The previous post looked at a simple method of finding square roots that amounts to a special case of Newton’s method, though it is much older than Newton’s method.

We can extend Newton’s method to find cube roots and *n*th roots in general. And when we do, we begin to see a connection to *r*-means. I’ve written about these means several times, most recently in connection with finding the perimeter of an ellipse and the surface area of an ellipsoid.

To find the *n*th root of *y*, we apply Newton’s root-finding method to find where the function

is zero. We start with an initial estimate *x*_{0} and our updated estimate is

When *n* = 2, this reduces to the method in our previous post: the updated estimate *x*_{1} equals the average of our initial estimate *x*_{0} and *y*/*x*_{0}. That is, our updated estimate is the **arithmetic mean** of *x*_{0} and *y*/*x*_{0}, and the **geometric mean** of the two terms is the square root of *y*.

For *n* in general, we have two terms whose geometric mean is the *n*th root of *y*, and we take their weighted arithmetic mean. Said another way, our updated estimate is a convex combination of these two terms. The rest of the post will explore this further and point out some connections.

## Weighted means and geometric mean

The ellipse and ellipsoid posts mention above make use of the means

as defined in Hardy, Littlewood, and Pólya. More generally the authors define

where the weights *p*_{i} are positive numbers that sum to 1. The unweighted mean corresponds to the special case where all *p*_{i} equal 1/*n*.

The authors also define the geometric mean

and weighted extensions which we will not need here.

## Connections between means

We note two connections between the geometric mean and the *r*-mean. First, the geometric mean is the exponential of the arithmetic mean of the logarithms.

Second, the geometric mean is the limit of the *r*-means as *r* goes to 0, and so you could define the *r*-mean with *r* = 0 to be the geometric mean.

## Newton’s method

Reading Newton’s method for *n*th roots in terms of *r* means, we take an initial estimate *x*_{0} and an auxiliary estimate *x*_{0}‘ such that their geometric mean is the *n*th root we’re after. Then we take the arithmetic mean of *x*_{0} and *x*_{0}‘ with weights (*n* − 1)/*n* and 1/*n*.

That is, let

and solve for x_0′ such that

Then

where

If we write the geometric mean as the *r*-mean with *r* = 0, we could describe Newton’s method entirely in terms of *r*-means.

Interesting connection.

The definition of the geometric mean of course uses the very r-th root for which Newton’s method is being applied. This confused me a bit at first. But since the geometric mean is only “used” implicitly it all comes together in the end.