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12. The Euler Number

Find lim 1

x

1 x x and lim 1 1 x x 1 .

x

A modern approach is to use L’Hopital’s rule, but Dörrie avoids using any Calculus. This solution shows a little more, namely that

x

1 1 x
1
1 x

x e

for all x 0 and that lim 1

x

1

x x e lim 1

x

1

x

x 1 x x 1 x

x 1 .

Our starting point is the exponential inequality

x 1 x 1 for all x 0 and 0 1 (with equality only when
x
1 x 1
for all x 0 and 0 1 (with equality only when x 1) from No. 10.
Let a b 0.
With
b
1
b
1
a
1
x 1 b
and
a , the exponential inequality reads
1
1 a
or
b
1
1
b
1
1
a a ,
b
1
b 1
1
1
and with x 1
and
a 1 , it reads
1
b 1
a 1
1
b 1
b
1
a 1 or
b 1
b
a
a 1 , and reciprocally
b 1
a
1
b 1
1
1
1
b
Thus we have the following remarkable
1 a 1 .
a
Theorem
The function x 1 1 x x is an increasing function of x, and the function

x 1 1 x x 1 is a decreasing function of x.

Since x 1 1 x x , it follows that x x .

If x 1 x 2 , then

x 1 x 2 x 2 and x 2 x 2 x 1 , i.e., every value of is greater than every value of . This can also be seen from the graphs of 1 1 x x

y

5

4

3

2

1

0

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15

x

y x bottom and y x top.

Note that t 1 4 for all t 1. It follows that the sequence n n 1 converges to some number e 4. Similarly n n 1 converges to some value (which is at least 2. )

4 , these limit values are the same number e, the Euler number.

Since

The proposal to designate this number, which also is the base for natural logarithms, by e, originated with Euler (Commentarii Academiae Petropolitanae ad annum 1739, vol. IX).

t t t

t

t

If x 1, 000, 000, the inequality 1

x x e 1 1 x x 1 becomes

1

2. 718280 e 2. 718283. However, a series for e (see No. 13) is a better way to

approximate e

2. 718 281 828 459045. The desired limits are

lim

x

1 1 x
1
1 x

x e and lim

x

x 1 x 1

e,

the first of which is an upper limit, while the second is a lower limit.

Note 1.

Dörrie argues from the inequalities 1 1 x x e 1 1 x x 1 that

e t

1 t

for all real t with equality only at t 0. This is perhaps easier to see with Calculus:

dt d e t 1 t e t 1 0 for t 0, 0 for t 0, and 0 for t 0.

It follows that

e

t 1 t has a minimum value of 0 at t 0, i.e., e t

1 t for all t with equality only at

t

0.

Note 2.

Let x be any real number, and n a positive number such that 1 x

n

Note 1.,

0.

Then by

x

e n

1 n x

Multiply the second inequality by 1 x

n

and e

x

n

1

x

n .

and then raise both inequalities to the n th

power to get

e x

1 n x
1 n x

n and

x 1 n
x
1
n

n e x

x 2 1 n . 2 n
x 2
1
n .
2
n

By the exponential inequality (from No. 10)

2 1 n . 2 n By the exponential inequality (from No. 10) 1 x 2

1

x 2 2 n
x 2 2
n

n 1 n

inequality (from No. 10) 1 x 2 2 n n 1 n 1 1 x 2

1

inequality (from No. 10) 1 x 2 2 n n 1 n 1 1 x 2

1

x 2

n 2

(from No. 10) 1 x 2 2 n n 1 n 1 1 x 2 n
(from No. 10) 1 x 2 2 n n 1 n 1 1 x 2 n

1

x 2

n

, and it follows that 1

or

 
  1

1

Thus

x

n

2 n 1 x n
2
n
1
x n

e x .

Since lim

n

x n 1 x 2 e x 1 n n 1 x 2 n e
x
n
1
x 2
e x
1
n
n
1
x 2
n
e x e x , we conclude that
x
n
lim
1
e x .
n
n

e x .

x

n e x 1
n

x 2

n