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I have already found a summation formula here: http://math.stackexchange.com/a/22723, and also a very interesting recursive formula here: http://math.stackexchange.com/a/22744. Any ideas on how to reduce either of these to a closed form expression would be greatly appreciated.

Edit: Essentially, I want a finite expression using elementary functions that gives the sum of the proper divisors of an integer n in terms of n (and not the prime decomposition).

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What do you mean by "Closed form"? (The answer to whatever you choose will be "probably not".) –  Mike Miller Jun 20 at 22:31
relevant link: mathworld.wolfram.com/DivisorFunction.html –  Alessandro Jun 20 at 22:32

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

There is no computationally efficient one at least. Let $\sigma(n)$ be the sum of all divisors, which behaves better analytically, the sum of proper divisors is just $\sigma(n)-n$. Consider the simplest case $n=pq$, then $\sigma(n)=n+p+q+1$. So if you know $n$ and can find $\sigma(n)$ efficiently then you know $pq$ and $p+q$, and can factor $n$ just by solving a quadratic equation. So the formula you want can't do much better than prime factoring, which is believed to be a 'hard' problem.

It would also mean that you can have an explicit formula that gives you prime factors of $n$ as elementary functions of $n$ itself, at least when $n$ only has two factors. No such formula is known, and it is unlikely to exist.

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Great answer (+1), but not everyone believes factoring is 'hard'. –  RghtHndSd Jun 21 at 1:06
The first thing I thought when I saw the question is "that would give a really neat way to test for primality ($\sigma(n)=n+1$)". But this argument is even more convincing. To be precise the problem it would solve is: factoring a number known to be a product of two distinct primes, which is indeed thought to be hard (RSA cryptography is based on that assumption). –  Marc van Leeuwen Jun 21 at 5:18

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