Integration & Summation


A few months ago I wrote a series of blog posts on “rigorous”  definitions of integration [Part 1, Part 2]. Last week I identified an interesting flaw in my “imagination” of integration in terms of “limiting summation” and it lead to an interesting investigation.

The Paradox

While defining integration as area under curve, we consider rectangles of equal width and let that width approach zero. Hence I used to imagine integration as summation of individual heights, since width approaches zero in limiting case. It was just like extending summation over integers to summation over real numbers.

integration (1)

My Thought Process..

But as per my above imagination, since width of line segment is zero,  I am considering rectangles of zero width. Then each rectangle is of zero area (I proved it recently). So the area under curve will be zero! Paradox!

I realized that, just like ancient greeks, I am using very bad imagination of limiting process!


The Insight

But, as it turns out, my imagination is NOT completely wrong.  I googled and stumbled upon this stack exchange post:

There is the answer by Jonathan to this question which captures my imagination:

The idea is that since \int_0^n f(x)dx can be approximated by the Riemann sum, thus \displaystyle{\sum_{i=0}^n f(i) = \int_{0}^n f(x)dx + \text{higher order corrections}}

The generalization of above idea gives us the Euler–Maclaurin formula 

\displaystyle{\sum_{i=m+1}^n f(i) = \int^n_m f(x)\,dx + B_1 \left(f(n) - f(m)\right) + \sum_{k=1}^p\frac{B_{2k}}{(2k)!}\left(f^{(2k - 1)}(n) - f^{(2k - 1)}(m)\right) + R}

where m,n,p are natural numbers, f (x) is a real valued continuous function, B_k are the Bernoulli numbers  (I mumbled about them few weeks ago)  and R is an error term which is normally small for suitable values of p (depends on n, m, p and f).

Proof of above formula is by principle of mathematical induction. For more details, see this beautiful paper: Apostol, T. M.. (1999). An Elementary View of Euler’s Summation Formula. The American Mathematical Monthly, 106(5), 409–418. 


4 responses »

  1. Pingback: Bernoulli Numbers | Gaurish4Math

  2. Oh well, seems a bit complicated 🙂
    Are you involved in the stack-exchange community? I find it to be really helpful site though I am active on astronomy, space and physics.


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