Plastic powers

Last week I wrote a blog post showing that powers of the golden ratio are nearly integers. Specifically, the distance from φn to the nearest integer decreases exponentially as n increases. Several people pointed out that the golden constant is a Pisot number, the general class of numbers whose powers are exponentially close to integers.

The so-called plastic constant P is another Pisot number, in fact the smallest Pisot number. P is the real root of x3x – 1 = 0.

P = \frac{ (9 - \sqrt{69})^{1/3} + (9 + \sqrt{69})^{1/3} }{ 2^{1/3} \,\,\, 3^{2/3} } = 1.3247\ldots

Because P is a Pisot number, we know that its powers will be close to integers, just like powers of the golden ratio, but the way they approach integers is more interesting. The convergence is slower and less regular.

We will the first few powers of P, first looking at the distance to the nearest integer on a linear scale, then looking at the absolute value of the distance on a logarithmic scale.

distance from powers of plastic constant to nearest integer

distance from powers of plastic constant to nearest integer, log scale

As a reminder, here’s what the corresponding plots looked like for the golden ratio.

distance from powers of golden ratio to nearest integer

distance from powers of golden ratio to nearest integer, log scale

3 thoughts on “Plastic powers

  1. Every nth Lucas number (2, 1, 3, 4, 7, …) is a sum of nth power of golden ratio and its negative nth power multiplied by (-1) to the nth. L(n) = Phi^n + phi^ (-n) . For instance: L(3) = 4 and adequately Phi^3 + phi^(-3) = 4. Consequently, with growing n value the second component the above sum vanishes and the first term asymptotically approaches the adequate Lucas number.
    BTW, the ratio of subsequent Lucas numbers L(n)/L(n-1) converges to the Golden Ratio.

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