I am trying to assess the aymptotic behavior for large $n$ of the sequence $(a_n)_{n=1}^\infty$ defined by the recursion \begin{align} a_{n} &= (n+1) a_{n-1} - n a_{n-2}-1, \ \forall n\ge3 \\ a_2 &= 2a_1-3. \end{align} This recursion originates from this question on stats.stackexchange.com.

Define the generating function $f(x):=\sum_{n=0}^\infty a_nx^n,$. $g(x):=x^2f(x)$ satisfies the ODE $$g'-\Big(\frac1{x^2}+\frac1x+\frac1{1-x}\Big)g=\Big(\frac x{1-x}\Big)^2-\frac{a_0}{1-x}+(2a_0-a_1)\frac x{1-x}$$ Multiply both sides by $e^h=\frac{1-x}xe^{\frac1x}$ where $h(x):=\frac1x+\ln\frac{1-x}x$ and get $$\frac{d}{dx}\Big(\frac{1-x}xe^{\frac1x}g\Big)=e^{\frac1x}\Big(\frac x{1-x}-\frac{a_0}x+(2a_0-a_1)\Big).$$ Now $e^{\frac1x}$ seems to prevent me from solving the ODE in a "closed" form.

I read somewhere the complex analysis may help to derive the large $n$ asymptotics of $a_n$. How does one procede?


Partial answer to an interesting problem. However, without $a_0$ and $a_1$ specified, one can't even determine the sign of the asymptotics. By dropping the -1 on the right-hand side of the equation, the recursion can be solved (in Mathematica) in terms of 'subfactorials.' That is

$$a_n = \kappa_1+ \kappa_2 \sum_{k=0}^n k! $$

where the $\kappa$ are related somehow to $a_0$ and $a_1.$ Naturally the second term will dominate. Choosing $a_0=0$ and using numerical and symbolic computations I was able to determine

$$ a_n \sim (a_1+2-e)\sum_{k=0}^n k! \quad ,\quad (a_0 = 0)$$

To make it absolutely clear, this step lacked rigor. The sum may be approximated by $ \sum_{k=0}^n k! \sim n! (n-1)/n .$ As a check, for $a_1=2,$ by the time $n=10,$ the relative error is about 1 part in a million. What would be an interesting study is what happens to the asymptotics when $a_1 = e-2;$ it appears to be slowly growing, like $\cal{o}(n^{1/4}).$ We therefore have a region where, even with one constant simply specified, a non-uniformity appears. With two free constants, this problem might be a real bear to get a handle on.

Update: The second formula is a proposed asymptotic solution for $a_n = (n+1)a_{n-1}-n \ a_n -1$ for $a_0=0$ and away from the region $a_1=e-2.$ The first asymptotic form was deduced by using Mathematica's RSolve command. To check, and to generate numerical data for my guess, I did the following: $$\text{ Clear[a]; a[0]=0; a[1]=1; a[n_]:=a[n]=(n+1)a[n-1]-n*a[n-2]-1;}$$

$$\text{tb=Table[a[n],{n,0,30}]/Table[ Sum[k!,{k,0,n}],{n,0,30}]}$$ The output is $$ \text{N[tb]={0, .5, .5, .4, .323529, ... 0.281718}} $$ One of the last numbers looked a lot like $e$ minus a rational, so I used $$ \text{FindIntegerNullVector[{1,E,0.281718...}]}$$ to confirm my suspicion. Doing this for many $a_1$ led to the conjecture; it is not a proof I don't have enough motivation to go further.

  • $\begingroup$ (1) Sorry, I edited the problem a bit. Could you please review and adjust your solution? $a_0=0$. (2) I want to ascertain that your second equation comes from the original recursion without dropping the −1 on the RHS, unlike your first equation, right? (2) Are there any hints from Mathematica as to how these expressions are derived? (3) For the critical value of $a_1$, can Mathematica or any other method zoom in for further analysis? (4) Would you mind posting your detailed Mathematica scripts and output in your answer so that I can learn the corresponding Mathematica scripts? Thank you. $\endgroup$ – Hans Oct 10 '19 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ +1. So the second expression comes from you conjecting from numerical computation and not from Mathematica, right? $\endgroup$ – Hans Oct 10 '19 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ The first expression is not a conjecture but the recursion has the -1 removed and two free constants. The second expression is a conjecture, but guided by the first because I expect the answer to be a perturbation. My expectation was surprised by the fact that there is a nonuniformity when $a_1$ is approx. e-2. $\endgroup$ – skbmoore Oct 10 '19 at 19:02

Define $b_n:=a_n-a_{n-1}$. The original recursion turns into $$b_n=nb_{n-1}-1$$ which is solvable with a generating function.

  • $\begingroup$ do you consider this a complete solution? if so, you should mark this answer accepted. $\endgroup$ – mathworker21 Nov 4 '19 at 8:39

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