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Sorry about asking such an elementary question, but I have been wondering about this exact definition for a while. What power of $n$ is $\log(n)$. I know that it is $n^\epsilon$ for a very small $\epsilon$, but what value is $\epsilon$ exactly?

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$\log n$ is not of the form $n^\epsilon$. Hence the need for a separate name, $\log$. – lhf Oct 16 '13 at 4:12
On one hand, no matter how small $\epsilon>0$ is, (say, one over a billion), as n grows towards infinity, it will inevitably reach a certain (large) value for which $n^\epsilon = \sqrt[1,000,000,000]n\ $ will become larger, believe it or not, the logarithmic function ! On the other hand, were $\epsilon$ to be exactly $0$ , we'd have $n^0=1$ be itself dwarfed by the logarithmic function, as the latter's value grows unhinged towards infinity. So there's simply no appropriate value of $\epsilon$ for which $n^\epsilon$ ultimately approximates or converges to that of $log(n)$. – Lucian Oct 16 '13 at 9:54
up vote 5 down vote accepted

No: If $\epsilon$ is any positive number, then $n^{\epsilon}$ grows faster than $\log{n}$. This can be made precise in the statement

$$\lim_{n \to \infty} \frac{\log{n}}{n^{\epsilon}} = 0$$

for all $\epsilon > 0$. To prove this, just note that by L'Hospital's rule,

$$\lim_{n \to \infty} \frac{\log{n}}{n^{\epsilon}} = \lim_{n \to \infty} \frac{\frac{1}{n}}{\epsilon n^{\epsilon - 1}} = \frac{1}{\epsilon} \lim_{n \to \infty} \frac{1}{n^{\epsilon}} = 0$$

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Suppose we seek such $\varepsilon$, that $$ n^\varepsilon = \log(n). $$ Consider $n>1$. Then (if $\log(n)$ is natural logarithm, to the base $e$) $$ n^\varepsilon = e^{\varepsilon\log(n)}, \qquad \log(n) = e^{\log(\log(n))}, $$ then powers of $e$ must be equal: $$ \varepsilon \log(n) = \log(\log(n)), $$ $$ \varepsilon = \frac{\log(\log(n))}{\log(n)}. $$

$n=10$: $\varepsilon = 0.3622156886...$;
$n=10^2$: $\varepsilon = 0.3316228421...$;
$n=10^3$: $\varepsilon = 0.2797789811...$;

$n=10^6$: $\varepsilon = 0.1900611565...$;

$n=10^9$: $\varepsilon = 0.1462731331...$.

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Perhaps T. Bongers has answered the question you meant to ask, but given your mention of the definition of $\log$ I'm not so sure. To answer your question literally, the function $n \mapsto \log(n)$ is not equal to the function $n \mapsto n^\epsilon$ for any number $\epsilon$ (not even if $\epsilon$ is "very small.) It is a different kind of function altogether, with very different properties, and it is certainly not defined as a power function.

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This can be proved by considering derivatives. – lhf Oct 16 '13 at 4:19
Ah, I see. So it is more accurate to say $log(n) = O(n^\epsilon)$ where $\epsilon << 1$. – Quanquan Liu Oct 16 '13 at 4:23
@lhf Or just by considering the values at 1. – Trevor Wilson Oct 16 '13 at 4:23
@q2liu It is accurate to say $\log(n) = O(n^\epsilon)$, or even $\log(n) = o(n^\epsilon)$, for every positive $\epsilon$. For any $\epsilon$, it would be wildly inaccurate to say that the function $\log(n)$ is defined as $n^\epsilon$, or that it is equal to $n^\epsilon$ for all $n$. – Trevor Wilson Oct 16 '13 at 4:26

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