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Let $a_0(n) = n$ and $a_{i+1}(n) = \varphi(a_i(n))$ for $i\geq 0$, where $\varphi(n)$ is Euler's totient function (the number of positive integers less than or equal to $n$ and coprime with $n$). Denote $f(n) = \prod_{k=0}^{\infty}a_k(n)$.

Determine all positive integers $n$ such that the sum of positive divisors of $f(n)$ is strictly greater than $2f(n)$.

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  • $\begingroup$ No, the definition implies $\varphi(1) = 1$. $\endgroup$ Apr 2 '21 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ My first analysis of the question is that these $f(n)$ numbers are highly composite and most of them should be abundant numbers. I think the proof should just focus on the tail of the totient chain which should end with a series of powers of $2$ followed by "the product of some Fermat primes and a power of two ". If the Fermat primes are $3$ or $5$ then $f(n)$ should be divisible by $6$ or $20$ and this makes the number abundant. it remains to check other general Fermat primes and this probably would give proof that only powers of $2$ do not satisfy the abundance criteria $\endgroup$
    – Elaqqad
    Apr 4 '21 at 16:30
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Let's observe that:
\begin{align*} a_0(n) &= n \,, \\ a_1(n) &= \varphi(n) \,, \\ a_2(n) &= \varphi(a_1(n)) = \varphi(\varphi(n)) = \varphi^{(2)}(n)\,, \\ ... \\ a_k(n) &= \varphi^{(k)}(n)\,, \end{align*} where $\varphi^{(k)}(n)$ is $k$ times composition of the totient function. This gives us the function $f(n)$ as \begin{align*} f(n) = n\prod_{k=1}^{\infty}\varphi^{(k)}(n) \,. \end{align*} Now it is intuitively clear why $\varphi^{(k+1)}(n)\leq\varphi^{(k)}(n)$; that is, we expect the totient function to decrease with each iteration (until it becomes $1$). This means that for a finite number $n$, we have a finite number of elements in the product of $f(n)$.

The problem asks us to find all numbers $n$ that give us $2f(n)<\sigma(f(n))$, where \begin{align*} \sigma(f(n)) = \sum_{d|f(n)}d\,, \end{align*} is called the divisor function and is the sum of all divisors of $f(n)$.

Numbers that satisfy $2f(n)<\sigma(f(n))$ are called abundant numbers. However, we are going to look for numbers $2f(n)>\sigma(f(n))$, where $n$ is referred to as deficient numbers. Deficient numbers contain all odd numbers with distinct primes and all even numbers that are powers of $2$. Why we choose to look at this case will become apparent soon.

The totient function can be written as \begin{align*} \varphi(n) = n\prod_{p|n}\bigg(\frac{p-1}{p}\bigg)\,, \end{align*} where $p|n$ means all primes that divide $n$. The only number that is even and prime is $2$. This means that numbers that are made up of primes greater than $2$ will always give $\varphi(n)$ as an even number. This means that for all $n>2$ we have that $f(n)$ will always be an even number so we do not need to worry about odd deficient numbers.

However, for $n = 2^{m}$ we have \begin{align*} \varphi(2^{m}) = 2^{m}\bigg(\frac{2-1}{2}\bigg) = 2^{m-1}\,. \end{align*}
Thus $f(2^{m})$ is \begin{align*} f(2^{m}) = 2^{m+(m-1)+(m-2)+...+1} = 2^{m(m+1)/2} \end{align*} and will be a deficient number because $f(2^{m})$ is a power of $2$ (as stated before).

We need to also exclude perfect numbers that satisfy $\sigma(f(n)) = 2f(n)$. We already worked out that $f(n)$ is always even and we do not need to worry about odd perfect numbers (still an open problem in number theory). Even perfect numbers are of the form $2^{p-1}(2^{p}-1)$, where $p$ is a prime and $2^{p}-1$ is also a prime (Mersenne prime). We need $n = 2^{p} - 1$ because this is the only term that is odd. Now if we apply the totient function $\varphi(n) = n - 1 = 2^{p}-2$ (because $n$ is prime and will be always coprime with all numbers up to itself), we expect $\varphi(n) = 2^{p-1}$ and this gives us the equation \begin{align*} 2^{p} - 2 &= 2^{p-1} \\ 2^{p-1} - 1 &= 2^{p-2} \,. \end{align*} The LHS is odd while RHS is even. So only $p = 2$ is valid and we get $n = 3$ and $f(3)$ will be a perfect number.

In conclusion, the numbers that do not satisfy the inequality are $3$ and $2^{m}:m\in\mathbb{N}$. Any other number satisfies the inequality.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, seems correct. But please do make it concise. You've dragged out the answer really long, a lot of trivial stuff can be omitted. $\endgroup$
    – Kaind
    Apr 2 '21 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the feedback, new around here and will keep it in mind. $\endgroup$
    – Schwauss
    Apr 2 '21 at 10:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Schwauss how do we know that for the case of even deficient numbers we need to consider only powers of 2? I was not able to find a corresponding reference. $\endgroup$ Apr 2 '21 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Schwauss But it says that all powers of two are deficient but not that all even deficient numbers are powers of two? $\endgroup$ Apr 3 '21 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think this answers the question $\endgroup$
    – Elaqqad
    Apr 4 '21 at 16:19

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