Mötley Vüe

Here’s the Fibonacci sequence, where each term (after the first two) is created by adding the two previous numbers:


1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765...

In “Fib and Let Tri”, I described how my eye was caught by 55, which is a palindrome, reading the same backwards and forwards. “Were there any other Fibonacci palindromes?” I wondered. So I looked to see. Now my eye has been caught by 55 again, but for another reason. It should be easy to spot another interesting aspect to 55 when the Fibonacci numbers are set out like this:


fib(1) = 1
fib(2) = 1
fib(3) = 2
fib(4) = 3
fib(5) = 5
fib(6) = 8
fib(7) = 13
fib(8) = 21
fib(9) = 34
fib(10) = 55
fib(11) = 89
fib(12) = 144
fib(13) = 233
fib(14) = 377
fib(15) = 610
fib(16) = 987
fib(17) = 1597
fib(18) = 2584
fib(19) = 4181
fib(20) = 6765
[...]

55 is fib(10), the 10th Fibonacci number, and 5+5 = 10. That is, digsum(fib(10)) = 10. What other Fibonacci numbers work like that? I soon found some and confirmed my answer at the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences:


1, 5, 10, 31, 35, 62, 72, 175, 180, 216, 251, 252, 360, 494, 504, 540, 946, 1188, 2222 — A020995 at OEIS

And that seems to be the lot, according to the OEIS. In base 10, at least, but why stop at base 10? When I looked at base 11, the numbers of digsum(fib(k)) = k didn’t stop coming, because I couldn’t take the Fibonacci numbers very high on my computer. But the OEIS gives a much longer list, starting like this:


1, 5, 13, 41, 53, 55, 60, 61, 90, 97, 169, 185, 193, 215, 265, 269, 353, 355, 385, 397, 437, 481, 493, 617, 629, 630, 653, 713, 750, 769, 780, 889, 905, 960, 1013, 1025, 1045, 1205, 1320, 1405, 1435, 1501, 1620, 1650, 1657, 1705, 1735, 1769, 1793, 1913, 1981, 2125, 2153, 2280, 2297, 2389, 2413, 2460, 2465, 2509, 2533, 2549, 2609, 2610, 2633, 2730, 2749, 2845, 2893, 2915, 3041, 3055, 3155, 3209, 3360, 3475, 3485, 3521, 3641, 3721, 3749, 3757, 3761, 3840, 3865, 3929, 3941, 4075, 4273, 4301, 4650, 4937, 5195, 5209, 5435, 5489, 5490, 5700, 5917, 6169, 6253, 6335, 6361, 6373, 6401, 6581, 6593, 6701, 6750, 6941, 7021, 7349, 7577, 7595, 7693, 7740, 7805, 7873, 8009, 8017, 8215, 8341, 8495, 8737, 8861, 8970, 8995, 9120, 9133, 9181, 9269, 9277, 9535, 9541, 9737, 9935, 9953, 10297, 10609, 10789, 10855, 11317, 11809, 12029, 12175... — A020995 at OEIS

The list ends with 1636597 = A18666[b11] and the OEIS says that 1636597 almost certainly completes the list. According to David C. Terr’s paper “On the Sums of Fibonacci Numbers” (pdf), published in the Fibonacci Quarterly in 1996, the estimated digit-sum for the k-th Fibonacci number in base b is given by the formula (b-1)/2 * k * log(b,φ), where log(b,φ) is the logarithm in base b of the golden ratio, 1·61803398874… Terr then notes that the simplified formula (b-1)/2 * log(b,φ) gives the estimated average ratio digsum(fib(k)) / k in base b. Here are the estimates for bases 2 to 20:


b02 = 0.3471209568153086...
b03 = 0.4380178794859424...
b04 = 0.5206814352229629...
b05 = 0.5979874356654401...
b06 = 0.6714235829697111...
b07 = 0.7418818776805580...
b08 = 0.8099488992357201...
b09 = 0.8760357589718848...
b10 = 0.9404443811249043...
b11 = 1.0034045909311624...
b12 = 1.0650963641043091...
b13 = 1.1256639207937723...
b14 = 1.1852250528196852...
b15 = 1.2438775226715552...
b16 = 1.3017035880574074...
b17 = 1.3587732842474014...
b18 = 1.4151468584732730...
b19 = 1.4708766105122322...
b20 = 1.5260083080264088...

In base 2, you can expect digsum(fib(k)) to be much smaller than k; in base 20, you can expect digsum(fib(k)) to be much larger. But as you can see, the estimate for base 11, 1.0034045909311624…, is very nearly 1. That’s why base 11 produces so many results for digsum(fib(k)) = k, because only a slight deviation from the estimate might create a perfect ratio of 1 for digsum(fib(k)) / k, i.e. digsum(fib(k)) = k. But in the end the results run out in base 11 too, because as k gets higher and fib(k) gets bigger, the estimate becomes more and more accurate and digsum(fib(k)) > k. With lower k, digsum(fib(k)) can easily fall below k or match k. That happens in other bases, but because their estimates are further from 1, results for digsum(fib(k)) = k run out much more quickly.

To see this base behavior represented visually, I’ve created Ulam-like spirals for k using three colors: blue for digsum(fib(k)) < k, yellow for digsum(fib(k)) > k, and red for digsum(fib(k)) = k (with the green square at the center representing fib(1) = 1). As you can see below, the spiral for base 11 immediately stands out. It’s motley, not dominated by blue or yellow like the other spirals:

Spiral for digsum(fib(k)) in base 9
(blue for digsum(fib(k)) < k, yellow for digsum(fib(k)) > k, red for digsum(fib(k)) = k, green for fib(1))


Spiral for digsum(fib(k)) in base 10


Spiral for digsum(fib(k)) in base 11 — a motley view of blue, yellow and red


Spiral for digsum(fib(k)) in base 12


Spiral for digsum(fib(k)) in base 13


Finally, here are spirals at higher and higher resolution for digsum(fib(k)) = k in base 11:

digsum(fib(k)) = k in base 11 (low resolution)
(green square is fib(1))


digsum(fib(k)) = k in base 11 (x2 resolution)


digsum(fib(k)) = k in base 11 (x4)


digsum(fib(k)) = k in base 11 (x8)


digsum(fib(k)) = k in base 11 (x16)


digsum(fib(k)) = k in base 11 (x32)


digsum(fib(k)) = k in base 11 (x64)


digsum(fib(k)) = k in base 11 (x128)


digsum(fib(k)) = k in base 11 (animated)

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