sequences are said to be Möbius transforms of each other.
In the language of Dirichlet convolutions, the first formula may be written as
where ∗ denotes the Dirichlet convolution, and 1 is the constant function 1(n) = 1. The second formula is then written as
Many specific examples are given in the article on multiplicative functions.
The theorem follows because ∗ is (commutative and) associative, and 1 ∗ μ = ε, where ε is the identity function for the Dirichlet convolution, taking values ε(1) = 1, ε(n) = 0 for all n > 1. Thus
is its transform. The transforms are related by means of series: the Lambert series
and the Dirichlet series:
where ζ(s) is the Riemann zeta function.
Given an arithmetic function, one can generate a bi-infinite sequence of other arithmetic functions by repeatedly applying the first summation.
For example, if one starts with Euler's totient function φ, and repeatedly applies the transformation process, one obtains:
- φ the totient function
- φ ∗ 1 = I, where I(n) = n is the identity function
- I ∗ 1 = σ1 = σ, the divisor function
If the starting function is the Möbius function itself, the list of functions is:
- μ, the Möbius function
- μ ∗ 1 = ε where
- is the unit function
- ε ∗ 1 = 1, the constant function
- 1 ∗ 1 = σ0 = d = τ, where d = τ is the number of divisors of n, (see divisor function).
Both of these lists of functions extend infinitely in both directions. The Möbius inversion formula enables these lists to be traversed backwards.
As an example the sequence starting with φ is:
The generated sequences can perhaps be more easily understood by considering the corresponding Dirichlet series: each repeated application of the transform corresponds to multiplication by the Riemann zeta function.
Here the sums extend over all positive integers n which are less than or equal to x.
The previous formula arises in the special case of the constant function α(n) = 1, whose Dirichlet inverse is α−1(n) = μ(n).
A particular application of the first of these extensions arises if we have (complex-valued) functions f(n) and g(n) defined on the positive integers, with
By defining F(x) = f(⌊x⌋) and G(x) = g(⌊x⌋), we deduce that
A simple example of the use of this formula is counting the number of reduced fractions 0 < a/ < 1, where a and b are coprime and b ≤ n. If we let f(n) be this number, then g(n) is the total number of fractions 0 < a/ < 1 with b ≤ n, where a and b are not necessarily coprime. (This is because every fraction a/ with gcd(a,b) = d and b ≤ n can be reduced to the fraction a/d/ with b/ ≤ n/, and vice versa.) Here it is straightforward to determine g(n) = n(n − 1)/, but f(n) is harder to compute.
Another inversion formula is (where we assume that the series involved are absolutely convergent):
As above, this generalises to the case where α(n) is an arithmetic function possessing a Dirichlet inverse α−1(n):
As Möbius inversion applies to any abelian group, it makes no difference whether the group operation is written as addition or as multiplication. This gives rise to the following notational variant of the inversion formula:
Proofs of generalizations
The first generalization can be proved as follows. We use Iverson's convention that [condition] is the indicator function of the condition, being 1 if the condition is true and 0 if false. We use the result that
that is, 1 ∗ μ = i.
We have the following:
The proof in the more general case where α(n) replaces 1 is essentially identical, as is the second generalisation.
For a poset P, a set endowed with a partial order relation , define the Möbius function of P recursively by
(Here one assumes the summations are finite.) Then for , where K is a field, we have
if and only if
(See Stanley's Enumerative Combinatorics, Vol 1, Section 3.7.)
Contributions of Weisner, Hall, and Rota
The statement of the general Möbius inversion formula [for partially ordered sets] was first given independently by Weisner (1935) and Philip Hall (1936); both authors were motivated by group theory problems. Neither author seems to have been aware of the combinatorial implications of his work and neither developed the theory of Möbius functions. In a fundamental paper on Möbius functions, Rota showed the importance of this theory in combinatorial mathematics and gave a deep treatment of it. He noted the relation between such topics as inclusion-exclusion, classical number theoretic Möbius inversion, coloring problems and flows in networks. Since then, under the strong influence of Rota, the theory of Möbius inversion and related topics has become an active area of combinatorics.
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