In mathematics, the Mertens conjecture is the false statement that the Mertens function M(n) is bounded by √n, which implies the Riemann hypothesis. It was conjectured by Thomas Joannes Stieltjes in an 1885 letter to Charles Hermite (reprinted in Stieltjes 1905) and Mertens (1897), and disproved by Odlyzko & te Riele (1985). It is a striking example of a mathematical proof contradicting a large amount of computational evidence in favor of a conjecture.
where μ(k) is the Möbius function; the Mertens conjecture is that for all n > 1,
Disproof of the conjecture
In 1985, Andrew Odlyzko and Herman te Riele conditionally proved the Mertens conjecture false: indeed, and . It was later shown that the first counterexample appears below exp(3.21×1064) (~101.39×1064) (Pintz 1987) but above 1014 (Kotnik and Van de Lune 2004). The upper bound has since been lowered to exp(1.59×1040) (Kotnik and Te Riele 2006), but no counterexample is explicitly known. The boundedness claim made by Stieltjes, while remarked upon as "very unlikely" in the 1985 paper cited above, has not been disproven (as of 2009[update]). The law of the iterated logarithm states that if μ is replaced by a random sequence of +1s and −1s then the order of growth of the partial sum of the first n terms is (with probability 1) about (n log log n)1/2, which suggests that the order of growth of m(n) might be somewhere around (log log n)1/2. The actual order of growth may be somewhat smaller; it was conjectured by Steve Gonek in the early 1990s that the order of growth of m(n) was , which was also conjectured by Ng (2004), based on a heuristic argument assuming the Riemann hypothesis and certain conjectures about the averaged behavior of zeros of the Riemann zeta function.
In 1979 Cohen and Dress found the largest known value of for M(7766842813) = 50286. In 2003 Kotnik and van de Lune extended the search to n = 1014 but did not find larger values. In 2006, Kotnik and te Riele improved the upper bound and showed that there are infinitely many values of n for which m(n)>1.2184, but without giving any specific value for such an n.
Connection to the Riemann hypothesis
valid in the region . We can rewrite this as a Stieltjes integral
and after integrating by parts, obtain the reciprocal of the zeta function as a Mellin transform
Using the Mellin inversion theorem we now can express M in terms of 1/ζ as
which is valid for 1 < σ < 2, and valid for 1/2 < σ < 2 on the Riemann hypothesis. From this, the Mellin transform integral must be convergent, and hence M(x) must be O(xe) for every exponent e greater than 1/2. From this it follows that
for all positive ε is equivalent to the Riemann hypothesis, which therefore would have followed from the stronger Mertens hypothesis, and follows from the hypothesis of Stieltjes that
- Borwein, Peter; Choi, Stephen; Rooney, Brendan; et al., eds. (2007). The Riemann hypothesis. A resource for the aficionado and virtuoso alike. CMS Books in Mathematics. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-387-72125-5. Zbl 1132.11047.
- Odlyzko & te Riele (1985)
- Sandor et al (2006) pp.188–189
- "The distribution of the summatory function of the Möbius function" (PDF).
- Kotnik & te Riele (2006)
- Kotnik, Tadej; te Riele, Herman (2006). "The Mertens Conjecture Revisited". In Hess, Florian. Algorithmic number theory. 7th international symposium, ANTS-VII, Berlin, Germany, July 23--28, 2006. Proceedings. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. pp. 156–167. doi:10.1007/11792086_12. ISBN 3-540-36075-1. Zbl 1143.11345.
- T. Kotnik and J. van de Lune (2004), "On the order of the Mertens function", Experimental Mathematics 13, pp. 473–481
- F. Mertens (1897), "Über eine zahlentheoretische Funktion", Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Klasse, Abteilung 2a, 106, pp. 761–830.
- Odlyzko, A. M.; te Riele, H. J. J. (1985), "Disproof of the Mertens conjecture" (PDF), Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik, 357: 138–160, doi:10.1515/crll.1985.357.138, ISSN 0075-4102, MR 783538, Zbl 0544.10047
- J. Pintz (1987), "An effective disproof of the Mertens conjecture", Astérisque 147-148, pp. 325–333.
- Sándor, József; Mitrinović, Dragoslav S.; Crstici, Borislav, eds. (2006), Handbook of number theory I, Dordrecht: Springer-Verlag, pp. 187–189, ISBN 1-4020-4215-9, Zbl 1151.11300
- Stieltjes, T. J. (1905), "Lettre a Hermite de 11 juillet 1885, Lettre #79", in Baillaud, B.; Bourget, H., Correspondance d'Hermite et Stieltjes, Paris: Gauthier—Villars, pp. 160–164