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π is irrational

Arne Smeets

In this short note, I will give a more or less elementary proof of the fact that π is irrational.
A little calculus will be used, but nothing more.
Let r be a real number and let n be a nonnegative integer. Define
Z 1
n
An (r) = 1 − x2 cos (rx) dx.
−1

Lemma 1
If n ≥ 2, then
r2 An (r) = 2n(2n − 1)An−1 (r) − 4n(n − 1)An−2 (r).

Proof Partial integration gives

 sin (rx) 0
Z 1  
2 n
An (r) = 1−x dx
−1 r
1
2n 1
Z
2
 n sin (rx) 2 n−1

= 1−x + x 1 − x sin (rx) dx
r −1 r −1
0
2n 1
Z 
2 n−1
 cos (rx)
= − x 1−x dx
r −1 r
1
2n 1 
Z
2n 2 n−1 cos (rx)
  0
2 n−1
= x 1−x + x 1 − x cos (rx) dx
r r
−1 r2 −1
2n 1 4n(n − 1) 1 2
Z Z
2 n−1
n−2
x 1 − x2

= 2
1−x cos (rx) dx − 2
cos (rx) dx.
r −1 r −1

Using the fact that


Z 1 Z 1  
2 2 n−2 2 n−2 2 n−1
  
x 1−x cos (rx) dx = 1−x − 1−x cos (rx) dx
−1 −1

we get that
2n 4n(n − 1)
An (r) = 2
An−1 (r) − (An−2 (r) − An−1 (r)) .
r r2
This proves Lemma 1. 

We continue the proof with a new lemma:

1
Lemma 2
For any nonnegative integer n, we have that
n!
An (r) = 2n+1 (Pn (r) sin r − Qn (r) cos r) ,
r
where Pn (r) and Qn (r) are polynomials having integer coefficients.

Proof We will prove Lemma 2 using mathematical induction. The base case is trivial:
we have P0 (r) = 2, Q0 (r) = 0, P1 (r) = 4 and Q1 (r) = 4r.
Suppose that the existence of Pk (r) and Qk (r) has been proven for k = n−2 and k = n−1,
where n ≥ 2. We will prove the existence of Pk (r) and Qk (r) for k = n. Define
Pn (r) = 2(2n − 1)Pn−1 (r) − 4r2 Pn−2 (r), Qn (r) = 2(2n − 1)Qn−1 (r) − 4r2 Qn−2 (r).
From the recursion in Lemma 1, it follows that Pn (r) and Qn (r) satisfy the conditions. 

An easy induction shows that deg Pn (r) ≤ n for all nonnegative integers n, since
deg Pn (r) = deg 2(2n − 1)Pn−1 (r) − 4r2 Pn−2 (r)


≤ max deg Pn−1 (r), deg r2 Pn−2 (r)




= max (deg Pn−1 , 2 + deg Pn−2 ) .


Suppose now that π is rational, then π/2 = a/b, where a and b are positive integers.
Lemma 2 gives  2n+1  
a b a
An = n! Pn .
b a b
Write Pn (r) = 0≤j≤dn cj,n rj where dn = deg Pn and cj,n ∈ Z. Then
P

n d n d
a2n+1 a a X  a j X
An = b2n+1 Pn = b2n+1 cj = cj,n aj b2n+1−j .
n! b b j=0
b j=0

It is obvious that the right-hand side is an integer, since 2n + 1 − j > n + 1 for 0 ≤ j ≤ dn .


n
Also, since (1 − x2 ) ≥ 0 and 0 ≤ cos(rx) ≤ 1 for −1 ≤ x ≤ 1 and r = 21 π, we get
a
An > 0.
b
We deduce that a n!
An ≥ 2n+1 .
b a
Notice that
2
X a2n+1
aea = .
n≥0
n!
Since the series converges, we have that
n!
lim = +∞.
a2n+1
n→∞
n
However, since (1 − x2 ) ≤ 1 for −1 ≤ x ≤ 1, we get
a Z 1 a  Z 1 a  π  4
2 n

An = 1 − x cos x dx ≤ cos x = A0 = .
b −1 b −1 b 2 π
This is an obvious contradiction. Hence π is irrational.