Interesting Fibonacci Goodness

Last year I was working on deriving a matrix based method for translating and rotating various polygons around pentagons. In the process of this I got sidetracked and started to look into the golden mean. People swoon over how it defines the most beautiful rectangles! It crops up inside pentagons and various 3-D polyhedra. It’s glorious. It’s just like how a circle has the ratio pi, and it has a name too: phi. I’ll be writing it down in Greek from here on out (it’s originally from there anyway). So learn this shape: \varphi Sometimes people write it out like this: \phi Either way it’s just a variable name. Sometimes it refers to something other than the golden mean, but here it’s the golden mean. As I found powers of \varphi , I kept noticing certain values popping up in sequence. It turns out that one can find powers of \varphi through the following formula:

\displaystyle\frac{\sqrt{5}F_n + L_n}{2} = \varphi^n

Where F_n and L_n are the nth Fibonacci and Lucas numbers, respsectively.

What are these numbers? Well, you probably know about the Fibonacci numbers, but I’ll go over them here. They follow a certain sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144… and so on. Typically, one starts counting with one, but they really start with zero. Start with a zero and a one. The next number is 0 + 1 = 1. The next number is 1 + 1 = 2. After that, 1 + 2 = 3. One keeps adding the current number to the previous number to get the next number. These numbers crop up in pine cones, sunflowers, and a myriad of other places.

The other not so well known sequence, the Lucas numbers, are defined the same exact way, but with different starting numbers: 2, 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18, 29, 47, 76, 123, 199, 322, 521… forever and ever, amen. Start with 2 and 1. 2 + 1 = 3. 1 + 3 = 4. 3 + 4 = 7. If you’ve read Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid you may have run across this sequence. They grow the same way the Fibonacci numbers do. If one takes the ratio of the Lucas numbers to the Fibonacci numbers as they grow, one will find it approximates the square root of five.

I wasn’t certain that I was writing things out properly, so I started writing out everything again. Then, I decided to take my knowledge of the binomial theorem and apply it to this question. The binomial theorem is really awesome. It’s related to Pascal’s triangle. If you think that’s cool you’re in luck. If you haven’t hadn’t heard of it yet. Fearest not, I shall walk thee through it. Pascal’s triangle looks like this:

\displaystyle 1

\displaystyle 1 \qquad 1

\displaystyle 1 \qquad 2 \qquad 1

\displaystyle 1 \qquad 3 \qquad 3 \qquad 1

\displaystyle 1 \qquad 4 \qquad 6 \qquad 4 \qquad 1

If you add two adjacent numbers in a row together you get the number that goes in between the two numbers on the next row down. It can be expressed in terms of a nifty little operation known as the factorial. The factorial takes a number and multiplies that number by every counting number less than it. So, if I take the factorial of 3, written 3!, I get 1 x 1 x 2 x 3 = 6. If I want to find the kth number of the nth row, of Pascal’s triangle I use the choose function. It is written out like this:

\displaystyle{n \choose k} = \frac{n!}{k!(n-k)!}

This tells me how many ways I can choose k items out of n total items. It also tells me what the kth coefficient is for a binomial raised to the nth power. If I have the binomial x +  y and I square it, I end up with x^2 + 2xy + y^2 . Let me make something more obvious, (1)x^2 + (2)xy + (1)y^2 . Notice a pattern yet? Try this one, (1)x^3 + (3)x^2y + (3)xy^2 + (1)y^3 . See the rows in the triangle appearing? Let me arrange those starting with raising the binomial the the power of 0:

\displaystyle (1)

\displaystyle (1)x + (1) y

\displaystyle (1)x^2 + (2)xy + (1)y^2

\displaystyle (1)x^3 + (3)x^2y + (3)xy^2 + (1)y^3

\displaystyle (1)x^4 + (4)x^3y +(6)x^2y^2 + (4)xy^3 + (1)y^4

Okay, okay, I’ll stop. It should be entirely too obvious by now. Hold onto this because I’ll come back to it in a moment.

First let’s talk about a number I mentioned before. The golden mean is defined mathematically as the ratio:

\displaystyle \varphi = \frac{1+\sqrt{5}}{2}

This, my friends, is a binomial. It’s a really special binomial, it is easy to work with and has some cool properties when the binomial theorem is applied to it. Now, let me introduce you to another formula called the Binet formula. It gives one the nth number of the Fibonacci sequence.

\displaystyle F_n = \frac{\varphi^n - (1-\varphi)^n}{\sqrt{5}}

It’s a nice little gem of a formula, but let’s write it out in terms of the binomials it contains:

\displaystyle F_n = \frac{(1+\sqrt{5})^n-(1-\sqrt{5})^n}{2^n\sqrt{5}}

It may look more frightening, but trust me, it’s simpler this way. There is some “magic” we can do with the binomials on the top. Let me show you, but first I’ll need to introduce you to the summation sign. He’s a simple fellow who might look scary. All he does is add things together. Lets watch him add all the numbers from 1 to 5.

\displaystyle 1 + 2+ 3 +4 + 5 = \sum_{i=1}^5{i}

That’s all there is to it, just start with the number 1 in the variable i, evaluate the expression, increment i, evaluate the expression, add it to the previous result, rinse, repeat as needed.

Now, I’ll continue. The term (1 + \sqrt{5})^n can be written as a series sum \sum_{i=0}^n{{n \choose i}\sqrt{5}^i} and the term (1 - \sqrt{5})^n can be written as \sum_{i=0}^n{{n \choose i}(-\sqrt{5})^i} . Put these together and several things happen because of the minus sign. It actually sorts out the odd powered terms, getting rid of the even terms (because the even terms are subtracted from each other, while the odd terms are added to each other). That leaves:

\displaystyle F_n = \frac{1}{2^n\sqrt{5}}\sum_{i \nmid 2}^n{{n \choose i}2\sqrt{5}^i} ,

which reduces to,

\displaystyle F_n = \frac{1}{2^{n-1}}\sum_{i \nmid 2}^n {{n \choose i}5^{\frac{i-1}{2}}}

and the notation \displaystyle i\nmid2 means all i not divisible by 2 or all i mod 2 = 1. It’s the notation used by Ireland and Rosen, not to be confused with other notation meaning the first number divides the second number.

Now you look at me and ask, “How did that get any simpler”? It didn’t really, but this has the property of proving that all numbers in the sequence will be integers, otherwise known as nice round whole numbers! How? Notice that we are summing over all odd numbers less than n starting with 1, if one subtracts 1 from an odd number one gets an even number back. An even number is divisible by two, so that fraction in 5’s exponent reduces to an integer.

Oh, I guess I still need to prove that 2 raised to n-1 evenly divides the sum. In the case of n = 0, the sum equals zero and 0 times 2 = 0. For n = 1, we have 1 times 1 = 1. Now, for every other case there is a 1 plus an odd number multiplied by a coefficient that grows faster than 2 raised to n-1. I give up for now. 🙂 I just know that there are enough twos being multiplied and added together that 2 raised to n-1 divides out evenly.

The corresponding formulas for the Lucas series are:

\displaystyle L_n = \frac{(1+\sqrt{5})^n+(1-\sqrt{5})^n}{2^n}


\displaystyle L_n = \frac{1}{2^{n-1}}\sum_{i \mid 2}^n {{n \choose i}5^{\frac{i}{2}}}

where the summation is over all even integers less than n divisible by two starting with zero, or where the condition i mod 2 = 0 holds.

The next exploration I have in mind for this is to derive something called a q-analog of these series. Also, (and I’m stoked about this!) I want to look at what the Fibonacci and Lucas sequences look like when extended into the complex plane.

Updated code:

Here is some Ruby code for calculating the Fibonacci and Lucas numbers using my derived methods. I took advantage of the functional aspects of Ruby to simply writing out the computation and sorting the odd and even terms before applying the rest of the computations. Another optimization I made was to create a factorial lookup table. Instead of computing the factorial every time, it calculates all factorials in an array and looks up the number (resulting in quite a speed increase, but the ). Also, note that this version uses my fully simplified identities and will obviously only return integers. The past version suffered from rounding errors, and the result had to be cast back into an integer. Just copy and past the following into fibonacci.rb, and type ruby fibonacci.rb 100 to get the first one hundred numbers in each sequence.

base = 5
num = ARGV[0].to_i

def is_even(n)
  n % 2 == 0

def is_odd(n)
  n % 2 == 1

def sum (set)
  set.inject(0) { |total, i| total + i }

def setup_factorial(n)
  f = Array(0..n)! { |i| if i == 0 then 1 else i*f[i-1] end }

def choose(n, k, f)
  f[n] / ( f[k] * f[n-k] )

def lucas(base, range, f)
  lucas = Array(range)
  range.each do |n|
    lucas[n] = Array(0..n)
    #compute lucas terms
    lucas[n] = lucas[n].select { |i| is_even(i) }
    lucas[n].map! { |i| choose(n, i, f) * base **(i/2) }
    lucas[n] = sum(lucas[n]) / (2**(n-1))

def fibonacci (base, range, f)
  fibonacci = Array(range)
  range.each do |n|
    fibonacci[n] = Array(0..n)
    #compute fibonacci terms
    fibonacci[n] = fibonacci[n].select { |i| is_odd(i) }
    fibonacci[n].map! { |i| choose(n, i, f) * base **((i-1)/2) }
    fibonacci[n] = sum(fibonacci[n]) / (2**(n-1))

puts "Setting up factorial lookup table..."
factorial = setup_factorial(num)
puts "Done."
puts "Calculating series..."
fibonacci(base, 0..num, factorial).each { |i| print i, ", " }

Old Code

Here is some ruby code for calculating the Fibonacci and Lucas numbers using my derived methods. Please note that it inefficiently sums over both even and odd numbers in both series, but multiplies the unneeded results with a zero. It also cheats the rounding errors by casting the floats back into an integer (which might actually cause some numbers to be wrong).

def is_odd(n)

def is_even(n)

def sum (range)
  range.inject(0) { |total, i| total + yield(i) }

def factorial(n)
  if n == 0
    n * factorial(n-1)

def choose(n, k)
  factorial(n) / ( factorial(k) * factorial(n-k) )

def fibonacci(n)
  ( sum(0..n) { |j| is_odd(j) * choose(n, j) * (Math.sqrt(5)**(j-1)) / 2**(n - 1) } ).to_i

def lucas(n)
  ( sum(0..n) { |j| is_even(j) * choose(n, j) * (Math.sqrt(5)**j) / 2**(n - 1) } ).to_i

(0..100).each { |j| print fibonacci(j), ", " }
(0..100).each { |j| print lucas(j), ", " }

One thought on “Interesting Fibonacci Goodness

  1. Hey, I was struck by your first comment on rotating polygons. I took on a project in Second Life to script a generic platonic solid builder. The idea is to take a single polygon of known orientation and transform copies into each of the faces of solid about a given center.
    I ended up exploring lots and lots of interesting relationships and ideas, including golden ratios everywhere. I would recommend the project to anyone with the right curiosities!

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